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FD Dynshaw Italia on driving Cobra forward

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At last year’s FDs’ Excellence awards, held by sister title Real FD and the CBI, Italia was described as “a rising star in the FD community”. Real FD said: “As de facto deputy CEO of Cobra, he is essentially in charge of driving Cobra’s move into the consumer marketplace.”

But being de facto deputy CEO hasn’t given Italia a taste for the top job. “It’s something I don’t think I’m at all ready for. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it at this stage,” he says. “It was actually my suggestion that we should get a new CEO.

“Right now I feel that I’m in my dream role. This is what I love doing, this is what I’m passionate about. I really don’t even know if being CEO is something that I’d want to do in the future.”

Dynshaw joined Cobra as FD in 2001 having previously worked as group financial controller at online travel firm ebookers. These days, he also holds the COO role, which involves overseeing IT and the running of Cobra’s India office.

The latter responsibility is proving to be pretty exciting. Italia says: “In India, we’ve grown our business nearly six-fold to go from a market share of zero per cent last year to 1.5 per cent this year, operating from just one brewer.” The challenge now is to stay ahead of the pack. “The rest of the brewers are waking up to the opportunity in India. We’re trying to maintain our head start.”

Cobra recently acquired its first brewery in India, which has presented a new set of challenges. “We’re now moving into manufacturing,” Italia says. “Which is completely different.”

It may be different but when the company boosted its executive team, it added a number of people with experience in the manufacturing sector. Italia admits: “That sort of expertise has really helped making these decisions.”

The shift to manufacturing is going to have an impact on the finance team but Italia doesn’t seem too concerned. “It’s quite challenging and very exciting. The learning curve suddenly goes up but you have people around you that you can learn from.”

Italia believes in most cases, the role of the FD is becoming more challenging. “Everybody talks about how the FD’s role is changing so that you have to be a jack of all trades but also a specialist in most trades. There are greater expectations placed on the FD. You have to deliver at a higher level than previously.

“I think the finance director is also, rightly, being perceived as a key person in the company. Before it was the CEO who used to take most of the responsibility but now a lot of it is focusing on the FD as well.”

Italia may have been a rising star last year but you get the feeling he’s now just a star in his own right.

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