One-Day Masters in Practical Strategic Thinking

Winmark, the leading membership body for managers and business leaders, have a launched a one-day Practical Strategic Thinking Workshop tailored to those making the transition into management.

This one-day course will cover:

  • Strategic Agility: how to develop your strategic agility in a changing business environment
  • Strategy – Planning, Execution and Innovation: how to design and implement strategy effectively, identify and assess sources of innovation
  • Competitive Positioning: identifying competitive advantage in your organisation, aligning your resources and organisational goals to increase your revenues
  • Long-term Vision: setting targets and objectives by constantly looking ahead
  • Opportunities and Problems Analysis: identifying the information and resources you need in order to exploit opportunities, solve problems and make astute business decisions.

Date: 3rd December (9am to 5:30pm)

Location: Central London

Click here for more information and to register.

Balancing the scales of client retention – client acquisition

Vincent DenhamVincent Denham

Vincent is Chief Executive of Verisona Law, an incorporated practice in Hampshire. He began working with the legal profession in 1991 as a consultant and since then has worked at local, national and international legal services businesses of all sizes, including two roles at the Bar, holding roles of Chief Executive, Business Development Director  and Practice Director at legal practices located in London, Liverpool, Bristol and Sydney, Australia. 


In a market driven environment, the focus is on growing the business by increasing market share in the existing market for services. 

In a client focused world the concentration is on client retention. Here the rationale suggests that the highest priority should be the existing client because there are considerable cost benefits in keeping existing clients rather than recruiting new ones. 

Both of these strategies are valid; indeed many firms employ one or the other (or a combination of the two) to significant benefit. But there is a missed opportunity.


Untitled-10Consider these questions:­ 

  • What proportion of your existing clients legal needs are you meeting?
  • Do you know why they use you for some matters and not others? 


The opportunity that you risk missing is that of increasing your share of your clients’ spending on legal services. Firms that have adopted this approach have achieved significant benefits:­ 

  • They are constantly improving their service levels to reflect client expectations and thus increasing loyalty
  • They are able to become much closer to their clients; becoming more indispensable and increasing spend
  • They are able to redesign internal processes, which will lead to even greater client service levels and improve overhead cost reduction activities


You must get to know all you can about your clients’ own businesses. By doing so, not only will you provide more valuable services but you will become more of a business partner. There are two distinctly different but critically important elements to this strategy. If you can assimilate them both successfully, you will be in a position to go beyond the traditional thinking of market share and customer retention. You will also be ahead of your competitors for the business.


Get the basics right 

Examine carefully the core offering of the firm and consider how itcould be improved. It does not matter whether it is corporate or private work; client satisfaction is the key. The problem is, clients will only rate your performance in what you presently do for them. They are not too good at rating what you could be doing for them. This suggests that your current method of establishing client satisfaction is actually causing you harm because by focusing on what you do now, you are prevented from innovating and improving and therefore from achieving increased revenue. 

Traditional methods of assessing client satisfaction are at best misleading – you have to get to know client needs better than they know them themselves. The result is an increasingly loyal relationship and, more importantly, increased fee income without additional marketing cost 

The objective then is to develop an even closer relationship with clients, which will lead to increased satisfaction and fee income. 

Continuous Innovation

Having got the basics tight, you can move on to developing the business by building on what you are already good at. Learn from an example in the financial services industry. A bank wished to target high net worth customers for very large mortgages. Rather than just use price competition, it created a personalised service with a dramatically different approach to selected customers. This strategy had two benefits; first, the strengthening of the relationship in a fiercely competitive market, and second the ability to ‘Premium Price’ and increase profitability in a market where competitors were relying on discounts to do business. 

As we said at the beginning, there are two essentials to achieving increased share of your clients’ business. Knowing your clients better than they know themselves and then understanding yourself better than you do now. 

This is of vital importance. You have to learn all that you can about your clients and their businesses. Then, you have to bring that knowledge back into your own business and use it to improve your own operational effectiveness. In this way, you will be more likely to improve present (satisfactory) performance levels to heights previously considered impossible or too costly. It makes sense to try and learn more about your clients’ needs, but shouldn’t you also be trying to deliver more of their business at the same time?

Client satisfaction measurements indicate how clients feel about you. If you focus on meeting more of their needs, you get them to act; and actions are much more profitable than feelings.

