Who are Britain’s FDs of the future? Shortlist revealed

The FD of the Future award, created with Ernst & Young, recognises high-potential financial controllers, finance managers and VPs who are tomorrow’s CFOs and FDs. From a superb shortlist in 2012, the inaugural winner was Sarah Moynihan of the privately owned engineering group, Marshall of Cambridge. This year’s shortlist features rising stars in healthcare, business outsourcing, engineering, pharmaceuticals, residential care and a high-flier (ho-ho) at Heathrow Airport Authority…

Marianne Holt is projects controller at the FTSE-quoted engineering consultancy, Ricardo. Praised for her intellect, rigour and natural curiosity, her nomination was supported by an impressive group including FD Neil Thomas, UK MD Martin Fausett and former MD Kent Niederhofer among others. Marianne has carved out a new role within Ricardo UK, helping the management team to understand the financial position of its complex long-term contract portfolio. She has also recruited a new project accounting team to implement SAP and, beyond her finance achievements, supports and coaches the wider Ricardo “family”.

Group financial controller at the £92m-turnover, 1,700-employee support services group, Liberata, Peter Swann has had quite a ride over the past four years, playing a central role in the complex turnaround and putting in place foundations for future, profitable growth. In 2009, the business was struggling, weighted down by a legacy pensions deficit. Working directly with a new executive team, Peter Swann has, in the words of CEO Dermot Joyce, “played a key role in the survival and revitalisation of the company.” Maintaining strong control over cash, liasing closely with HMRC and, once the balance sheet restructuring was complete, renegotiating contracts and reviewing the business’s systems, Peter has been through the fire and come out the other side. Today Liberata is profitable, cash-generative and debt-free.

“I have worked with many finance people over 15 years, and Ben Ash stands out among the best”. High praise indeed from Shire’s European finance director Geoffrey Ghyoot, for his finance business partner Ben Ash. Ash’s recent achievements at the FTSE 100 pharmaceuticals group include the financial delivery of Shire’s response to a £150m tender; and creating new, well-received management reports. As well as providing management information across nine countries, seven currencies and three finance systems, Ben also oversees the management of product inventory, sets up new contracts and takes part in price negotiations. “Highly professional, committed, proactive, responsible and mature beyond his years,” says Shire vice-president and general manager Janis Clayton.

Al-karim Kachra is head of finance at Country Court Care Group, a 600-employee, £11m-turnover care home group who, says director Tony Upward, has shown “composure and an ability to manage the finances beyond his years. He has stabilised operations and finances while allowing the group to enjoy sustainable growth where other organisations have failed.” On taking up the role, Al-karim found an organisation in poor financial health; lending covenants had been breached.  He played a lead role in developing a strategy for growth and, since 2010, the group has doubled to 452 beds, with contracts exhanged for a further 90. Beyond pure financials, Al-karim has upgraded IT and communication, focused on staff satisfaction and rebranding. Driven by this dynamic finance professional, Country Court Care Group is fast becoming a major player in the social care sector.

Nominated by CEO Colin Matthews, Heathrow Airport Holdings’ group financial controller Jorge Lavin has “worked effectively over 18 months to improve our financial reporting processes so that information is now produced faster and more reliably.” Having sold a number of airports in recent years, group reporting is complex, yet Jorge has flourished. He has also driven improvements in internal control, including consolidation, fixed assets and cash reconciliation. This, surely, is a high flier…

Wilkinsons started out as a family-run business back in 1930. Today, still family run, the firm has more than 350 stores across the UK, £1,5bn turnover, more than 22,000 employees, with a vision to provide “extraordinary everyday shopping in the heart of the community”. With a background in finance, commercial manager Clare Needham today heads the commercial finance function, which has proved crucial as the firm embarked on the acquisition trail. She leads recruitment and talent development in the finance function, and has critical responsibilities ranging from introducing store p&l reporting to working on three key pension projects. She mentors team members and is described as “extremely rounded” and showing strong leadership. She’s also a board member of Wilkinson’s new design agency W’Innovate. 

Ds’ Excellence Awards 2013: to celebrate these and other leading finance directors, why not join us at the 2013 FDs’ Excellence Awards, in association with ICAEW, on May 9, 2013? We’ll be recognising top FTSE finance directors as well as service providers to the finance community. The evening is hosted by ICAEW CEO Michael Izza and CBI director-general John Cridland, and compered by the incomparable accountant-turned-comedian Fred Macaulay. 

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