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Editor’s letter: Being an FD’s a risky business

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, you’ve obviously tiptoed your way past Financial Director’s precariously soggy cover image. The unknown finance director making his way to the office has managed risk – at least as far as flooding is concerned. But does he have a handle on other risks? Does he even know what they are?

In a world where the Eastern European promise of burgeoning markets has been put into doubt by a Russian land grab, it seems that anything is possible. Perhaps the cyber sharks flagged up in our online risk feature are of more immediate concern to you, rather than president Putin’s next move.

Then there’s career risk. Richard Pennycook probably expected a relatively quiet portfolio career after leaving Morrisons, but the lure of the Co-op proved overwhelming. Did he know it was a basket case? No doubt.

But could he have predicted the governance upheavals that have placed him in a position where he couldn’t possibly not take the interim CEO role, for fear of the whole thing falling apart? Probably not, but he might have seen it as a possibility – just a remote one. Such thoughts may well be going through the head of now ex-Vodafone CFO Andy Halford – winner of our Outstanding Industry Contribution Award at the Business Finance Awards – whose next role we expectantly await news of.

Despite some headwind, business sentiment has improved. So what about the risk of expansion? Can you manage your cash and working capital? Is there a bigger risk in standing still than there is in expanding? FDs, armed with good information, shouldn’t necessarily see themselves as the blocker.

As Hays FD Paul Venables states in our interview with him, he’s “one of the most aggressive individuals in the business” in terms of grasping opportunities.

But you can’t worry about everything, and mitigation does what it say on the tin – it merely reduces an effect, but doesn’t eliminate it. Sometimes you’ve just got to get on with it.

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