Henry Taylor-Toone

Vice Principal Finance and Corporate Services, Chesterfield College

Henry Taylor-Toone is a Finance Director with a big personality and a very illustrious CV. He has been highly regarded by our team for many years. Henry talks to us about his finance career, and his current role at Chesterfield College.

June 6, 2022
Jun 7, 2022
CFO Interviews

Henry Taylor-Toone is a Finance Director with a big personality and a very illustrious CV. He has been highly regarded by our team for many years. We were absolutely delighted to have helped him secure his role as Vice Principal for Finance and Corporate Services at Chesterfield College in February 2022.

Henry embodies many of the characteristics of the modern finance leader. His story can be a positive inspiration for so many. We were delighted to spend some time with him and share his experiences and perspectives.

Please tell us what it means to be “Vice Principal for Finance & Corporate Services” at Chesterfield College?

The first word that springs to mind is proud. To be given the responsibility, at such a critical time, of being CFO of an important local establishment that is instrumental in shaping and changing the lives of young people fills me with pride. Mixed in with that is an element of fear of failure, but I like to use that as fuel to ensure I deliver and become the best CFO I can be.

To have the opportunity to enter the education sector at a level where I can make a real difference is brilliant. In all honesty applying for the role was a bit of a punt, but the way the role was advertised, the insight provided by Gillian McBride and my insight into the sector (most of my family are teachers) gave me the confidence that it was potentially a good fit.

And boy was I glad I applied. From the first interview onwards, it was clear that Chesterfield College was a place which aligned with my own values and beliefs, and somewhere I could have a tangible impact from the outset. Yes, it is very challenging, but it is a challenge that I am proud to be facing.

Having worked in practice, engineering, manufacturing, distribution, technology and now higher education, you can prove that it is possible to grow your career as an FD and be sector agnostic. What are your thoughts on this? How important has sector been in all of your career decisions?

Sector has been important only to the extent that, when looking for roles, a company’s activities have to interest me. But more than sector, what has been important to me is the development I can get from the role, the impact I can have and the cultural fit of the organisation.

Rather than the differences between sectors, I like to focus on the similarities. At the heart of it (without trying to sound too cheesy) it’s about the people, the challenge and having purpose.

One of the big benefits of moving between sectors is that I am not tied down to a potentially limited way of thinking. I have been able to see similar challenges tackled in a number of different ways which has really helped me become more rounded.

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

One of the greatest challenges for Chesterfield College is that c.85% of our funding is determined by central government. Over the last 10 years funding has lagged inflation quite significantly leaving the sector in a very difficult position. As we are now faced with spiralling costs we are having to reduce and manage our cost base as much as possible.

In terms of opportunities, the government has committed to additional capital spend in the Further Education sector which, if we are successful in our bids, will transform the College and improve the student experience considerably. We are also seeing good opportunities to grow our student and apprenticeship numbers as we move into the post-pandemic world.

At what point did you know that finance was going to be your career choice? How do you see the reality of a career in finance compared to preconceptions?

It is strange how life twists and turns but with all honesty I had never expected to become an accountant. Growing up I always wanted to join the army. I even got as far as starting the application process at university but unfortunately was unable to proceed on medical grounds. Obviously, I found this devastating and didn’t have a plan B so decided to look down the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list in a mild panic.  

Some friends of mine had been on summer schemes at the Big Four and so I started to investigate. From what I read a career in auditing sounded the most appealing. It would give me exposure to a wide array of companies and sectors, I would only need to commit for 3 years (with good progression each year) and becoming ACA qualified seemed like a worthwhile endeavour. And so, I entered a career in finance with few preconceptions but with the hope that a route forward would reveal itself.

And indeed, it turned out to be the right move. I’ve been very fortunate in my career so far as I’ve been able to travel the world, meet people I probably would never have met whilst always moving forward and developing. My greatest fear is to stagnate but thankfully I’ve never reached that point.

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

Deloitte was definitely a great place to start my career. It enhanced by work ethic, working to tight deadlines with numerous different stakeholders whilst being customer focused were really good lessons to learn. Since Deloitte meeting my wife was the catalyst for moving away from practice into industry and then having children was the catalyst for moving to the Peak District which led me to Chesterfield College. Although extremely important to me my career is secondary to my family and I’ve been fortunate enough that my career has followed the lead of my family life rather than the other way around.

Tell us about Henry outside of work

Outside of work life is very happy and content. My house is actually a working sheep farm (only 30 ewes so far but plans to grow!). Although I cannot claim to be a sheep farmer (my sister leads the way on that…) I can be found from time-to-time hauling hay around, driving a trailer of sheep to market or running away from our overly aggressive rooster. Farming most certainly is not a natural talent of mine, but it really is a great contrast to working life and we’re lucky enough to live in a glorious part of the world. It’s also great that my two sons can grow up surrounded by fields, animals and (unfortunately) hay fever.

I’m not sure I’m a MAMIL quite yet but I have dusted off my road bike with the aim of getting fit enough to do the ‘Coast to Coast in a day’ next year…so watch this space!

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