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Editor’s Letter: An FD for all seasons

THERE’S AN IMPROMPTU PENSIONS FOCUS in our Financial Director interviews this month. For Fujitsu FD Steve Clayton, it’s a tale of satisfaction, as the parent company’s £800m investment into its pension scheme frees up capital year on year for his UK subsidiary.

Clayton will hope that this gives him the chance to focus on the day-to-day financial management of the business, rather than peering over his shoulder at the pension monkey on his back.

But for Interserve’s FD, Tim Haywood, it’s a different story – one primarily of frustration. After explaining how well the FTSE 250 logistics business has performed in recent years, he spoke of his efforts to make the government think of corporates when it comes to managing pension schemes. That seemed to work out for Haywood. Yet all the efforts made by him and the business to deal with their own pensions deficit have merely served to tread water.

Where both share common ground is in recognising it as an important aspect of an FD’s responsibilities, but one that couldn’t have been predicted 15 years ago.

Some may argue that, dependent on the current economic, business and social conditions, it is inevitable that the FD’s role will change. The 21st century has definitely seen the FD classed more as the right-hand man of the chief executive, and subsequently expected to have much more of a strategic input.

Then came the credit crunch and recession.

As former Morrisons FD Richard Pennycook points out on page 18, this period has enabled a new generation of FDs to build up what he considers core responsibilities of the job: cash management as well as prudent, transparent accounting and investor relations.

So where next for the FD? The answers are contained within this very tome. Interserve’s Haywood speaks at length about how his head of sustainability role fits into an FD’s remit.

What is plainly evident is that businesses and their stakeholders will require more and more from the finance function and its leader; it won’t head in the other direction. The trick for you will be working out what to delegate and outsource – not easy in a rapidly changing world.

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