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What are careers at ABF made of? – A note from the Commercial Finance Manager

01/11/17

Sugar, Spice and Thai Fragrant Rice... that’s what careers in ABF are made of!

‘Woohoo! No more exams!’ was my first thought once I’d finally qualified as a management accountant. Shortly followed by ‘what next?’.  Outside the structure of a grad scheme - where you’re deliberately moved through different roles to meet CIMA’s experience requirements - I realised there was no ‘right’ answer to that. More revelations followed after, such as being qualified may get you an interview, but it’s the type of experience you can demonstrate that actually gets you the role - and the more breadth and depth the better.

I joined ABF’s grocery group of businesses as a Commercial Finance Analyst for The Silver Spoon Company eighteen months after qualifying. When I joined the usual new company things happened: Everyone made me feel welcome, I started to get to grips with the role and there was plenty of exciting stuff to do. So far so good!

Then in my second week something strange and different happened, I was reviewing a promotion for sign off with my manager and she asked me ‘What do you think? Would you sign it off?’, I was slightly surprised, it was only my second week, how would I know if it was a good idea or not?  Clearly I didn’t, but that isn’t the point. I could have an opinion and that opinion was valued regardless of how long I’d been there. Working within ABF’s structure where every business has its own board means even as a newly qualified analyst your opinions are often stress-tested by the senior stakeholders you get exposure to, allowing you to quickly improve their quality and delivery.

After two years of business partnering the sales and marketing teams, being involved in the launch of new products, winning and losing big contracts with the big four retailers and landing a lot of new listings I began to think about my next step. My Finance Director strongly advised that I looked for a role with a different experience set from the commercial roles I’d been in to develop my range of finance experience (he was right. Always take the advice from people who know more than you). Being in ABF meant I was able to apply internally for other vacancies around Grocery Group and after a few months, (and as I later found out following the intervention of my FD) I was given an opportunity as a Finance Manager at Westmill Foods.

There I looked after a broad team and remit, including purchase ledger, cash management, treasury, master data and central overheads.  That turned out to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced at work: getting my head around so many different parts of finance, learning a new business, whilst also managing my own team.  Like Silver Spoon, the culture at Westmill was very supportive. It’s like you’re working for a small family business, even though really it’s a massive FTSE100 company. That made all the difference in giving me the time and confidence to adapt to my new role.

Two years ago I was asked if I was interested in the newly created Commercial Finance Manager role at Westmill, which is the role I’m in today. It’s allowed me to build on everything I’ve learnt in my two previous ABF roles and continue my development ahead of the next challenge.

If you would like to learn more about ABF and our career opportunities, please visit the microsite here

Guest author: Luke Butcher - Commercial Finance Manager of Westmill Foods

 
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