Feb 27, 2023
Jul 11, 2023
CFO Interviews
CFO Network

Tom Mather

Feb 27, 2023
Jul 11, 2023
CFO Interviews

Tom Mather

Tom is the Group Finance Director of LNT Group, an entrepreneurial business founded by Yorkshire businessman Lawrence Tomlinson. The group is made up of a variety of businesses, including a leading care home developer & operator, Ginetta, Want2race, CoolCare and LNT Solutions brand. Prior to this, Tom held a number of interim roles, and trained as an Accountant with EY out of their Hull office.

Tom has been incredibly successful from a young age, becoming Group Finance Director of a large and successful business well ahead of many of his peers. He is also very well networked across the Yorkshire finance community and is a Committee Member of the West Yorkshire and York ICAEW.

Tom has been a close contact of our team for many years. It has been no surprise to see how quickly he has progressed and we were delighted that he agreed to spend some time with us to share his experience.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in accountancy and finance?

“Business” and the way it worked was always something I was interested in from a young age. I always wanted to be clever enough to come up with the idea of an awesome new product or concept, and in doing so becoming a successful entrepreneur.

However that hasn’t yet happened – so when it became clear during my A Levels that I was never going to win Wimbledon or run for Team GB, I looked into a career in finance.

I was pretty open to ideas – whether it be actuarial, banking or accounting. Accounting ended up becoming my preferred option. When I was at school, bankers were pretty much reviled post the 2008 crash; actuarial / insurance seemed a bit dull; and accounting seemed to me to leave lots of options open in terms of where you could take your career.

Hence I then looked at joining a training programme with a firm without the need to go to Uni. This led me to EY in Hull.

You reached the Group Finance Director level at an incredibly young age, which is an outstanding achievement but will of course come with significant pressures. Our CFO annual report shows that 41.9% of FD’s have over 20 years post-qualification experience, with only 5.7% having up to 5 years post-qualification experience, which you are much closer to.
What are the biggest pressures you now face, and how do you handle them?

Firstly, I would agree that my progress up the career ladder has been relatively quick compared to most, albeit there’s certainly been sacrifices along the way – as well as blood, sweat and tears at some moments over the last 10 or so years since I started at EY!

In my career to date, every role I’ve moved up to whether it be practice or subsequently industry, has come with increments in responsibility and expectations.

In my current role as FD, there is always pressure to make sure I don’t make a stupid decision - but at least if I do, there’s only myself to blame.

However the biggest pressure for me would be the risk of giving misleading or inaccurate information to the rest of the Board & shareholders, on what may end up influencing significant decisions.

I also feel a responsibility to the team – particularly the Finance Department. I want people that work for me to develop, grow and become a better professional as a result. I have been fortunate to have some great and some not so great leaders in the places I’ve worked, all of which have taught me better ways & means.

Handling a constant pressure becomes easier when it’s always there in the background – I certainly don’t go to sleep worrying about work but I feel I have to be “switched on” most of the time in terms of mentally thinking things through (not necessarily sat at a laptop!).

What really helps me is to make sure I do a workout every morning – usually involving a 10km run – I’m not quite the 5am club anymore but probably not far off.

I also have a loose rule to generally not drink alcohol during the week and it always helps if there is someone either at work or in your personal life that you know you can get offload something that’s on your mind to, even if they can’t really add to the conversation. It helps put things into perspective too.

Going back to our CFO report again, inflation came in at 90% as the main challenge faced by businesses in 2023, with talent being a close second at 74%. Other significant challenges included interest rates, supply chain, availability of finance, and increasingly staff well-being. I trust LNT aren’t immune to any of these challenges, but what do you see as the main challenges within the Group?

Those are certainly big challenges we face too.

Our biggest challenge in the care home development space is availability of suitable plots of land for us to develop as well as dealing with the bizarre nature of local planning authorities.

In the automotive part of LNT, our biggest challenge is growing the presence of Ginetta in other parts of the world (such as the USA), and by doing so, being able to seriously ramp up our exports of the cars through either our subsidiary networks or agents.

You do a lot of work with the ICAEW and in particular young accountants. What advice would you give to young aspiring accountants and future finance leaders? Additionally, it’s very surprising to see that of all the existing FDs and CFOs in Yorkshire, only 16% are female. Are the ICAEW doing more to promote future female leadership?

I’m probably too young to give people advice! However given you’ve asked me…from a career perspective I would always say to think of your longer-term goals before just taking a job or doing something for more money.

Ultimately if your ambition is to become a Finance Director, it probably doesn’t make sense to stay in audit, however there would be merit in staying for a sufficient amount of time to get a good grounding in the technical side, managing teams of auditors, dealing with clients at all levels and getting to see some different industries.

If you’re pretty ambitious, then doing roles that you know will challenge you, put you a little out of your comfort zone and make you learn something you never knew before, will normally help in progressing up the career ladder. Building a bit of a network inside and outside of your firm is pretty key, it still surprises me how small the Yorkshire finance community is and the number of people that say they know me … even though I’ve never met them previously!!

In terms of female leadership, the barriers seem to gradually be breaking down. Several people I’ve worked for or looked up to in the past have been women.

The ICAEW itself is a signatory of the Women in Finance Charter, which aims to promote more women into senior management / leadership roles. Locally, there is a strong representation of female business leaders or advisors whom either sit on the local committee or regularly get involved – and nationally the ICAEW has a specific Women in Finance community that do events, have webinars and articles written, to raise awareness and also give guidance to female Chartered Accountants.

What does a normal working day and week look like for Tom? I gather the LNT Group is extremely fast-paced and ever-changing!

That is a tough question. There are the regular things my team must deliver on a weekly basis – i.e. latest cashflow & associated analysis, payroll / payment runs to process & review, monthly MI, re-forecasting business models, Board meeting materials etc. All of which I am ultimately responsible for, so I need to make sure those happen.

Outside of the core items, the job is hugely varied and in a place like LNT, the focus is more on helping to run a better, more successful (profitable!) business. This could be doing a deep dive on costs in certain areas and looking at betterment of our supply chain as an example. Or modelling various different options we may have on the table if its selling and / or operating a portfolio of care homes.

Because LNT is entrepreneurial, the pace is generally faster here than in other companies – decisions are not drawn out with committee sign offs – however you have to be fairly well read across the sectors we operate in and understand some more of the complex areas of finance such as tax risks, corporate structuring and financing.

What’s the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you in the workplace? Don’t hold back!

I’ve had a few weird moments, although none I can think of in my current workplace.

The most embarrassing one was probably when I drank too much sherry on a night out with EY colleagues – some far more senior than me. The relatively short night ended up with me falling asleep with a straw in my eye and quite literally being bundled into a taxi and put to bed by a senior manager.

Another red-faced moment was when I took my 21st birthday cake into the audit client for them to sample. Trying to explain that the cake – which was a super generous home-baked gift from one of my colleagues – was in fact in the shape of a female tennis player with tennis balls on the upper part of her body….was a little tricky.

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