Hayley Finn of Costa Coffee, explains how transferable a modern finance mindset really is.
Having held several leadership roles within the finance function at Costa Coffee for several years, Hayley Finn, formerly head of finance global functions, transferred over to the reward team last December. It was a big leap, but perhaps not entirely unexpected: she once joked to the then head of reward that she would love to do a job swap one day.
“The moment I heard he was leaving I put my hand up for it,” Hayley recalls. “So after a lot of virtual interviews, including with our parent company, I got the job.”
In fact, Hayley had been thinking about her next career move for a while. She’d planned to apply for a divisional FD role at some point. While she loved the Costa culture, there was no obvious vacancy or next step internally. Her external mentor at the time suggested she think outside of finance. After a bit of prompting, she realised that what really gave her energy was people.
“I was always really interested in the people aspect of the different roles I’d had. I had sponsored our employee engagement committee within finance, but it just hadn’t occurred to me to look for roles outside of the function. I’d become a bit blinkered,” Hayley explains. “I started off my career in risk, control, corporate reporting and audit. Then I realised that I wanted to get closer to the business, which led me into business partnering.”
Hayley then spent two years of business partnering with Costa’s Global Head Office support functions after they were acquired by Coca-Cola, helping transition away from the previous Whitbread supporting structures. This involved working closely with the reward team, looking at balancing corporate strategy with incentive and reward and implementing technical compliance and reporting.
Reward through a financial lens
Her current role as head of reward was the logical next step. With a strong background in finance – she was at PwC for six years prior to joining the Whitbread Group and its Costa subsidiary – Hayley brings a unique financial perspective to her new team, looking at the reward function through both a people and a financial lens.
“I have a strong understanding of the commercial context we are operating in as a reward function. My financial background helps in the translation of key metrics and KPIs into company incentives. And conversely, in understanding the business impact of decisions in reward. When you look at the investment you make in people, you need to think about the return on that. Link that to business goals in the same way you would with any other investment.”
In essence, Hayley is responsible for leading the development and implementation of Costa’s global total reward strategy. That includes the pension and benefits programmes and remuneration packages. A big part of this is to ensure Costa’s Reward package is driving employee engagement with the brand. But also to maintain the right balance between global consistency and supporting diverse local needs across the differing business lifecycles of the Costa platforms.
Driving business performance
One of Hayley’s key areas of focus is looking at how to drive business performance through incentive and reward.
“There’s not a one-size answer on how to do this,” she explains. “That’s the challenge of being in a bigger business. You’re going to have different platforms and geographical business units with vastly different objectives and cultures. The right structure for a highly entrepreneurial new market will be different to those which are more mature.”
This in itself can create a degree of tension which Hayley believes is inevitable. How much do you aim for consistency and uniformity in your incentive and reward approach versus tailoring your reward offering at local level?
“I won’t pretend we’ve got it right,” says Hayley. “And that’s the challenge. Some things are consistent, some things aren’t. But it’s about finding points of commonality in what we are trying to achieve as a business. And defining a framework which allows people a degree of freedom to tailor their offer accordingly.”
Since taking up her role in December, one of the biggest changes Hayley has implemented has been to develop the reward function as a global centre of excellence. From a strategic level, it’s about recognising that it just isn’t commercially feasible or strategically desirable to have a reward expert in every market – the function is so specialised. Instead, putting reward experts in one global centre will create what Hayley describes as a ‘global alignment’ with the function.
Ability to change
Arguably, Hayley’s finance-focused approach to reward has given the reward function the edge to develop Costa’s reward programmes at both global and local level.
These cross-functional moves may not be unique in themselves. People don’t always move up the career ladder in a linear fashion. Sometimes it’s more of a sideways step. But Hayley believes that due to the change in corporate thinking around talent and capability, we’re likely to see more cross-function moves in the future. Particularly this will be from and to the finance function.
“In many ways, the pandemic has forced companies to establish new ways of doing things. People have had a masterclass in resilience and adaptability with companies rapidly redeploying their workforce,” Hayley points out. “So in terms of finance leaders, it’s increasingly less about looking at peoples’ ability to do a certain role and more about their capabilities, qualities and ability to change.”
It won’t be about recruiting for a role anymore; rather, it will be about recruiting for capabilities- and that’s key. Jobs are changing all the time and the finance function, possibly more than most.
“Companies are now more confident factoring all this into their thinking because of all the changes we’ve seen over the last year,” says Hayley. “A person’s capability, breadth and adaptability will be more important than ever.”