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Editor’s letter: CFOs must take personality test to build culture

BEING able to take measurements, analyse, and plot a course of action based on financial terms has become the catch-all definition of a finance director.

It’s so much more than producing a set of backward-looking accounting stats. The role is intrinsically linked with risk and governance – more about steering the ship than just setting its course.

So where does culture fit into all this? Without wishing to sound like some bogus guru, I think it is everywhere and it is nowhere. Culture may bind and surround a business, but it is not a business process in itself. This makes it hard to control, measure and mould.

And while everyone is responsible for it, some are more responsible than others. That means you, the MD/CEO and other board members must set the tone. For an FD, from Veolia to BrewDog, this means stepping out from behind the KPI dashboard and talking to staff, listening and watching. Of course systems and controls help with management, but culture is about people.

How aggressive is the board’s tone in achieving objectives? What is its bonus policy? Do you pay creditors in a timely and accurate manner? Do you know your team members?

Culture is about attitude and personality. Those KPIs can only get you so far, and finance directors must be mindful of the behavioural consequences driven by the board’s actions.

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