Logistics and transport industry
Below are interviews with a few of ACCA's members in the logistics and transport industry.
Keith Broom - Finance Director, Suttons Group
Tell us briefly about Suttons Transport Group, your industry and your ACCA journey at Suttons
Suttons Transport Group is a family-owned business that can trace its origins back to 1926 when Alf Sutton founded the business and started trading from his horse and cart. It has grown to a global logistics business with a £200m turnover, specialising in the bulk chemical, gas and fuel sectors. While trading for almost a century, the focus of the business has always been on safety and customer service.
I joined Suttons in 2012 as Group Finance Director, having gained my ACCA qualification while working for British Coal in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The experience of gaining a professional qualification while working in industry was a great way to blend academic study with practical experience. Two years after qualifying I became a Group Finance Director at CPL Industries Group and have subsequently worked in that role for three other businesses. I encourage the younger members of the finance team at Suttons to follow the same journey, backing up practical experience with an excellent qualification.
What has been the impact of the pandemic, challenges and areas of risk identified?
Although I have had to address many challenges in my 25 years as a Finance Director nothing could have prepared me, or Suttons, for the challenges brought by COVID-19 and the speed of change seen over the last six months.
The fact that we have a large presence in China meant that we got an early insight into what was to come and how effective our contingency plans for remote working were. We initially saw volumes fall by up to 20%, as customers temporarily closed manufacturing plants and supply chains were disrupted. Like many businesses we had to learn new terms like furlough and payroll protection loan as governments moved to support businesses and preserve jobs. We also had to move quickly to protect liquidity as well as maximise cash and facility headroom to protect the business against an uncertain and changing outlook.
What are Suttons Transport Groups strategy and plans moving forward, with a focus on business recovery and resilience?
With the support of the government and our banks we quickly bolstered our liquidity and began to look for ways to mitigate the impact on our customer base. We identified sectors that we already serve that were expanding, such as the production of alcohols and solvents for use in sanitizing and cleaning products, and targeted these to gain volume to offset other sectors, such as fuels and additives, where volumes were down.
We swiftly adapted our operations to ensure that we could maintain the standards of safety and quality that our customers expect from us without risking the health of our staff. As volumes have recovered we have managed to bring the majority of our team back to work and are now looking to learn from the experience, improving our contingency plans and making positive changes. For example the ability to work from home and increased use of video conferencing will reduce travel costs, improve productivity and improve work life balance for many of our employees.
We are now preparing for the potential long-term impact of the pandemic on customers and competitors in the post COVID-19 world and reshaping business processes, our asset base and workforce to ensure that we are in the best possible shape to survive and prosper in the new reality.
How has being an ACCA member helped you with this?
Throughout the pandemic ACCA membership has given me access to updates and articles on changing government support, information on how other businesses are affected and adapting, and technical updates on the implications for disclosures and audit opinions. I have also attended a number of Transport and Logistics coffee morning video calls which were a great way to share experiences with other members in our sector.
How do you think the profession should be seen by new talent coming in? and what skills do you think are important for future accountants?
As we exit the pandemic it will be important for our industry to engage with young people to ensure that we attract talented professionals who are not only academically trained, but are adaptable and innovative so that they are equipped to deal with a changing environment.
What are your next steps and how can ACCA support you with this?
As I reach the end of my full time working life I am keen to use the knowledge and experience gained through my career and ACCA journey to help develop the next generation of Finance Directors through mentoring and non-executive roles.