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Why feedback is key to performance management

The science and art of receiving feedback as a way to improve performance management within organizations is examined by Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone…

Honest performance conversations don’t happen – at least not as frequently as they should.

It is a complaint that crosses industries, spans geographies, runs up and down the hierarchy, and suffuses organizations large and small. Candid conversations about performance are avoided, soft- pedaled or stumbled through. In fact, according to a 2010 study on the State of Performance Management, a survey of 750 HR professionals by Sibson Consulting and World at Work, 63% of executives believe that the biggest challenge of performance management is managers’ unwillingness to have difficult conversations. And, according to another study by Globoforce (2011), even when managers tackle them with the best of intentions and a solid set of skills, employees are often left feeling resentful or discouraged – 55% of employees believe their review is inaccurate or unfair, and one in four say it is the thing they dread most in their working lives.

You already know the challenges; you live them in your organization. We all do. And our usual approaches do not seem to make much of a dent in the problem. Below are three common mistakes managers make in trying to address the problem and what can be done instead to both dramatically improve the quality of conversations in your organization and accelerate your own learning as a leader.

We teach giving but not receiving. The usual response to the organizational feedback challenge is to teach managers how to give feedback more skilfully – how to frame the conversation, what words to use and how to be persistent when feedback is resisted. That makes sense, and the more skilled the feedback giver is, the better.

But it is still a “push” model of learning and it doesn’t change a fundamental truth: the receiver is the one who decides what they let in, how they make sense of what they hear and whether and how they choose to change. It doesn’t matter how much authority, power or skill the giver has, if the receiver isn’t ready or able to hear the feedback, learning is blocked. In fact, damage may be done in terms of trust, engagement or motivation.

Sharpen your darts all you want – if the dartboard is made of steel, it’s not going to help.

This is not to say that your colleagues are totally impervious to feedback. Taking in negative feedback is something all human beings struggle with. The dilemma is built in: we want to learn and improve, and at the same time, we want to be accepted and respected just the way we are now.

You can’t “train” that dilemma out of people or get around it by using exactly the right words; it will always be with us. But you can teach people to manage the resulting tension more skilfully, to have better two-way conversations about feedback and to drive their own learning.

You can cultivate a “pull” model of learning, where the receiver shares the responsibility for turning any feedback – even poorly given or off base feed- back – into something useful to them.

Here are two examples of skills that receivers can learn.

First, we can be taught to “spotlabels”. Most feedback is delivered in labels, which convey very little information. Labels like these: “Be more assertive”. “Work on your people skills”. “Take your performance to the next level”. Each of these could turn out to be a valuable piece of feedback, but, as stated, each could mean almost anything. The mistake receivers make is to assume we know what the giver means and decide to accept or reject the feedback based on the label. Instead, we should reserve judgement until we understand where the feedback is coming from (ask: What did you observe me do that prompted concern? What are you worried about if I continue to do it this way?) and where the feed- back is going to (ask: What specifically do you think I should do differently?). Too often we dismiss the feedback label immediately (“I’m plenty assertive!”) or assume the giver means something they didn’t.

When told to be more assertive by his sales manager, one young salesman began pressuring customers to decide ‘right now, today before you walk out the door’. His manager was horrified. By “more assertive” she meant more animated, more engaged with the customer, more openly enthusiastic and caring. The managers intended meaning was the opposite of how the sales person interpreted it.

A second skill: often when we
receive feedback we “switchtrack”,
which effectively kills the conversa
tion and blocks any learning. What
 is switchtracking? It’s this: your
 colleague asks for your help handling
a particularly difficult call with an
unhappy client. By the end of the 
call, the client decides to go forward
 with the next big phase of the project.
 After hanging up, relieved and ebul
lient, you receive an email from your 
colleague saying that you were interrupting others on the conference 
call and that it came across as rude 
even culturally inappropriate.

Read more of this article in your complimentary issue of Dialogue offered to you by Totally Exec. Experience lots of extra features with your download such as polls, forums, videos, photo sliders; additional content and live tweet feeds. 

Dialogue is an original, practical and world-class journal tackling the key issues and challenges encountered by business leaders and managers across the globe.

