Not all businesses have Finance Directors, and there is a common attitude that only large, enterprise level companies need them – and afford them. However, many growth businesses need help from a finance director before reaching enterprise level, understanding the role of a financial director can be the first step towards gaining the expertise of an individual that can literally make the difference between the success or failure of a business.
The primary functions of a financial director can be summed up in six points:
1. Finance Directors are responsible for managing the finance function of the business which would include overseeing such things as transaction recording, cash flow management, internal controls management and statutory reporting, finance department personnel management and development , external auditors and tax advisors.
2. The FD manages the financial and business planning of the business, including budgets, forecasts, strategic business reviews, financial strategy, cash and finance requirements and formal business plans that can be presented to third parties such as potential investors.
3. FDs manage relationships with important external interested parties including funders, bankers, outside investors, solicitors and corporate financiers as well as the aforementioned auditors and tax advisors
4. A finance director with a commercial business background is often able to contribute to and manage functions such as IT systems, legal, HR, property and other facilities. Special projects such as mergers and acquisitions and internal change management are also often handled by the finance director.
5. The FD will be the numbers interpreter and translator. A good Financial Director will not only produce good quality numbers using sound and robust systems and processes but will be able to describe what the numbers mean. Furthermore, this interpretation encompasses not only what has happened but what might happen in the future, using indicators and key metrics. The translation of numbers into facts on the ground is probably the main differentiator that a good Finance Director has over a good financial controller.
6. Finally, but crucially, the FD is perfectly placed to be the business number two to the MD, the ideal business partner, devil’s advocate, conscience, voice of sanity and where occasionally necessary, the brake. A good FD can talk finance to finance people as well as present finance issues affecting the day-to-day running of the business in a clear and concise way to the management team.
It might be logical to conclude that with all of these responsibilities, a Finance Director is a full time role required by bigger companies. However, more and more businesses are discovering that there is a crucial period in the life of a growing business where the skills and experience that can deliver the above services are required, but not on a full-time basis, and that a flexible Finance Director is a low risk, cost-effective bridge between using a bookkeeper/accountant combination and acquiring that first full-time FD.
What is a “flexible” Finance Director?
A flexible, or part-time FD does just about anything one would expect a permanent Finance Director to do, as long as it’s not illegal, unethical or immoral! Some clients have just a bookkeeper, others have a financial controller leading a finance team and the flexible finance director adapts to the resources of the client.
Generally, flexible Finance Directors work on an on-going basis with clients on projects of strategic value but are also happy to oversee the finance function in all its entirety.
Moreover, a flexible FD doesn’t go native as they are not working within the company full time. The main advantage this gives is the ability to retain an external perspective on issues. This can be very important when management teams in SMEs are often very overworked and do not have quality time to stand back from issues to see them in a fresh light.