Jun 14, 2022
CFO Interviews

Daniella Wainwright

Daniella has been known to a few of us in our team for a number of years. Her move to being a portfolio FD has enabled her to balance both her career and home life and she is passionate about helping others along the same journey . Dani is an inspiration to many people and we were delighted when she took some time to share with us her thoughts on the finance community , the influential people who have really helped shape her career and how she some tips on making the move to portfolio work .

Dani is a Portfolio Finance Director, and works with progressive and collaborative Northern SMEs who value the input of a Part-Time Finance Director as a commercially savvy sounding board to help them grow profitably. Priding herself on being dynamic, positive, hands-on, and highly effective, Dani helps businesses get the financial insight they need to drive the business forward in the best strategic direction.

A Chartered Accountant, qualified in a Top-10 practice, with experience working with all sizes of businesses from SMEs to FTSE 100 PLCs, and with sector experience in marketing, retail, utilities, EdTech, gaming, and property, Dani made the move to a Portfolio Finance career in 2020, and is so passionate about letting  other senior finance professionals know this is a viable option for them, she now runs online group cohort courses to guide them on this career transition.

Having qualified at Grant Thornton and carving a career with the large corporates, what made you decide to move into working as a Portfolio FD?

This route appealed to me from both a professional and a personal perspective. On the professional side, I’d experienced the frustrations that can come from a large corporate structure, where everything is slow to be implemented and changes that would drive the business forward can get stuck for an age in the quagmire of required approvals. I’ve always felt quite entrepreneurial myself, and I wanted to get back to working in more nimble environments, where decisions could be made quickly, and near instant impact be made.

On a personal note, I’d worked really hard, for a lot of years, and my strong drive meant I often put work ahead of everything. I wanted to not just be a weekend Mum to my two daughters, and I also wanted more time for fun stuff, and to keep strong and healthy. The Portfolio FD route has allowed me to take control back – of who I work with (from a fit and values perspective), when I work, and allowed me to scratch a long-held entrepreneurial itch by running my own business.

How important was your early training in setting you up for the work you are involved in now?

I think this has been really important throughout my career, and my blend of experience in practice AND in industry is, in my opinion, the ideal mix for a successful Portfolio FD career. Its very useful to be a generalist in the sense of knowing enough about everything to spot risks and opportunities everywhere – this is what my clients value. I started my Accountancy career in 2000 on a modern apprenticeship scheme (before they made a comeback!) and my early training was at a small firm. It was incredibly good grounding – we’d often be given a big carrier bag full of receipts and do everything up to producing the stat accounts and corporation tax returns. Nobody wanted the fish market job though!  After this I moved to Grant Thornton where, (so I was told) I was the first person without a degree they’d allowed to study ACA, and got lots of audit experience with bigger businesses. Both of these experiences gave me skills and experience I’ve used ever since, but they need to be coupled with the commercial ‘nous’ you get from immersing yourself into Industry to really shape you into an FD.

What are your thoughts on the next 12 months for the finance community? What are going to be the major challenges and opportunities?

This is clearly a challenging time for many businesses as we recover from the impact of Covid, but now have to deal with the impact of huge rises in energy prices, rising food costs, and inflation in general, coupled with import issues, and challenges in attracting and retaining good teams. A big rise in Corporation Tax is also on the horizon and needs planning for. More than ever, strong forecasting models with the flexibility to easily change inputs and provide scenario plans will be important. Making sure you can be nimble with the numbers will mean finance will keep their seat at the table and be true business partners in these turbulent times.

For the majority of my clients who are in Tech sectors, staff challenges are the most severe threat to their continued growth and success and they are taking the happiness and health of their team incredibly seriously to ensure their employees feel valued and cared for. If they don’t they will quickly vote with their feet. This is also relevant to the finance community, who are in demand. I wince when I see businesses forcing people back into the office full time. Choice is key, but I feel a real divide is coming where inflexible businesses see their candidate choice, especially at senior levels, really limited.

Your social media and LinkedIn presence really portrays an authentic picture of who you are and the work you do ? How important has that been in helping you establish your new business?

LinkedIn has been nothing short of brilliant for my new business. From the very start I found it to be a helpful and friendly community where people were willing to go out of their way to help me meet the right people to make it a success. Like everything, you get out what you put in and a consistent, helpful presence is required to get reciprocal help and engagement. I now regularly get inbound enquiries from LinkedIn and have also met some really like-minded business owners who have become good friends. I also used the platform to launch and fill my first cohort course – it’s a powerful platform.

In terms of authenticity, I believe this is the best way to attract the clients you want, and let’s face it, it’s a lot easier than trying to be someone else. In our field, a little personality goes a long way.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your career?

I worked with Joanne Cowl (currently CFO at ABI (UK) Ltd) for a number of years at Communisis plc (which my first role in Industry), and always found her very inspiring. Looking back she was great example on how to lead, be commercial, be productive and responsive, and also of how bringing a bit of personality and emotional intelligence to a role can set you apart. Thanks Jo! I also worked with Steven Waugh who is now the CFO of Unicef briefly when I was in an FD role at Communisis, and Steven confirmed what I’d always hoped -  that you can be a successful FD / CFO and still be warm, and calm. Working at Morrisons was also a strong influence on me and was character building! It taught me how to run large teams,  manage under constant pressure, and how to get comfortable never having as much preparation time as you’d like. Whilst it’s a tough environment, there’s a lot of good experience there.

Tell us about Daniella outside of work , your motivations and what you would still like to achieve?

Outside of work my new career path has allowed me to rekindle a few old hobbies and I restarted karate training recently after an absence of….26 years! I’m a brown belt and hope to stick with it to black belt this time. I’ve had some health issues in recent years with nerve pain, and one of my main aims at the moment is to find a natural cure to this. Wim-Hof techniques and Hypnotherapy are my newest weapons of choice, and meditation and abstaining from alcohol really help me. Always one for self- improvement, I like a good business book, am enjoying increasing my running distance and fitness generally, and I (attempt) a cryptic crossword each week. In July, I’m doing a Snowdon climbing challenge which also involves some biking and kayaking. Other than this, I’m just focused on spending more quality time with my family and Cockapoo, Cookie, and putting time into friendships – I’m easily pleased these days

Nik Pratap
Lorraine Pratap
Elise Walsh
Gillian McBride
Nicola Worrow
Joe Ingham
Amanda O’Neill
Karen Caswell
Dale Spink
Charlotte Morgan-Smith
Henry Clarkson
Gemma Hutchinson
Jess Lister
Lucy Miles

Other articles