Why boosting happiness is crucial for your bottom-line

Emily PerryBy Emily Perry 

Emily Perry is the Marketing Director of Purple Cubed who are experts in simplifying HR strategy through common-sense advice and great technology. By doing so they enable aspirational growth organisations to attract, develop and retain great people.  @EmilyBPerry

Most executives recognise the power of having an engaged workforce; increased motivation, heightened productivity and improved loyalty. When cultivated in the right way, all of these benefits can have a direct impact on the bottom line. In fact management consultants, Hay Group, in their ‘Are you missing something?’ report, found that companies with highly engaged employees experienced 2.5 times more revenue than those companies without.

Whilst it can be argued that the happiness of employees is just one indicator as to the levels of engagement within a business (and thus the strength of an organisation), we believe it is provides very good insight. This is why each year we review data from over 45,000 employees to establish people engagement, happiness and satisfaction trends.

This year our 2014 Talent Toolbox: Review – 2014 people engagement trends report found employee happiness was on the up, increasing 7% since May 2013 and coinciding with the positive growth of the UK economy.  More interesting, however, is that these levels improved despite a 34% increase in the number of challenges experienced by employees – two-thirds of the workforce are facing barriers when delivering their roles over the last 12 months. These centred on a lack of mentoring / coaching, underperforming colleagues and basics such as poor time management.

With workforces much more learning-savvy thanks to one-click access to information through the internet, they recognise that classroom learning is not going to support their development and are therefore looking to on-job learning and mentoring to gain experience rather than technical skills based ‘training’.

However during the recessionary years, many organisations opted to reduce their investment in developing softer skills such as listening, coaching, planning and leadership, though didn’t put any creative low-cost learning tools like secondments and mentoring in place to fill the gap. Now, with employees citing a need for this type of learning, it’s clear that taking a short-term, cost reduction approach has backfired.

To get over this, we must act now. Stop sheep-dipping our people into the same standard learning programmes each year and instead ask them for their input – what’s proving a challenge, how can it be resolved, what do you need from us. Then together create contemporary, creative and cost-effective solutions for which they are accountable and fully engaged in. That way next year we won’t need to wonder how much more happiness could have increased, and therefore our bottom-line, without a load of barriers surrounding our people…

Changes in UK holiday pay law could prove costly for businesses

Businesses are facing the risk of significant additional costs – potentially billions of pounds – and a threat to their very existence from tribunal cases challenging the normal calculation of holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations (WTR). That’s according to the CBI, the UK’s biggest business group.

Holiday pay in the UK is currently calculated on the basis of a “week’s pay” – based on basic salary and excluding payments such as working allowances, expenses, overtime, commission and bonus payments, all of which refer to specific work done by someone while performing their duties. A recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgment redefined holiday pay to include an allowance for commission, despite the fact that commission is paid on sales made and the employee would not have delivered those sales while on holiday. If liabilities on holiday pay are backdated, individual firms may face bills of tens of millions of pounds. Some medium-sized businesses have told the CBI that backdated claims could push their otherwise profitable businesses into insolvency, resulting in significant job losses.

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:

“Backdated claims on holiday pay could lead to bills of millions of pounds for each business, and ultimately threaten their very existence. Businesses that have done the right thing and fully complied with UK law suddenly face the threat of substantial additional costs. And the companies most at risk are in vital sectors for our economy, such as manufacturing, construction and civil engineering.

Moving the legal goalposts in this way is unacceptable. Although most businesses believe we are better off in a reformed EU, there is a real danger of expansive decisions being made by the European Court of Justice on the UK labour market. As part of an EU reform programme, this has to be addressed and it’s time to put a stop to back-door EU employment law being made.

We need the UK Government to take a strong stand and do all it can to remove this threat. Otherwise we face the very real prospect of successful firms in this country going out of business, with the jobs they provide going too.”

Owen Pugh Group, a medium-sized business based in Northumberland and operating in the civil engineering contracting industry, is one company that could be under threat.

John Dickson, Group Chairman of Owen Pugh Group, said:

“Changes to the method of calculating holiday pay in the future have cost and administration implications which are difficult but bearable. But if these changes are applied retrospectively, whether over six or 16 years, they are little short of catastrophic. Like many medium-sized, privately-owned businesses, we will struggle to survive. If it happens, all I can see for the next few years is a collapse in investment, spiralling job losses and a huge rise in insolvencies.”

