Diary of a Finance Director

The week of a finance director… an occasional series of diary entries from the EFM associates network.

EFM Associates are portfolio finance directors and finance controllers who deliver finance expertise to several business clients on a part-time basis. The article below reveals a portfolio career in the week of an EFM associate.

My week starts with a kick-off meeting with an insurance business in East Anglia. This new client wants a financial review of the business following a merger with another similar sized company. Unusually, I’m working with two EFM associates and an efm interim on this engagement and the experience takes me back to my previous life as an auditor with Ernst & Young leading several audit teams. As a portfolio finance director you can work with several clients and their existing finance teams. Excellent technical, commercial and people skills are required as well as good analytical skills and the ability to see the wood from the trees.

Following the high of helping a client sell their business last Friday, I hit a low as another of my clients has received unwelcome news from their bankers about their facility. I worked with insolvency advisors to help them arrange payments to their creditors and know I will have to be on stand-by to help resolve other issues as events unfold.

I founded EFM in 2000 with support from an angel investor (an audit client) and in the afternoon, we meet to discuss my buy-out of his remaining shareholding in efm and how to cash in some of his other investments. I’m grateful to my investor for providing me the opportunity to start out on my own and I know he has received a good return. Our deal will be based on doing the right thing for all parties and the on-going business, and will involve legal and tax experts not too far from now. I am a non-executive director for my investor’s private fund and we talk through liquidating a number of his smaller holdings and a new investment in an exciting start-up food business.

The morning sees me getting stuck into the figures of a smart technology business. They have a hole in their budget and can’t continue with a proposed £1.5 million funding round until the error is identified and solutions put in place to achieve the budget. I really enjoy this element of my working life. I’d reached a senior level at Ernst & Young and found that put some distance between me and working directly with SMEs. For the same client, I provide advice on a US-based shell they have set-up. Their Big 4 accountant and I agree that the structure doesn’t deliver the solution they were after and I present a work around. It’s often the case that I and my fellow EFM associates find ourselves recommended to SMEs by their accountants. We’re a cost effective way for SMEs to receive the expert financial and commercial advice they require to thrive, and accountants find their compliance work is more easily achieved when we’re discussing issues ahead of their review.

An associate comes into the office and I enjoy catching-up. He is after audit-level support work and I am able to provide two accountants contacts for him to pursue. This associate has made our business model work very well for him; he supports six clients between one and four days per month and he’ll make an excellent case study to include in my presentation at FD magazine’s June conference. We hope to promote not only portfolio working as a career option, but also the service to in-house FDs who require support.

I get a call from a corporate financier I know. One of his MBI candidates needs help and I follow-up his referral and make an appointment to visit the charity operation next week.

Today, I visit a manufacturer in Essex. I’m advising an MBI duo on the purchase of the business, plus how to secure its optimum financial performance over the next five years. The business will be highly leveraged and the prospective new owners need pragmatic advice on how to manage cash flow. It’s fair to say the reports and insights I offer are outside of a standard brief. I receive a huge compliment – I think – when one of the guys thanks me for telling him not to worry about the wrong things and for pointing out the things he should be concerned about!

The day finishes with a call from an associate who wants to introduce me to a liquidator he knows.

When starting out, I employed a marketing agency and now that agency is a client of EFM’s. I meet with the owner who wants to increase one of our associate’s time with his business from one to three days per week for the foreseeable future. The ability to draw down on additional resource as and when a businesses needs it is of huge value to our clients who enjoy a pay-as-you-use fee structure.

Towards the end of the week, I have the opportunity to catch-up with the head office team. We discuss the possibility of an office move, IT security and billing.

The week ends on a high as I compete as part of one of the two head office teams who triumph in the table football competition being run in our shared offices complex – the semi-finals beckon!