Phil is an established Senior Finance Leader with 25 years’ experience across a number of industries & business sizes from FTSE 100 to SME, with a well-earned reputation for creating financial strategies that deliver for stakeholders.

With a long history of working across different sectors of the economy, Phil has a deliberate weighting toward manufacturing & construction. As Group Financial Director at Cepac, Phil also covers IT & Procurement. A Chartered Management Accountant with over 25 years’ experience in a wide variety of business sectors & sizes, as well as being a graduate of The University of Derby with a post grad from Nottingham business school. 

You have had an extremely successful career in accountancy. What made you decide to follow that path?

I would love to tell you it was preplanned from an early stage but that would be a massive porky pie! Truth is there was no planning to my entry into the profession and fate led me to my first appointment as Trainee Accountant at a haulage firm when I left school after my A Levels. I was in that role for 3 years and gained experience in the basics and across all ledgers; I really enjoyed it and decided I really wanted a career in finance and if that was to happen, I needed to invest in my future, so I handed my notice in and went and studied accountancy at university full time. The rest as they say is history!

The majority of your career has been in the construction and manufacturing sector. What do you like about these sectors, and was it a conscious decision to specialise in these areas?

One of the great things about manufacturing and construction is that the companies and people you work with are working on real, tangible items. Manufacturing affects almost everything in our lives. Whether working on everyday items you buy at the supermarket or large construction projects, you can point to something and get the very real satisfying pleasure of saying the company I work for made that; you can actually see the outcome of your work in a tangible object. It’s given me a great sense of pride to be able to point at these outputs, no matter how insignificantly I have had a hand in producing them! Usually at that point my daughters roll their eyes at yet another boring story I start to tell them. So yes, very much a conscious choice.

According to our latest CFO Report, inflation rates and supply of talent are the main challenges faced by a lot of businesses this year. Is this representative of what you are seeing in the manufacturing sector?

Costs are always a challenge in manufacturing, we are constantly searching for value in the market - I hasten to add value over low cost as low cost at the expense of quality is not a tradeoff I would advocate. What has been challenging is that cost pressures have materialised in every facet of business and the pace of price increases has been beyond anything I have ever experienced before in my career! You need great supply chain knowledge & links to combat this - being close to our suppliers & building those relationships really pays dividends.

Talent acquisition has been a real challenge across the whole business, and thinking about areas that I am responsible for - particularly in IT - in an age where we seem to be faced with once-a-generation events on a yearly basis, these are almost becoming the norm! Again though we have stuck to our guns and looked for quality candidates – getting the right people on board is not a numbers game, that would be a waste of resources for the business and the candidates, and leads to appointments being made that are not right for either party.

The manufacturing sector represented 28% of all Executive Finance appointments in our region over the last year both on an interim basis and for permanent hires. Do you think there is any one reason for this? What are the attractions of working in this sector?

I think we continue to see the impact of the so called “Great Resignation” and this has led to many experienced individuals leaving the workforce. I myself am a beneficiary of this in my role at Cepac, where I took over from the previous FD who decided to take early retirement. It meant I got a fantastic hand over! But aside from that I think manufacturing will always be an attractive sector to work in. It’s constantly evolving and changing whether through changes in technology & markets or through other reasons like the sustainability agenda; it’s always adapting to change – a career in manufacturing is not boring.

Cepac has a very strong sustainability strategy – how have you been involved in helping to shape this and roll it out across the business?

In order to generate any strategy, you have to be able to identify where the opportunities are to increase your sustainability credentials. We are seeing increasing demands in this area from our customer base, so this is now an extremely effective way to differentiate ourselves from the competition. What my team do is help identify where these opportunities exist and how they can positively impact the business both in financial terms but also in terms of competitive advantage. We then talk to key stakeholders who have the knowledge and experience to make the implementation of strategies a success. This helps us set realistic goals and expectations – finance then help to generate the plan for how we will achieve our ambitions. We then track progress against these, and I report on progress at board meetings to ensure the projects are fully visible and have high level oversight creating the momentum needed for change.

What keeps you busy when you are not being an FD?

I like to do things that get me away from thinking about the job! We all need that down time and to be human, to rest and recharge. So I get out walking the dog as often as I can for a couple of hours at a time. I am a big Rugby Union fan, though I don’t necessarily support any one team, I just love the spirit the game is played in and I would go to the opening of a crisp packet at Twickenham, as my Facebook pictures evidence! If that wasn’t enough, my wife and daughters keep me grounded – family time is the best time!

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