Finance Factories

Why are some companies better than others at producing CFOs?

Given his experience, “the rotational development theme is strongly embedded in the way that we run the function,” Rose says. Diageo’s “finance leadership group,” comprising Rose and the major regional and functional finance heads, consults a “huge matrix” that compares business needs against the next best moves for high-potential employees.

As Rose did, finance managers at Diageo can expect to be assigned to new challenges frequently, covering postings across the group’s increasingly international portfolio of brands, its finance shared service centre in Budapest, or even in sales, marketing, HR or general management. At Diageo, nobody with ambition “goes straight up one chimney,” Rose says. He reckons around 50 senior finance employees are currently on foreign assignments.

What’s more, finance has become a key source of promotions for the group’s top management jobs. CEO Paul Walsh and the heads of the Asia-Pacific and international (mostly Africa and South America) business units all hail from finance. “While there are a lot of great finance people out in the world who come from Grand Metropolitan, Guinness or Diageo, there probably would be a lot more had we not provided career opportunities outside of the finance function,” Rose notes. “It’s a key to Diageo keeping its best people.”

David Davies, a Grand Metropolitan graduate, is one who got away. His long and winding road to the CFO post at OMV, a €20 billion Austrian oil group, took him through seven separate employers, including other acclaimed academy companies like UK industrial gases specialist BOC and US entertainment firm Walt Disney.

After a stint in accountancy, first at Touche Ross in Liverpool and later at Price Waterhouse in Milan, Davies’ first corporate job was in internal audit at BOC (now part of Germany’s Linde). Within a year, he recalls, he was pushed “out of the comfort zone” to his first line position, as finance director of the speciality chemicals division. Suddenly, he had to talk to “grizzly manufacturing people” and row with the sales team. “I had no training for that, but you learn on the job,” says Davies.

In 1988, he was lured to Grand Metropolitan. The company approached him in the same week that it announced the sale of Intercontinental Hotels. Three weeks later, it launched a bid for Pillsbury — Europe’s largest cross-border hostile transaction at the time. “It was a company that didn’t hang around. It was growing rapidly, and it seemed to be a place that was known for the quality of its people,” Davies says. “I thought I would take advantage of that.” Five of his six years with the company were spent outside the UK.

Davies then jumped at the chance to join Walt Disney as finance chief of its European retail unit. Given Grand Met’s reputation for developing talent, Davies’ CV attracted headhunters, and with the luxury of considering a wide range of offers, he later moved to London International Group, a medical products company, and Morgan Crucible, an advanced materials group, before heading to Vienna five years ago to become CFO of OMV.

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