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Financial Director – May 2015

WE’RE THINKING BIG this month in Financial Director. Or, more precisely, we’re writing about those who have to do the big thinking.

And it doesn’t come much bigger than managing the finances of BT or Apple. So, what makes those jobs ‘big’? That will be a question that any inquisitive finance chief will be asking. The second question being: Could I do the job?

For a divisional finance director, group financial controller or small-cap finance chief, the thought of dealing with what goes with a major plc role – the City analysts, the public, and maybe even politicians … not to mention the myriad of consultants, regulators and the 200-page annual report to proof-read – may seem a step outside of the comfort zone.

For BT and Apple, these issues are amplified multiple times over, with many other considerations to cater for. Huge investment in technology and products, for example, then there’s mega-competitors, as well as anti-trust and infrastructure wrangles. Have I forgotten about tax? There is a startling scale and breadth of markets, geographies, reporting for the CFO to get their head around.

But Tony Chanmugam of BT and Luca Maestri of Apple are not 20 people. So how do they cope?

Well, they’re relying on many more people than in most other businesses to do their jobs. However, the key component of their role is similar to yours: setting the tone from the top, making sure that appropriate controls and reporting lines are put in place, and that systems are established to enable analysis and ensure transparency. And that rules are met and decisions followed through.

The main difference at the individual level must be an ability to get a good night’s sleep before – and after – multibillion-pound decisions are set and signed off. The kind of decision that affects thousands of workers and clients and makes front-page news – and agitates institutional investors.

You often hear that one FD’s job is pretty much the same as the others, but there are a few that are definitely more equal than others.

Kevin Reed is editor of both Financial Director and Accountancy Age

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