The ECJ’s ruling in the Lock v British Gas Trading Limited case means that, depending on the subsequent ruling from UK courts, employers may have to change the way they calculate holiday pay to take account of commission payments and could face retrospective claims relating to earlier periods of annual leave, with the potential of going back six years or possibly even as far back as 1998. UK businesses are currently facing an anxious wait to see how the UK courts interpret the ECJ decision on commission, and on the outcome of related tribunals on how holiday pay should be calculated to account for overtime. Other related issues such as backdated tax and pension contributions could also be raised.

The potential long-term effects of any changes are hugely significant and include reduced ability to deliver major infrastructure projects, loss of overtime for staff and a negative image for the UK as a place to invest. The CBI says the UK must resist these expansive judgments, and the Government needs to vigorously defend the existing UK law as these rulings go far beyond what could have been foreseen when the working time rules were introduced, and do not respect the EU treaty – which reserves matters of pay to the Member States. Cases on commission and overtime are currently proceeding, meaning major uncertainty for businesses. The CBI is calling for the Government to step up its engagement with the cases to defend the current UK law, and to use its powers under British law to limit the retrospective liability firms’ face.

Notes to Editors: Across the UK, the CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors which together employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of the private sector-employed workforce. With offices in the UK as well as representation in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi, the CBI communicates the British business voice around the world.

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Laurence Simons EMEA legal department benchmarking survey



Have your say

Laurence Simons is conducting its annual EMEA legal department benchmarking survey. This survey can prove invaluable for assisting in-house legal teams when benchmarking their performance. The results of this survey provide legal departments with industry knowledge on revenue spend, team sizes, department structures, mission critical issues and challenges faced by their peers.

If you are General Counsel, Deputy General Counsel, Head of Legal or equivalent and have 15 minutes to complete our survey, it would be greatly appreciated. You will receive a copy of the final survey when it is published.

Click here to participate

Looking for a new legal opportunity? Search and apply for the latest opportunities from Laurence Simons on TotallyExec 


Founded in 1988, Laurence Simons is a specialist legal recruitment consultancy.  

Laurence Simons covers the whole spectrum of permanent and temporary legal positions in both the Private Practice and In–House markets from Newly Qualified through to Partner and General Counsel level roles. 



The FiveTen Group is one of the world’s fastest-growing specialist recruitment consultancies. 

With over 500 recruitment consultants operating across 22 cities in 13 countries, the group focuses on permanent, contract, temporary and interim positions across all industry sectors.

Our global reach reflects the rationale for the name of our Group: the surface area of the Earth is 510 million square kilometres. (This was suggested by one of our employees in a group–wide competition to name the company).

‘Networking is not just for extroverts’

By Bernard Savage, 

Bernard is Director at Size 10 ½ Boots, a business development agency that works solely with professional service firms. Tenandahalf help their clients grow by winning more new clients and by generating higher fees from their existing clients. Due to their innovative methods, the marketing of private client services is now an area in which Tenandahalf lead the market.

Do you go to networking events grudgingly, just to show your ‘commitment’ to your company’s business development?  More importantly how did you feel the last time you walked into a crowded room of strangers?  In my personal experience of working with directors and senior executives in a variety of industries, for many the whole networking thing can be a pretty miserable not to mention fruitless experience.

The networking issue and solution have to be based around the premise that one size does not fit all and the fact different personality types need to approach building visibility and the cultivation of relationships differently.

Networking does not need to mean big formal events in big airless rooms where the only topic of conversation is likely to be the upcoming World Cup in Brazil (and the likelihood is you’ll find yourself stuck with a succession of rather dull middle aged men in scruffy grey suits).  There are events for everyone if you go looking for them, not just in terms of focus or type of venue but also in terms of size, sex, age-profile and format.

When I am working with clients to identify the event that suits them, I use two very different examples.

The first is ‘Suits and Vinyl’, a Leeds event where professionals and executives bring along a piece of vinyl that means something to them and the DJ plays them all throughout the afternoon.  It gives the crowd (all vinyl enthusiasts) something to talk about, something they are all passionate about.

