Since beginning his career in finance in 1998, Matt Page has progressed to becoming Chief Financial Officer at Mars UK Chocolate & Global Retail, a company that truly values CIMA in its finance staff.
Mars is a family owned business, operating in the UK for over 80 years, a strong culture of development for employees, whom they call Associates. The company sees this as key to delivering its business objectives and its ability to succeed in a competitive market, both now and in the future.
With over 18 years’ experience, Matt’s journey into the finance sector began with an A-Level in Business Studies, followed by a university degree in History from the University of York. He started CIMA while working for Capespan UK and completed his qualification while working as Finance Manager at Safeway, developing his CFO mind set well before his career at Mars "I was drawn to working in finance because I am interested in business and good with numbers, but I'm also articulate and love working with people and making a difference," says Matt. "Having done a history degree, I chose to do CIMA as my finance qualification because it's geared towards working in a business. The combination of different elements - classwork and theory; working in business as you do it; and understanding how what you've learned relates to that business - fuelled a mind-set that I apply at work to this day. It taught me not only how to evaluate and consolidate figures and data, but how to analyse them to make recommendations that will help govern the business in the right way."Supporting career goals
Matt is incredibly proud to work for Mars. The company’s employees, which it calls Associates, are a key priority, encouraged to develop to the full measure of their ability to enable them to take on demanding jobs. This ethos is supported by moving Associates across business functions, business segments and even borders. When Matt joined Mars in a factory finance position in 2009, he learnt at a very practical level about how the factory operated.
One of the values, or ‘Five Principles’ that guides Mars – Responsibility - asks Associates to take direct responsibility for results and make decisions from day one. This drove Matt’s career goal of wanting to become CFO. He took the responsibility for his development seriously by utilising the right tools, processes and business connections, so that he was able to build his development journey. Matt identified the possible opportunities for him to progress in his Mars career, and got the job of CFO for Mars Poland, based in Warsaw. "My CIMA qualification has been instrumental in helping me to meet my career goals," says Matt. "In applying to become CFO Poland, I had to pass a one-day assessment, working through case studies to illustrate how I would deal with different scenarios. The skill set that I developed through CIMA undoubtedly helped me with this, as it influences the way I structure my thoughts and articulate my recommendations. In Poland, most people at CFO level would have an economics or accountancy degree. Given that my degree was in history, my CIMA training gave me credibility as a professional with a respected qualification. Working in a different language within a different tax system, I was very reliant on my team. Again, the skill set that CIMA gave me around team leadership was critical here, supporting my functional expertise with an ability to make sure I had the right people around me, and that I was asking the right questions. Ultimately it was about getting the support I needed to do my job."
Finance business partnering
In September 2014, Matt achieved his next career goal, returning to the UK as CFO of Mars UK Chocolate and Global Retail. This places him in an ideal position to advance the principles of finance business partnering, through what Mars calls being a 'custodian' and a 'co-pilot'. As custodians, the company's Associates are expected to govern and control their own areas of responsibility, and as co-pilots, they are to help others, including the company's leadership, to steer the business in the right direction. CGMAs play a critical part in this. They sit throughout the business and are integral to the delivery of its KPIs. "Being a CGMA isn't just about applying my experience of the nuts and bolts of finance," says Matt. "For me, a much more important part is around understanding how my experience can help the business properly govern itself, and having the courage to tell people when things are not quite right. That's why finance is both an integral part of the business and an independent function present in many different departments. We have to challenge and provoke to get the answers we need, but we have to do it in a very teamwork-orientated way. It's a mind-set that achieves valuable, tangible results. I recently gave an award to a member of one of our finance teams who had worked out a better way of packaging products that will save the business £700,000 a year. This is the kind of practical, meaningful contribution that our CIMA qualified staff make to Mars."