Tell us about your career pathway and how you got in to your current role.
I started out as an A-level management accountancy trainee with Debenhams Accounting Centre on a structured role placement programme with study support .
This progressed through a variety of roles that took me to Head Office in London, including retail and marketing finance, varying in seniority as I progressed through my qualification and gained further on the job experience.
A transfer to the then Burton Group Corporate Finance team (which became Arcadia Group) added a different perspective to my retail experience focusing on the wider Group including the communications to the city/stock exchange before we were bought by Sir Philip Green in 2002 and taken private.
My role then progressed to my first FD appointment for Shared Services, followed by brand appointments for Wallis and Evans, culminating in the larger role for Topshop/Topman.
All of these brand roles concentrated on my commercial skill set, and I made the decision to move to Selfridges to extend my experience to some of the more traditional FD responsibilities of statutory reporting, banking and the control environment.
What does your current role involve?
I am part of the Selfridges Executive Board and as such work with my colleagues to shape the strategy of the business, with a remit to comment on all aspects, but clearly a bias towards the financial impact.
I am responsible for a number of areas, financial and management accounts, legal, procurement and business controls, and use my position in the Board to be aware of likely impact on these functions of decisions made.
I am expected to be very close to the trading of the business in terms of key performance drivers and use this knowledge to update my Group Finance Director and the wider business as it demands.
I am also heavily involved in 2 major strategic projects of Selfridges, and am part of the governance process that oversees them.
What is it about your work that drives you?
I find retail truly fascinating insofar as how you make a customer want to shop with you, how you seal the transaction and how you make them want to return.
The fact that weather, economic sentiment and international affairs can have such a bearing on shopper habits is really interesting. Retail is so tangible too. Everyone shops therefore everyone has an opinion.
I love the fact that the impact of your decisions and strategies can be seen so clearly in the sales line.
What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
I guess each role I have got has got bigger, so I tend to look back at key milestones, or projects I was particularly proud of.
These would include reviewing the profitability of the Debenhams storecard and successfully introducing their Goldcard concept in the early 90s; opening the first Topshop stores in New York and Hong Kong; and reintroducing the finance graduate scheme to Arcadia which must now easily be in it’s 15th year.
Why did you choose to study CIMA?
I liked the variety of subjects and the fact I could study whilst working. It was attractive to me that I didn’t need a degree to start it either.
With this in mind, how relevant would you say the CIMA Professional Qualification is to your role and your organisation today?
Very. CIMA has kept pace well with how the world of work is changing.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying towards the CIMA qualification?
Be prepared to put the study hours in to ensure success, but good study disciplines will see you through.
Ask questions of your organization to see how what you study in a textbook may live in the real world. I never understood statutory accounts better than when I took a look at those of my own organisation.
As a CGMA, what skills and experiences do you bring to your organisation and how has that added value?
I bring financial acumen grounded in a commercial world. I can easily translate complex financial terms and models into plain English ensuring all of the senior leaders in our organisation understand the financial implications of their actions.
What value does the CGMA designation hold to you both personally and professionally?
Not having a degree, my FCMA CGMA status gives me a sense of pride of having achieved a professional qualification whilst holding down a job at the same time. I’d like to think it projects experience as well as technical knowledge.
How important do you consider the Global Management Accounting Principles to your organisation’s success?
They are important guiding principles and help reinforce our role as a decision support function not just adding up the numbers, thus ensuring the continued success of the organisation going forward.