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Junk mail drives UK FDs wild

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In a survey of more than 500 finance directors and financial controllers conducted by Real Business and Real FD, junk email and post was cited by 14.1 per cent of respondents as a major irritant, narrowly beating the “volume, intrusion and constant change in regulations” into second place with 14 per cent. The complexity of the taxation system came third, with the actual scale of taxation not a Top Ten consideration.

One of the survey’s suprising findings was that many respondents cited junk email and post as their only irritant. “I can deal with the other problems,” says Joy Middleton, the finance director at law firm Dundas & Wilson. “But junk mail is a major annoyance.”

Kelie Percy-Quinnell, finance director of Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park, also notes: “It is time consuming and incredibly irritating.”

It’s not just junk email that’s raising the hackles of finance professionals. Some respondents complain about "being copied into lots of emails that I don’t necessarily need to see”. This was the view of Maz Hussain, the financial controller at consulting engineers Royal Haskoning, who adds: “It takes ages to go through them.”

And the most annoying inbox irritant of all? According to Spicers FD Robert Baldrey, it is "people who copy all recipients of an email when sending their availability to a meeting organiser”.

Regulatory burdenRespondents were perhaps making a more serious point when citing the sheer volume, as well as the intrusion of – and constant change in – regulation.  

“The sheer volume of red tape is my most pressing irritant," says Andrew Swanston, group finance director at Cumbrian Newspapers. “Regulation is overly complicated – it is an immense effort keeping track of it all. It takes time and money and is especially difficult when your company is not of a sufficient size to employ experts to deal with it, as it largely falls on my shoulders to deal with matters that are very far removed from finance and therefore away from my area of expertise. The same goes for taxation – it needs simplification.”

Indeed, next in the line of irritants for finance directors and financial controllers was the complexity of the taxation system – a major irritation for 11 per cent of respondents. Chris Jarvis, finance director at Westler Foods in North Yorkshire, observes: “The government has been as inept in terms of its management of the taxation system as it has of the economy in general.”

Bournemouth-based Bath Travel FD Tony Hunt adds: “Bureaucracy in general and taxation issues in particular are a pain. Tax changes are not very well thought out and are often the result of knee-jerk reactions from the government. It is patching up a poor system.”

Trading conditions also annoying

General economic instability and poor trading conditions were cited as the fourth worst irritant faced by a finance director or financial controller in the survey, followed by bad debts from clients – which are exacerbated due to the poor trading conditions – and funding issues due to the credit crunch.

This market-conditions oriented section of complaints – while not top of the list – are no doubt more prominent than they would have been a year ago, and may rise further if poor trading conditions continue.

“Economic instability is certainly a major irritant as it impacts our ability to attract students from abroad, especially the US,” says Eliot Leviten, who is the FD of the Glasgow School of Art.

Yet such challenges are felt across all sectors. “This is a challenging trading environment for any retailer caused by the current economic difficulties,” agrees Jo Whitfield, finance director at George Clothing of Asda fame.  

Less critical irritantsDespite the tough conditions, many survey respondents note some less critical irritants. “People who continue to wear Bluetooth mobile phone earpieces even when they are not in the car,” offers Baldrey from Spicers. “Presumably it makes them look like Jack Bauer from 24.”  Another finance director, who declined to give their name, cites "the unreasonable demands of working for an American firm”.

“Sales people who phone and say ‘yourself’ and ‘myself’ instead of ‘you’ and ‘me’,” says Steve Kynaston, finance director, of automotive parts company Stadco. “Apparently they think they’re being more polite but it is an affectation that drives me mad!”

“Time wasters of any description,” offers Simon Monk of Cheshire-based window blind manufacturer Louvolite. “Including those undertaking irritating surveys about irritations.”

Related articlesTop ten business irritants for finance directorsReal FD becomes part of Real BusinessInterest rates: a balancing act

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