Growing Finance Leaders: World Class Capability Development

Introduction

In today’s world of uncertain economies, high unemployment and squeezed margins, growing world class finance leaders is a core focus area for many finance functions, not only in terms of tightly managing financial performance, but also in terms of attracting and retaining the very best talent to enable a business to meet its strategic goals and enhance competitive advantage.

I have previously written papers outlining the key experiences which world class finance leaders require, and subsequently how leading organisations seek to offer their highest potential finance leaders the development opportunities necessary to gain the requisite breadth. In collating these papers I have spoken at length with companies such as Anglo American, AstraZeneca, BSKYB, BT, Diageo, GSK, Legal & General, Prudential, Rio Tinto, Sainsbury and Vodafone, to name a few.

This paper seeks to explore how these leading organisations grow their finance leaders through internal development programmes, ensuring that the right breadth of finance and leadership capabilities are developed. It is based in part on my ongoing experience of talking to leading organisations, generally in the FTSE 100, about how they seek to calibrate and develop finance leaders. It seeks to explore how such programmes are managed, what ‘world class’ looks like, and some of the challenges of running them.

A Strategy to Grow Finance Leaders

The first step leading organisations take in establishing a successful capability programme in finance is to ensure its purpose is clear and linked to the strategy of the business and its operational challenges. This ensures that the right areas of capability are prioritised throughout the programme and the right approach adopted.

Secondly, to achieve a brilliantly talented finance team, employees need to feel excited to learn, have absolute clarity on their gaps and strengths, and know where to go to find great quality learning solutions that make a difference. Of course, a brilliantly talented finance team will also be adding value to the bottom line through their capabilities and knowledge of the business.

It is critical that such programmes have sponsorship of the CFO and finance leadership team, and that these people are willing to invest time in development agendas associated with such activity.

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