How the ICAEW Academy helped the TUI Group prepare senior finance leaders for the future

Iain Dewson, TUI Group head of Finance Academy, turned to the ICAEW to help run a training programme. The results exceeded his expectations

The TUI Group Finance Academy was launched in 2012 to support the roll-out of a large-scale financial controls framework. The opportunity was identified to expand the remit to provide the platform and service to help everyone in finance do their jobs better and achieve their objectives.

Since 2013 this is what I have been doing. The TUI Finance Academy has over 2,300 users in over 40 countries and hosts more than 300 resources in multiple languages. In addition to the digital content, I have designed and delivered bespoke classroom training to over 300 colleagues in more than 20 countries.

In 2016 I identified an opportunity to support the senior finance leadership in the group with the development of the pipeline of senior finance talent. TUI already has elite leadership development programmes in place; however, the opportunity was to develop a cohort of high-performing, high-potential senior finance managers with enhanced and practically applicable toolkits, skills, behaviour and attitudes which would help further improve their performance and profile and help them become even more effective finance leaders.

Naturally, as a member, I turned to the ICAEW for support. While attending an ICAEW event I realised that the Institute’s Academy of Professional Development could provide the key elements to develop TUI’s pipeline of senior finance talent. I wanted to partner with a respected finance body; the ICAEW Academy has the profile and credentials and is a natural partner for TUI.

The ICAEW Academy offers courses and leadership programmes that enable finance professionals to exploit the latest technologies to capture insights and make judgements that deliver competitive advantage to their organisations. Along with a portfolio of exclusive coaches and mentors, and leading training experts in their fields – its learning solutions endow delegates with practical skills that are instantly applicable to the business, leading to tangible positive impacts.

After obtaining sponsorship for the programme from the CFO and group of senior group finance directors, as well as obtaining German worker’s council approval – the Future Finance Leader programme was born. I surveyed the group of senior group finance directors to find out what skillsets were needed to make the step change from senior finance manager to finance director level.

Skillset gaps

TUI and the ICAEW Academy worked together to build a programme of three linked residential modules hosted at TUI hotels in Palma de Mallorca, the Algarve and Berlin. The first module focussed on building and leading effective finance functions, the second on finance business partnering and commercial acumen, the final on bringing everything together in business simulations and presenting to the finance directors in attendance. In-between modules, delegates were encouraged to put what they were learning into practice and were supported with one-to-one coaching calls.

Ten candidates from seven different countries and 10 different TUI businesses were nominated by senior finance directors. Candidates needed to be consistent high performers that had been identified as potential successors. The gaps in their skillsets were identified by a skills questionnaire based on TUI’s finance competency framework determining which skills are required to be in the next tranche of senior finance people in the group.

The programme was designed to challenge the delegate’s mind-set, ways of working and behaviour with tools and techniques which can be applied in many situations and as soon as they got back to work after the module. Helping finance leaders become more flexible, subtle and solution-orientated is especially important as this group of finance managers will be playing a key role in driving TUI’s performance in an increasingly competitive and digitally disrupted market.

I expected the programme to be good, which is one reason that TUI partnered with the ICAEW Academy. However, the programme exceeded my already high expectations. It was well designed and based on business feedback and needs. I would say that, it was my idea after all.

The only people whose opinions truly count are the delegates and sponsors. The quality and experience of the facilitators inspired a group of experienced, senior finance professionals to think and do things differently, to form an international network and share experience, knowledge and best practice with new colleagues and to face old problems with new ideas. Every delegate has been overwhelmingly positive about the design, structure, content and facilitators and would recommend the programme to colleagues.

So, what next? The easy thing would be to rinse and repeat.  However 2018 isn’t 2017 and, as the world has moved on, this programme will move on too.

Digital technologies, process automation and artificial intelligence will continue to have a deep and profound impact on finance. As an organisation, TUI will prepare the finance leaders of tomorrow for the type of finance function they will be leading tomorrow.

This does not mean that the content covered by the programme is now redundant. On the contrary, in an increasingly disrupted world, the skills of bringing data to life, influencing, adapting, problem solving and exercising judgement will become even more important. New technologies will improve efficiencies and identify new problems. Humans will be needed to solve these problems. TUI will continue to develop this programme to make sure our finance leaders are ready to light the road ahead.