Nick Fischer is CFO of the Betteridge Jewelers Group, with functional responsibility of corporate strategy, accounting, treasury, and FP&A. Before taking up his role at Betteridge, he was Director of FP&A at Nordstrom.
We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the FP&A Innovation Summit, taking place in Boston this September 7 & 8.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in finance and what first sparked your interest?
I learned very early in my career that every business unit and functional area is supported by a finance team. It became very clear that building a career in finance would not only afford the opportunity to rotate and learn how an entire business operates, but would also result in developing a skillset that is very transferrable.
How has the role of the finance function changed over the last decade? What do you see as having been the main drivers behind this?
I think the finance function has been evolving to a better balance between financial controlling and strategic partnering, where historically it was heavily skewed to the former.
Do you think executives' perceptions of finance leaders as accountants still prevent them taking up a role as a strategic partner in their organizations? If so, how can they overcome this?
I think in some organizations this is true, but perceptions can be changed. It starts with a focus on building credibility as a flawless operator of the finance & accounting function, and then leveraging that credibility to build a strategic voice.
What do you see as being the most important thing to consider when forecasting during a period of sustained growth? What else can finance leaders do to drive growth?
When the business is growing, it can be easy to overcommit in terms of planned investments due to favorable cash flow expectations. I think it’s important to consider cash flow sensitivity & funding needs under multiple scenarios prior to committing.
What do you see as the finance function’s role in innovation of new products?
The finance function certainly has a central role in helping to develop the business case for new products. Providing visibility into the cost-benefit and associated trade-offs is critical information for decision makers.
Do you see new technology as having made your life easier, or has it also introduced new complexities? Which technologies do you think will have a major impact on your role this year?
Technology has made life a lot easier. 2017 will be a big tech investment year for us, both inside and outside the finance function. Within the finance function, we’re migrating to a cloud-based accounting platform and making key investments to build our business analytics capability.
What do you foresee being the major risks you face at your company in the near future?
Our biggest challenge is going to be the state of the luxury consumer. 2016 was a tough year in our industry, but we’ve had positive momentum coming out of the holiday season.
What will you be discussing in your presentation?
My presentation will be focused on influencing organizational change from the finance function.
You can hear from other industry leading finance leaders like Nick at the FP&A Innovation Summit. View the agenda here.