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AMA - Finance Director

  • 20-03-2022 3:33pm
    Posts: 61 ✭✭[Deleted User]

    It would be great to have a finance director / CFO on here to do an ask me anything chat. Would anyone be willing to do it or know of someone who might?


  • Ask the questions. It doesn't necessarily need to be one person answering all questions. It can be shared.

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,278 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    Why, what you ask if given the chance?

    I very much doubt any FD/CFO of substance would want to expose themselves to such a grilling. Because no matter how they answer, people will draw unwarranted conclusions etc....

    You could always just by a share in a company and go along to the AGM...

  • Posts: 61 ✭✭[Deleted User]

  • Posts: 61 ✭✭[Deleted User]

    I'm a trainee accountant (audit) and have some time before I reach the end of the training contract. I am more or less looking to see what they do on a day to day basis, what skills they value and how I can learn from what they have to say to put a bit of a framework around the additional skills I will look to acquire. It is not something I want to highlight at work as I know I intend to leave when the training contract is finished but I don't see any benefit in flagging this at the moment.

  • From experience a CFO/FD will deal with board level, needs to delegate to senior staff and ensure they (senior managers) themselves have good people management skills.

    You'll need to deal/work with external people/agencies (stakeholders).

    Personally, I took on HR degree to round out my experience.

    When you get to this level its about strategy and value added, but obviously knowing and keeping up to date with GAAP is important.

    There is some similarities between partners and Industy CFOs etc, but a lot of differences (I see you are in practice).

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  • Posts: 61 ✭✭[Deleted User]

    What were the steps you took to get to that position and what skills did you view as key in getting there?

  • After practice I started off in large multinationals GE / DELL, but the roles were pigeon holed - and the layers above me were 'legion' 😀

    So, I left and took on an FC role with a small multi national based in Ireland... and traded my experience up and sideways. I never will get back to working for the likes if GE/DELL again. I've moved more into GM now, on a sucession plan for a CEO role when they retire.

    Part of me wonders if I'd have been better off taking my chances with the big boys.

  • Posts: 61 ✭✭[Deleted User]

    I worked in small companies before joining practice and to be honest I'm in no rush back so would be interested in advice on entering and advancing in large multinationals post practice. I'm considering adding on the chartered tax advisor qualification and something in the area of data analytics.

  • I know someone that joined Coke a Cola as a CA, but were also taking CTA exans and worked in their statutory dept and they later moved on to LinkedIn afterwards. I gave them a reference when they joined Coke a Cola.

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,278 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    The entire trainee system is based on the assumption that you won't be hanging around, so no one will be surprised if you are looking else where, if you are one of those they intend to keep, you'll probably already know that. Cheap smart labour is after all the name of the game.

    Depending on the size of the company if you are the CFO/FD, you can expect to have very little to do with the nuts and bolts of the accounting profession. They mainly concentrate on financial policy issues, the general management the company and being the public face of the company. As a general rule the higher you go in a company the less specific and the more general the roles become.

    As for the skills required, well if you have a professional accounting qualification, you probably have all the technical skills needed adding knowledge from another management discipline might be an idea to look into. Probably the most important skill you need to have is that you need to be a good politician. And I don't mean that in a negative way. You do need to be good with people, you need to understand their concerns, be a good public speaker, be able to think a few steps a head so you don't put your foot in your mouth etc. Most senior politicians would most likely make it in the corporate world as well and vice versa. You basically need to like people and for many in the accounting profession it's no a good match. I worked at a big 4 back in the day and one of the questions my partner used to ask when evaluating final year trainees with a view to keeping them on, was: is he/she someone that we can let loose on the general public? And very often the answer was no. That is why you often find technical partners and business partners in a firm, some draw the clients in and the others service the clients that are pulled in.

    The work experience at small companies is very different than at a large multinational, especially if you are at the European or global HQ that is for sure. The bigger the company the more anonymous you are, at least until you reach the higher levels or are involved in a critical project, some people like that and some prefer a more family type of environment were everyone knows everyone. On the other hand if your are at the HQ of a major multinational then things like world events become a real thing - the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a major headache for one of the companies i was doing consulting work for as they had a lot of customers there and had to figure out how to get paid! It even came down to bartering crude oil for cotton which was then converted to garments in Egypt and sold to settle the debt.

    You should look at your accounting qualification as a starting point, not an end point - it can take you in many different directions, a lot depends on what interests you and the opportunities that crop up along the way. My advice would be to pick an area that interests you as you will be doing it for a long time and see where it leads you to... it's very unlikely that you'll ever find your self on the bread line no matter which way you go.

    In my case I resigned within weeks of qualifying to spend the summer climbing in the Swiss Alps and forgot to return to Ireland... This was in the 80s when computing was new and I was very interested in that area, so I got drawing in to using what used to be called AI to model credit risk in the chemical industry - many of the big players are head quartered in Basle. From there I got drawn banking and asset management doing things like modelling MBS products for the American market. Apart from one short period as a D at a European bank, I have worked freelance. And while the work was nerdy and terrible interesting to me, I also needed to be a people person - I needed to sell myself, feel comfortable speaking at boardroom level, be comfortable defending my advice and occasionally having to deliver the bad news. I retired at 55 and now just get involved in stuff that interests me.

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  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,278 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    There is a very big element of luck involved in a big company, there is usually a level that should you find yourself in it during a recession it is most unfortunate.... it's usually the last supervisors/first general manager level, the salary is high enough to make a significant saving when cost cutting and the position can remain vacant by having those below manage up or those above manage down. And it really does not matter how good your at that point, it is just a cull directed from the top.

    On the other hand if you have a financial qualification there is not reason why you should not have an interesting and financial rewarding career, unless you do something really stupid like some of our former members.

  • Posts: 61 ✭✭[Deleted User]

    Appreciate the advice Jim