The NHS has experienced one of the hardest years in its history to date and Stephen Sutcliffe the Director of Finance & Accounting has been a big part of keeping it on the straight and narrow. Here, Stephen discusses the key drivers that have enabled him to bring his skills and value to the NHS and what attributes he looks for in a finance team.
“If finance professionals don’t know the value technology can bring to a business I would question their worth“Stephen Sutcliffe, Director of Finance & Accounting, NHS Shared Business Services
Tell us more about the mid-career moments that have led you to where you are today?
I always had aspirations to be a CFO, and therefore every career move was about experiencing different aspects of accountancy, different businesses, different styles. My stand out has always been ‘do your bosses job’ volunteer for that project or that additional responsibility. I would also say that I had a fabulous opportunity to go on a development course for aspiring Directors, which gave me valuable personal insight into leadership and not just technical skills.
Tell us more about your journey with technology during this time, was it important to you, your promotion, your vision, or not?
Technology is not important per se, although I do love gadgets! its always been about bringing my skills to add value to the business. As technology is revolutionising our day to day lives it is doing the same for business, no greater example than that than the last 12 months. If you don’t embrace technology you will become irrelevant.
PEOPLE AND LEADERSHIP
What is your style of leadership and do you break down the hierarchy to be more connected/agile?
Of course, situational leadership is crucial and my style has to be adopted. However, my natural style is participative and transformational leadership. Inspiring people, gaining followers and empowering them to be the best person they want to be. Being ‘Stephen’ is far more important to me than any positional hierarchy. I spend time across the business with all parts of the hierarchies and am authentic and open, sharing not just business feelings but personal feelings to break down barriers.
All businesses have core technology, so how tech-savvy does finance talent need to be?
Finance exists to add value to the business. If finance professionals don’t know the value technology can bring to finance or to the business I would question their worth. This doesn’t mean a deep understanding of all aspects of technology or becoming an ‘IT expert’ it means awareness, applicability and knowing the best people to learn and speak to.
What’s your best “Agility” hack? How do you stay nimble and able to respond to change?
I love change, it’s one of my key drivers! So, for me it is how do we create a balance of people around me, to temper my change drive, but also have the skills to continually improve and make small changes. I’m a great believer in if everyone makes one small change every day the cumulative impact would be huge.
Read more about change, here!
TECHNOLOGY AND CHANGE
What will be the biggest change in a finance team over the next 5 years?
For me, it feels the time is right for the finance team to add real value rather than just ‘moving numbers around’. Technology can replace not just the mundane but provide added tools to provide insight and value to the business
What are the must-have skills or talents to be in the finance leadership team?
For me its vision, calmness, balance and an ability to engage and communicate at all levels.
What is the number one technology you couldn’t live without in a finance team?
There are many tech trends, but what is the number one technology to impact finance?
I thought about RPA, and ERP and AI and Machine learning, but maybe, just as in our personal lives it is smartphones. The ability to do your work from your phone on the move wherever you are whenever you want.
What is the best podcast or audiobook you listen to for your work life, and why is it helpful?
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is a book written by journalist Brad Stone. It documents the rise of Amazon.com in the 1990s, its near demise during the dot-com bust, and its subsequent revival with the inventions of Amazon Prime, the Kindle and Amazon Web Services. I love true stories and have a passion for learning and failing fast which this book is all about (mainly!).
What is the best app you used in your personal life, and why is it good?
Probably Twitter. IT satisfies my thirst for knowledge and learning quickly, news comes out on Twitter quicker than any other source and the ability to communicate easily and succinctly is an art that Twitter asks you to practice.
Mental fitness in business is important, how do you manage your mental fitness?
It is very important. I practice mindfulness, ensure I exercise and also spend time dog walking. I am also disciplined with my time ensuring breaks and lunchtimes to ensure quality family time whilst working at home.
THE FINAL WORD
Looking back in your career, is there anything you would have done differently?
No. I say that as I am a great believer in the roller coaster of life gives you the skills and experience to learn and apply.
Want to learn more? Stephen was on the panel of ‘Overcoming barriers to finance transformation – budget, change, legacy, time… at Generation CFO Live – Watch the replay here!