The Finance Futurists are an elite group of leaders who embrace constant evolution as a necessity in the ever-changing world of finance.
More than number-crunchers, these leaders represent a new era for finance – one defined by a shift from pure analytical expertise to emotional intelligence and strong communication skills as well.
Here, we spotlight one of this year’s futurists, Lewis Dangerfield, CFO at Osprey Group, and what he believes the future holds for the finance function.
Lewis Dangerfield is the definition of a corporate ladder climber.
Starting as a management accountant at Osprey Group in 2013, his hard work, ingenuity, and tenacity helped him ascend to the C-suite where he now serves as CFO.
His role as CFO involves strategically overseeing operations, planning, and risk management for Osprey.
Additionally, as a member of the Osprey Group Board, Lewis also helps shape Osprey’s future direction while supporting tactical initiatives.
He’s currently working to implement the adoption of an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) across the group to help the business better align with its mission of solving complex land and sea logistical challenges to deliver industry-leading critical infrastructure.
We recently chatted with Lewis about the evolving role of the CFO in light of coronavirus (COVID-19), why finance leaders need to be both observational and analytical, and why he thrives best when going beyond his comfort zone and learning by doing.
In a post-pandemic world, what do you think will be the most important role of a CFO?
The role of the CFO is the person who is one step removed and can see the bigger picture, which ultimately helps their ability to respond to different crises as they develop.
In my role as CFO, I can touch all areas of the business.
My remit isn’t just finance – it’s HR, IT, and all the other non-sales and ops functions.
This really allows me to have that bigger picture view and look at things less narrowly and more open-mindedly.
I can do something that has a tangible effect, whether it is helping an individual or the business as a whole.
Have any of your personal interests helped pave the way for you in your professional career or vice versa?
The obvious one for me is my involvement in Scouting.
I’ve been an active member since starting Beavers at the age of six (some would argue I’ve not grown up, either!) and have held a variety of leadership and management roles.
Scouting teaches young people skills for life, ones that I’ve found useful throughout my career. Most notably, problem-solving in a crisis and leadership, which is distinct from management.
Scouts made me.
Speaking of skills, what skills do you believe are paramount for finance professionals today, and in the near future?
Finance professionals today must be good listeners and observers. They also need to be analytical and have an eye for detail.
They should have the confidence to say what the right way forward is and go for it.
Soft skills are also key to being successful.
For me, the three most important skills I look for are being a team player, adaptability and the ability to think creatively.
Success in business depends on working closely with others and being prepared to jump in and give a fresh perspective when things change, crises happen or new opportunities arise.
People must have an appetite to learn, too.
If I see something that interests me, I’ll do my own research about it. You should be ready to jump at the opportunities that come up, even if they’re not in your core line of work.
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and take chances.
You only learn to navigate by getting lost.
How does technology factor into this, and what do you think is the biggest impact technology is having on finance today?
The biggest impact technology is having on finance today is that it is helping to streamline processes across the business efficiently.
This makes information more readily available.
At Osprey, we flipped the finance function on its head. Finance is now serving the rest of the business; we see everyone as our customers.
We need to make sure we’re giving the business the real-time information they need to respond quickly and be successful.
When I started at Osprey, we were still using book ledgers. I drove them to Sage 50 and now we’ve moved to Intacct, a cloud-based system that is more scalable.
By looking at the way Osprey ran jobs and projects and working to incorporate such technology in our day-to-day processes, we’re now a more customer-focused business as a result.
What excites you most about your future in finance?
I’m still developing and learning, and I love being able to learn by doing. I can see myself moving into more of a chief executive role in the future.
If it’s out of my comfort zone, that’s what interests me.