Group FD of folding bike chain Brompton Bicycle, Lorne Vary, talks exclusively to Director of Finance about the innovations that set his company apart, the shifting role of the FD and partnering with other functions in the business.
Q: Brompton Bicycle was named ‘finance team of the year’ at the 2016 Director of Finance Awards. What makes the company so innovative?
A: It’s not by luck. Going back to the beginning [Brompton was formed in 1976], we had this quirky bike that was fantastically designed to provide a solution as to how people get around cities. When you go into urban environments, there is nothing better than seeing Brompton bikes whizzing around. This morning on my way to work, I jumped on my bike and there were hundreds of other Brompton bikes. Trains are completely overcrowded and there is a big problem with obesity. A bike could solve all of these issues. For us, it’s a case of getting that message out and educating people on how our little bike can make them healthier and help with pollution. The innovation is how we invest in our core bike. We have a great product, but it can get better so we have invested heavily in our design and innovation team. During the past 10 years, that team has gone from six members to more than 20.
Q: How would you describe the role of today’s CFO?
A: The days of finance professionals sitting round, bean counting and crunching the numbers while stuck on spreadsheets are over. In the current environment, accounts teams act more like business consultants who jump in on core projects. As the group CFO, approximately 20% cent of my time is spent on finance-related tasks. I am involved in various aspects of the business and have a great structure in the finance team who can command the day-to-day running of the business.
Q: Do you have any tips for FDs keen to improve their relationships with other functions throughout the business?
A: As a financial director, you have skillsets and expertise the company needs – not just in the finance function, but in design, sales and marketing. It’s case of rolling up your sleeves, getting off your backside and getting involved in the business. You’ll start to get respect, people will have confidence in what you’re doing and want to use you a resource. We have a very strong, capable team at Brompton and there will be a member of my team in every major project running in the company. Finance is just part of a bigger entity all pushing on for the common goal.
This is an edited extract of a full interview appearing in the September print edition of Director of Finance. Don’t miss it!