The other example – which illustrates the fact that if it doesn’t exist, you can create it – is a group of female professionals and senior executives who have a bi-monthly event based on TVs ‘Come Dine with Me’.  Every other month they meet in a different member’s house, that member cooks a meal and the rest of the group mark it.

The level of choice (and scope for new events) has smashed the other great networking myth, that networking is only for extroverts able to “work the room” and deliver a punchy sales pitch or (yuck) an attention grabbing ‘elevator script’.  This is nonsense, the more introverted can not only network but, at the right event, can also be a damned site better at it.

So how should the less extroverted approach networking?  Firstly shun traditional events and find those smaller more intimate and informal forums.

If those events don’t exist you can ask a few clients, suppliers, business friends or professional advisers (and perhaps encourage them to bring a few clients) to meet after work for a drink.  Make it clear you are not staging a hospitality event but simply getting some people together to make some potentially interesting introductions and share a bit of news.  Put a nominal sum of money behind the bar for the first two rounds and people will appreciate the gesture.  This type of event positions you as a ‘go to’ person and, over time, is likely to generate some new opportunities.

Secondly, focus on engaging with likeminded people rather than people you simply see as a means to an end.  Likeminded people will try to help you and facilitate additional introductions to potentially useful people within their own network.  On a personal note, it’s much easier to do business with people you like.

It’s also important to remember that networking should not be limited to meeting new people.  For many more introverted executives this should be good news.  If you focus on spending time with people you already know you won’t even need to do anything approaching selling.  Instead you can focus on building rapport and listening attentively to their problems so you can find ways to help them.

Networking is a business development strategy that is open to all; you just need to find the right event and if that event doesn’t exist, create it.  Once it does exist, focus on rapport, not on selling but more than anything just focus on spending more time with people you genuinely and naturally get on with.  The work will follow.

What Legal & Finance professionals can learn from The Godfather part II

By  Douglas McPherson, 

Douglas is Director at Size 10 ½ Boots, a business development agency that works solely with professional service firms.Tenandahalf help their clients grow by winning more new clients and by generating higher fees from their existing clients. Due to their innovative methods, the marketing of private client services is now an area in which Tenandahalf lead the market.

If you’re going to sell your very dangerous brother out to the competition, make sure you choose your words very carefully when you’re showing off in a Havana strip club is only one of the life lessons one can learn from The Godfather part II.  However it’s the courtroom scene that provides a valuable lesson for anyone in a professional services firm such as an accountancy or law firm, charged with managing a team-based marketing initiative, irrespective of whether that focus is a particular sector or is based more traditionally upon departmental or peer responsibilities.

If you’ve seen the film (and I hope you have, it’s one of the most perfect movies ever made) you will probably remember the scene to which I refer. Inflated with their own importance to a level only politicians seem to be able to achieve, the-oh-so-holier-than-thou senators on the commission try to build up a picture of exactly how La Cosa Nostra is structured. A very neat organogram is revealed, making it very clear who is who and who is responsible for what, illustrating how every strata fits together to make sure things work.

It’s this structure that houses a very valuable lesson for any accountant or lawyer charged with leading a marketing or business development team:

The Boss: Sitting at the top of the group it is their job to bring everything together.

The Boss provides the direction their group needs, telling them what the group is there to achieve. After the direction has been provided it is their job to report overall progress and then – and only on an ‘as and when’ required basis – to use their experience to advise and suggest where and how things could be adapted and improved to generate an even higher level of success. It’s not, however, their job to take personal responsibility for every activity (or indeed to hold up progress by insisting on personal sign off at every stage). To be a success a boss needs to be a leader, a facilitator and an enabler.

Caporegime: These ‘captain’ are the drivers.

It’s their job to take responsibility for the different parts of your plan and make sure they’re delivered. If you want to make sure your group is a success it needs to be built around a number of experienced members all of whom are prepared to see the task they’re given through and then report their progress back to the team each time it meets. More than that these captains need to be able to identify opportunities within the group or the firm as a whole.They need to recognise that quite often 2 + 2 really does = 5.How can they use the wider resources available to them to further their own cause and create an even higher level of success for their team?

Soldiers: This is the group your captains will dip into to make sure the tasks they take on are done. Again single points of failure and control freaks will only hamper progress so spread the tasks out amongst those who you know are both capable and enthusiastic.

