Webinar: Financial Controller to Finance Director – How to manage the transition and effectively support a strategy

The latest instalment of Rowan’s finance webinar series focused on a key turning point in the careers of many finance professionals, transitioning from Financial Controller to Finance Director. .

This webinar, hosted by Rowan founder and Executive Finance expert Paul Waite, featured insights from two exceptionally qualified speakers:

Jocelyn Morgan – CFO, Clubhouse Golf

  • Jocelyn joined this leading international e-Commerce golf clothing and equipment seller as CFO in 2018, following Foresight’s £4m investment to support a £12m to £20m growth plan.
  • Jocelyn has been critical in the development of the necessary financial and operational systems and processes that have supported Clubhouse Golf’s impressive growth journey – delivering a 6x return on investment.

David Millward – CFO, MPM Products

  • MPM are a fast growing branded products business in the natural pet-food space. With turnover increasing year on year by 25%, they took Private Equity investment from ECI in early 2016.
  • David was appointed in 2016 with big 4 and previous Private Equity experience, as Head of Finance at MPM.
  • Since David’s initial appointment, the business have continued to grow year on year, expanding into the US and China, and David has successfully progressed to CFO during this period.

What separates a Finance Director from a Financial Controller?

  • Question your margins
  • Challenge other board members on their numbers
  • Make data-led recommendations

Jocelyn Morgan expanded on this, explaining how an effective Finance Director makes more of an impact than an FC by working in partnership with owners and investors alike:

  • Become the ‘Plan Police’ – Are people working towards their objectives?
  • Break your long-term plans down, the more granular the better
  • Encourage owners to focus on their key skills and delegate the rest

Managing your Career

To get to this stage in your finance career often requires exposure to varying ownership structures, sectors and business cultures.

David Millward has worked with listed businesses as well as Private Equity backed businesses but his journey has seen its fair share of ups and downs.

David provided an snapshot of his first number one role within a Private Equity backed business, where he had to put the company through a pre-pack and underwent a change in PE ownership. Suppliers weren’t being paid and the rough conditions were certainly influential in moulding David as a Finance Director.

This adversity and pressure was actually a main factor in David’s successful appointment at his current business, MPM Products. However, before his move to MPM, David spent a few months within another PE backed organisation, leaving shortly due to a cultural misalignment.

David and Rowan Director Peter Holt provided reassurance on this topic, as many finance professionals will worry about how a short stint will impact their CV:

  • Understand why you feel this position is not right for you
  • Utilise your network to gain different perspectives
  • The right employer for you will understand your reasons for leaving

Ownership Structures & What to Expect

Private Equity:

  • Fast Paced
  • Close contact with investors
  • Highly detailed – know your numbers
  • Quick decision making

Privately Owned:

  • Long-term plans may be unclear
  • Rapid decision making
  • Constant re-planning
  • Question the Owner’s assumptions


  • Slower paced
  • Wider range of investors
  • Less scope to impact the business directly

Are you Ready?

According to David Millward, when the progression to FD starts to feel like the natural thing to do, then you’re usually ready to make the step-up.

This is naturally preceded by expanding your knowledge as an FC, gaining exposure in other areas of your business and being confident in your ability to produce accurate figures and reports.

Knowing what good looks like is also a factor in this, according to Jocelyn Morgan. Developing your network and having other professionals at the end of the phone can be a great way to sense check your work and observe if what you’re doing is meeting a high-enough standard.

These networks are invaluable at any level and continue to prove their weight in gold as you progress to Finance Director and beyond.

Successors & Development

Once you have transitioned to become FD, one of the common first steps is to appoint a number two, someone who can be your right hand person, whilst you perform the same function for the business owner or CEO.

For Jocelyn, a good number two is somebody who is ambitious and eager to develop themselves. They need attention to detail and need to be great people managers in their own right.

Part of recruiting ambitious people though, is to expect the inevitable attrition that this brings. According to Jocelyn, a good number two should not be with you for longer than 3 or 4 year. Stagnation at the top means you’ve got the wrong person!

Rowan Webinars

If you were unable to attend this latest webinar, please contact zach.hughes@rowangroup.uk.com for the webinar recording.

You may also find some of our previous resources useful:

  • How to build a High Quality Finance team
  • How to scale up your Tech business
  • Cybersecurity Risks for the C-Suite