Thinking of hiring a finance director? Yasin Khandwalla, audit director at Elman Wall Travel Accountants, reveals the skills to look out for.
At Elman Wall, all our teams meet many finance directors (FD) on a daily basis, and we’ve developed a good eye and ear for the qualities a great FD needs.
Certainly, the role of today’s FD has evolved over the years. The image of the humble accountant, feverishly working away in an office behind the scenes, is an obsolete stereotype. Today’s FD should be a rounded business leader.
So what makes an outstanding finance director? Here are five key qualities to look out for:
1. Strong communication
To maximise effectiveness, your FD needs to be able to present and interpret often complex information clearly to a range of internal and external company stakeholders – from the managing director and board to shareholders, staff, suppliers, financial institutions and travel industry regulators.
At certain times, great diplomacy and tact will be required but having the confidence to stand their ground and challenge misconceptions could make a critical difference to your business.
Openness is key to the FD/managing director relationship, but your FD should also be accessible and trusted throughout your whole business so that managers and colleagues will share any concerns, rather than hide them, as well as point out any overlooked opportunities.
Your FD has to possess – not just showcase – a strong human side.
2. Commercial acumen
An outstanding FD possesses strong commercial instinct and is a proactive contributor to the company’s strategic goals and business plans. Their input is based on a thorough grasp of the business fundamentals combined with up-to-date knowledge and understanding of the trends within travel and the wider economy.
It’s crucial they stay abreast of likely changes that will impact the company’s trading whether regulatory, tax, legal or other – not forgetting the adversity of the Forex market.
3. Regulatory understanding
Clearly, it’s important that your FD understands the requirements of the travel industry regulators and other influential stakeholders that can sometimes be overlooked, such as your merchant services provider.
You need to know, for example, if your company is reporting your turnover correctly to the travel regulators to ensure you are not over-bonding.
4. Money minded
We’ve all heard the saying “cash is king”. Well, it really is! It’s the most important factor in any business’s valuation and continuity. With the accountancy department central to a company’s success, an excellent FD will think not only about working capital and returns, but also about how to change the underlying practices and policies of the business to optimise its cash flow.
5. Confident at management
Technical acumen is a required part of any financial role, as is monitoring, measuring and reporting. However, not all those who are good with numbers necessarily make the best managers or team leaders. A thriving travel business requires an FD who can lead and drive their team to success and have a positive influence on your organisation’s progress.
Today’s outstanding FD is one who carefully assesses facts and risks but takes a pragmatic attitude and identifies opportunities for growth. Of course, there isn’t a guaranteed recipe for the perfect FD. There’s that certain je ne sais quoi that makes some candidates stand out, perhaps stemming from their backstory, unusual perception and winning personality.
Finally, it should go without saying honesty is a fundamental prerequisite.
Remember, in the words of former US president Franklin D Roosevelt, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. And the biggest risk for any organisation in this ever-changing and challenging climate is for the FD to react by doing nothing at all.