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Andrew Varty Contract, Temporary, Finance & Accountancy...

The current economic climate is creating a challenging environment for many businesses in a multitude of unprecedented ways, not least in terms of impacting profit margins, bottom lines and company structures.

Whatever the circumstances, cash flow is critical for organisations to survive and an overall decrease in operations during the COVID-19 outbreak has led to reduced revenue for many businesses, while entire market sectors have become largely static.

This has, in turn, increased the threat of permanent business closures, meaning that clever and nimble restructuring tactics are fast becoming a priority.

As a result, we are finding that businesses are increasingly looking beyond their conventional hiring model and including interim finance professionals to assist them with their restructuring strategies.

Often, companies are seeking those at a senior level to assist them, such as CFOs and FDs, as the business environment and organisational structures are poised to be significantly different than they were before lockdown.

The simple truth is that finance plays a leading role in supporting commercial change, specifically in the form of restructuring. Inevitably these changes have a direct impact on both the finance team and the wider business.

While permanent staff will always remain the backbone of any organisation and work to implement change, interim professionals can play a crucial role, by adding niche expertise which will help to steady the ship during these turbulent times.

Interim professionals provide the perfect solution for businesses at this time because they provide additional knowledge and support for short periods of transformation. This allows existing senior management leaders to focus on their restructuring strategies and priorities, while freeing up the time of incumbent staff who may be absent or working on other projects.

In addition, working from home during this period places additional pressure on finance teams. While basic accounting responsibilities may be carried out remotely, business partnering and commercial input becomes more of a challenge because they are unable to directly liaise with the rest of the business in the traditional office based way. Interim staff are accustomed to working on a consultancy basis, often remotely. They have significant experience of being thrown into challenging situations and working autonomously to provide pragmatic commercial solutions. This means that they are able to join any business and hit the ground running, resulting in minimal disruption to productivity.

Essentially, interim staff allow businesses to introduce specialist skills to assist businesses with issues they may never have encountered before for a limited period. They provide access to resources that may not be available in-house and are able to problem solve, troubleshoot and crisis manage until their services are no longer required.

To reopen an organisation successfully once Government restrictions are lifted, business leaders must have thought about at least some elements of restructuring. They need to consider not only how their market landscape may have changed but also how their business has altered and subsequently establish a business plan to navigate this new environment. This is where interim staff can add value, helping to devise solid strategies which will help future-proof organisations.

Some of the many important duties which they can assist with include financial analysis and business partnering, as well as cash flow management and group reporting.

These are no doubt the reasons why lenders of retail and leisure giant Intu Metrocentre are reportedly due to appoint advisers for talks over its future financial structure. Meanwhile, many of Intu’s flagship centres such as Lakeside and the Trafford Centre are also undertaking a similar negotiation process.

In addition, a number of the large financial institutions are planning to change their working practices, which will inevitably result in a reduction in office space and high rise office culture and with this will come subsequent closures and restructuring measures.

Mastercard is allowing staff to work from home until COVID-19 fears subside and Barclays boss Jes Staley said that having thousands of bank workers in vast, expensive city offices "may be a thing of the past.”

These are just a few examples of how some of the UK’s most well-known brands are facing huge business changing decisions. As we are well aware, this is just the tip of the iceberg, with companies of all sizes and industry sectors affected by this crisis. Many of their futures remain unclear and only with time will we begin to understand the true impact on our business landscape.

MERJE enjoys a proven track record spanning 20 years of providing interim solutions in the finance sector. We work with interim professionals across all levels of qualification, from qualified accountants providing technical support and business partnering, through to CFOs with transformation experience working with executive teams to facilitate a companywide restructure.

Contracts are tailored to suit all individual requirements, enabling our clients to access skills required at short notice for defined periods and only paying for the days worked.

To discuss how we can support you or your business’s interim finance resources, please contact managing consultant Andrew Varty: avarty@merje.com