As newly appointed UK FD for a global insurance brand, Richard Preston inherited a finance team that was in disarray and poorly regarded within the Company.
Pulled in too many directions at once, the team lacked focus and selectivity, which resulted in an incessant rush to keep on top of core procedures from one period to the next, with no intervening opportunity for reflection, critical thinking, or continuous improvement.
The same issues were also evident in the company’s operations outside the UK, so Richard’s solution would have to be geographically adaptable as well as measurably effective.
Whilst there were strong individuals within the Finance team, its performance as a whole was shackled by multiple, deeply embedded operational and cultural shortcomings.
A legacy of post-transaction accounting and regulatory issues continued to dog everyday efforts, whilst overcomplicated management accounting processes, tardy output from Management Information (MI) systems and processes, and poor engagement at the Executive level meant the team was not only systemically failing, but demoralised.
Using his Executive and change management skills, Richard repositioned the team within the perceptions of the company.
He established its authority at the Executive level, securing Board buy-in to leaner, more focused MI, budgeting and management accounting processes.
These supported more agile delivery of core responsibilities, and created headspace between financial periods, significantly de-stressing and de-risking the team’s day-to-day working processes.
Within three months, the team were on the front foot, playing a leading role in financial control, not merely reporting.
Through Richard’s intervention, the team’s outputs and achievements became a standing agenda item in the boardroom, cementing its authority within the company and its identity as a source of business enablement and efficiency, not merely as a cost centre.
New MI packs were produced that focused on information that would support Executive decision-making, further establishing the department as an indispensable source of intelligence that would positively impact the company’s fortunes, and this template was so well received that it was then rolled out globally.
Within the team, morale strengthened rapidly, productivity climbed, absence and sickness decreased, and a tangible atmosphere of empowerment, purpose, and resolve replaced what had previously amounted to a sense of embattled resignation.
In short, coming in from the outside, with a fresh pair of eyes, a clear vision of change, extensive experience, and a proven track-record – just like all EFM associates – Richard turned a failing function into a winning formula that achieved standout results across offices, teams, and borders.
At the same time, Richard also restructured the team and redefined the Financial Controller’s responsibilities to shift the mindset from reactive service provision to proactive engagement with the rest of the business, and to capitalise on opportunities for ongoing improvement that would, in turn, signal a measurable increase in value back to the Board.
In addition to changing the role and perception of the team in the present and for the future, Richard turned his attentions to the historical baggage that had so harmed the team’s performance over time, investigating and decisively resolving the legacy accounting issues from previous business acquisitions.
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