The second instalment of the “Leaders Insight” series comes from the CFO at Camira Fabrics and recent winner of the ‘2023 Northern Finance Director Awards’ in the leadership category, Lucy Bolton.
Lucy qualified as a chartered accountant at Leeds based firm Sagars in 2007 moving onto Communisis Plc in 2010 where she worked her way to becoming Divisional Finance Director up until 2018 when she moved to Camira Fabrics to help them with their ambitious growth plan. Camira Fabrics design and manufacture textiles for every space and sector - from commercial and residential to public transport, including bus, coach, and rail.
1.Which of your earlier roles played the biggest part in your career development to becoming a CFO?
Without doubt my role as Group FC at Communisis plc was the most formative role of my career to date. A tough role that required me to have a high technical understanding of the numbers, whilst also being able to tell the story confidently to investors and analysts was an invaluable experience.
2.What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew as a newly qualified Accountant?
A real appreciation that cash flow is just as (if not more) important than profit! Being able to read and understand the cash flow and working capital cycle of a business will give insight into so much more than the numbers. It will give you the clues as to how sales, commercial arrangements, operations, product and debt arrangements to name just a few, are working for (or against) the business.
3.How important to you was a mentor / mentorship in your career progression?
I think having supportive leaders around you day to day is more important than a mentor as such. A mentor you may only see occasionally but having regular access to knowledgeable people on a daily basis as you go through your career is important. Leaders who care about your development and allow you to ask any question…no question is a stupid question!
4.The role of a CFO has changed over the last decade. What further evolution do you see in the role of the CFO over the next 5 to 10 years?
The obvious answer to this would be that the CFO of the future will need to be well versed and agile with regards to digital solutions. Ensuring that management decisions are back by or driven by rich and relevant data is key to staying ahead of competition. However, I do think that CFOs are now required to think more strategically than perhaps a few years ago and should be expected to personally contribute to the top line growth of the company. A mindset of “how can we best invest to grow?” rather than “where can we save cost?” is a must.
5.Having become a CFO what do you “think of the view from the top” and how does it compare to what you thought it would be like?
I feel really privileged to be in this position and to be able to make decisions that shape the future of my company. I enjoy it! To be honest, the view is exactly as I thought it would be and is what I was striving for on my way to CFO. I think people who naturally think ‘bigger picture’ will always rise to these positions with the right amount of hard work!
6.What technologies will reshape the role of the CFO over the next few years?
I think that the key here is to understand that we wont yet know what these technologies will look like. Change in this area has been exponential and this trend will almost certainly continue. The real advantage will therefore lie with those CFOs who are agile and consistently embrace change. There needs to be a real desire to stay ahead of the game to succeed.
7.What is the one single best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring future finance leader?
Always back yourself and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to grasp an opportunity. Every role I have ever taken to date has been slightly out of reach on paper, and yet has shaped me into the CFO I wanted to become.
Thank you for reading the second installment of ‘Leaders Insight’, don’t forget to follow us on Linked Inso you don’t miss the next one.
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