Depending on what’s needed, soldiers could be anyone in the firm. It could be a your marketing team or any other member of your staff. We see more and more examples of the best person being a secretary or PA even though in the past they may have been left out of the marketing piece because of their job title. This is nonsense; as long as you take the time to define, articulate and distribute the required activities properly (i.e. find the right person for each job) the jobs will be done well and progress will be achieved

All too often structure is ignored in favour of objectives.The irony is if you don’t take the time to put the right structure in place and distribute the tasks across that structure, your objectives will never truly be recognised.And who are we to argue with this structured approach?In their heyday the originators were bigger than US steel!

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Attributes of great leaders

By Chris Daems

Chris Daems is the director of Principal Financial Solutions, a small financial planning practice based in the city of London.  During his career, Chris worked for a number of large financial institutions before setting up his own business.  Chris’s experience is working with both medium sized businesses and high net worth individual clients.

450 years ago English poet John Donne hit the nail on the head…


No man is an island

Whilst most of us would agree that no man is an island, some of us underestimate the power of collaboration. Most of us are part of teams; be it family, sports or social, teams allow us to club together, support each other and collaborate for the greater good. Teams are also incredibly powerful when it comes to the world of work. This may sound like an obvious statement but in my experience we sometimes forget that our workplaces are far more powerful when they are mainly collaborative as opposed to mainly competitive environments. My use of the word ‘mainly’ was intentional. Most work environments have both internal competition and have a degree of collaboration. However I’ve always found that work environments have been better when collaboration was ingrained in the culture. However, and pretty often, I’ve found it’s not the culture of a particular business which holds us back.

It’s our own pride.

Asking for someone’s help is tough at the best of times. It can be especially tough when you’re relatively inexperienced in a particular industry or profession. You don’t want to be seen as an annoyance, or a nag, or (even worse) someone who doesn’t know what to do! Earlier in my career I’ve been in this position… Worried to ask but worrying other people because I didn’t.Keen to learn but not brave enough to ask for help. Lacking in knowledge but not confident enough to admit it.

However the more I get to work with business leaders (and have become one myself) I’ve found something really interesting. The best business leaders are happy to rely, partner up with and collaborate with other people. In actual fact in most businesses it’s usually absolutely necessary. The best business leaders admit when they don’t know but surround themselves with people with the right expertise to fill the gaps. The best business leaders are always learning, developing and growing. As people, as business owners and managers and as professionals.

The interesting thing is that many of the things that make great leaders great are attitude and not skills based. This means that regardless of where you are in your career you can potentially use some of the attributes of great leaders in order to develop in the most efficient way possible. The other thing that sometimes holds us back is the lack of title. However whilst the two can and often inhabit the same space, you don’t need to be a boss to be a leader (unfortunately many bosses aren’t leaders either). What you need is the passion and the confidence to lead, to collaborate and to grow. However part of this is swallowing pride and ensuring that you’re also not afraid to ask for help, admit what you don’t know and collaborate when you can.

After all….it’s what all the great leaders I work with do.

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Finance skills provide gateway into FTSE 100 companies

If you’ve got your sights set on FTSE 100 companies then you’ve definitely selected the ideal career path because finance skills are among the most sought after at these organisations. According to a recent study by recruiter Robert Half, more than half of FTSE 100 CEOs have a finance background. The study looked at the background and experience of current FTSE 100 CEOs and identified that 52% CEOs have an accountancy or financial management background compared to 21% with a background in engineering/natural resources, 9% in retail/hospitality, 8% in marketing/advertising, 4% in technology and 6% in other industries.


Just over one in ten (12%) moved from a previous finance role within their current company to become CEO, showing immediate progression from CFO or financial management to the top spot.  The trend continues with the constant transformation of the FTSE 100, with 10 of the 18 new CEOs to join the FTSE 100 (whether promoted or newly joining the Index) between 2012 and 2013 having a finance background.

“The risk and regulation agenda is driving demand for those with finance skills who can oversee all operational reporting groups within a business.  We anticipate that this demand will carry on for the foreseeable future, which means that finance continues to be a great career path for those looking to climb to the very top of the career ladder”, says Phil Sheridan, UK Managing Director of Robert Half.

If you are looking for a new role with a FTSE 100 company, current opportunities on TotallyExec include:

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