James Marsh is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Vodafone Hutchison Australia. He has held a number of financial reporting and analysis roles in Group, including overseeing financial operations in Spain, and as Head of Reporting and Analysis across the wider European Region.
In this interview with Connect Intelligence, James reflects on CFO leadership and the evolving role of technology in finance.
1. What key attributes and skills do you think people in your role should imbibe?
The two most important attributes of a CFO are passion and curiosity. You must have an innate interest in and curiosity of the data, a relentless drive to investigate the information, and to be constantly asking “why?”. This should be coupled with the “hard skills”, including providing strategic direction and structure to the finance function and risk management for the entire business.
2. What are the biggest leadership lessons that you’ve acquired since taking up the role of CFO?
The role has reinforced to me that “the book is always right”. In other words, the accounting theory is sound, and as CFO, it’s my role to make sure the fundamental rules of accounting are being followed. That principle, coupled good people management, are the ingredients to an effective, successful finance team. Having an engaged, empowered team is vital, and a significant amount of my time is spent on coaching, development and building strong team relationships.
3. How do you make the most of technology in your present role?
Technology is central to our strategy, and as a telecommunications company, we are data-rich. The key is having visual data, and optimising the usability and quality of that data. That means, slicing and dicing the data in a way that is meaningful, and ensuring it is seen and understood by the relevant internal stakeholders.
4. Do you think the finance function should have a more prominent role in the cybersecurity space?
The finance function should play a critical role in the cybersecurity operations of every organisation. At Vodafone, the finance function has responsibility for overall risk management, and works closely with Vodafone’s in-house team of cybersecurity experts.
5. Do you anticipate robotics playing a role in the future of finance?
We are already seeing the utilisation of robotics, machine-learning prototypes and artificial intelligence to increase the efficiency and accuracy of finance and the wider business. As technology becomes more sophisticated and readily-available, its role in the finance industry will only increase.
To hear more of James’ insights, register for the CFO Forum 2018.