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The Evolving Role of the CFO – Andy Halford, Vodafone CFO

The Evolving Role of the CFO
Andy Halford
CFO, Vodafone

This goes back to about 2002 and just before then. I had been looking after the financial activities of several of the European businesses in Vodafone. I then moved across to the U.S., to Verizon Wireless, a business in which we had a 45% interest. I was the Vodafone appointee to that business board and basically had the CFO responsibility in that business for about a three-year period.

There were number of areas that I focused upon. The first one was on the management information and really looking quite closely at what was the key information that was going to be needed for the business going forwards; getting a clearer sort of architecture and structure, so that the business had better information for decision making.

Secondly, we looked a lot at the commercial decision-making processes. This is a very big business and making sure that the consistency with the way that commercial decisions were being taken was applied across the whole of the business was also very important.

Thirdly, I think we probably used the planning process there to some effect to look forward to the challenges that the business was likely to be facing a year or two out—to get the business to think about those issues which were maybe not yet today’s issues but which were going to become the issues of tomorrow—and to facilitate some very early thinking and some early actions on those fronts. The business grew very significantly and over the next six years continuously grew and grew in market share. It has ended up as being the number one in that market, with a very strong market position. There were quite a number of lessons for me particularly on the management information and the planning process side of things. I think the realization that the role of finance in that business had very much become a commercial advisor to the management team— sort of doing the day-to-day finance pieces—was a given. It was much more understanding the competitive environment, the competitors, the pricing, which was where the real value-add was and where, frankly, the most rewarding part of the experience was.

I think it’s very much getting absorbed in the business environment so that one does actually understand the competitors, does understand the market conditions, and hence, is able to speak with the marketing teams, with the technology teams, and the general management on a basis of reasonable knowledge; and also, as was the case, to bring some of the international experience to bear so that where there had been similar circumstances that I’d seen elsewhere in the world, to think about those and think about the applicability of those.

I think it really was part working as a team—getting the knowledge that was commensurate with the market—and being able, therefore, to focus upon the customer facing decisions, not just on the more back-office decisions, which would be the classic finance territory.