He then moved back into industry, taking a job as Finance Director with property holding company Wildes Group. He has been FD of premium pet food manufacturer MPM Products since November 2011.
It was working in Deloitte’s corporate finance practice that really opened up James Bracewell’s eyes to the attractions of a top finance job in industry. “I was working in transaction services, dealing with people who were buying and selling businesses,” he recalls. “And I realised that I wanted to be part of a business where there was the opportunity to shape strategy and be involved from an equity perspective.”
While it can be difficult for an individual to move into industry if they have stayed in practice for a few years post qualification, James’s corporate finance experience actually helped him to land his job with Wildes Group. The business was growing fast so the FD role entailed raising finance from banks. James also found that he was able to draw on his understanding of cash flow and working capital optimisation that he had acquired at Deloitte.
Spending time in practice should not be a hindrance to moving to a good job in industry, observes James. “It’s about building up a checklist of experience and putting it forward in such a way that people understand that although you are not already an FD, you do have those transferable skills. A lot comes down to personality fit as well. If you get on well with the business, that goes a long way towards filling the gaps.”
In his current role, James looks after MPM’s IT, as well as its warehouse operation and customer service function. “I spend most time on the warehouse in terms of space planning and managing product flow,” he explains. He also needs to act as the voice of caution on the board when new products or markets are being mooted. “It’s my job as FD to say: ‘This is the pressure you will put on the business if you go ahead and do that.’”
Early in his career, James was advised: “No one else will drive your career for you. You have to do it for yourself.” It’s a principle he still abides by. He also believes it’s essential for would-be finance directors to get as much experience on their CV as possible and to work hard. “Make sure you’re always looking at your tool kit and adding skills that are relevant to where you want to end up.” He adds: “I’m a big believer in writing down a plan and sticking to it. Otherwise you can just drift.”
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