Seeking significant expansion

With a turnover of £1.4bn and operations in the UK, Ireland and France, an international export business and bottling deals with PepsiCo – which includes brands such as Pepsi MAX and Gatorade – Britvic has ambitious growth plans

Do you know when you’ve been Tango’d? A generation of people who grew up in the UK in the mid-1990s do. Surreal adverts with exploding grannies and painted orange men shocked an unsuspecting audience and, in doing so, helped cement the soft drink Tango’s off-the-wall reputation.

Adventurous advertising and a stable of strong brands, including Tango, J20 and the iconic Robinson’s squash, which celebrated its 80th year at the Wimbledon tennis championship in 2015, have helped parent company Britvic plc into the FTSE 250 club of companies.

Britvic’s resourcing manager James Doré has been with Britvic for eight years and started when the business was growing out of its more traditional structure, which, from a finance perspective, consisted of a small GB-focused function covering all aspects of accountancy and reporting, with an offshoot section servicing Britvic’s import-export business.

‘We have a vision to be the most dynamic, creative and admired soft drinks business in the world – that’s what we’re about,’ explains Doré. ‘As we’ve grown as a business and increased our international focus, we’ve started to take on more of a business unit-centric approach, so we now have finance teams in each of our three businesses: GB & Ireland, France and international. We also have a plc finance team that sits over the top of those teams, which reflects what might be called the group finance function in other organisations.’

Craving the right people

Up until recently, Britvic’s graduate recruitment was more ad hoc, hiring graduates into specific roles with promise of future rotation. But now, and more in fitting with a company seeking significant expansion, it has developed a centralised, structured graduate programme that will offer opportunities and rotation across the various business units.

The graduate route isn’t the only entry point for part-qualified ACCAs, as people can still be hired for specific roles.

‘We have an ACCA studier in our GB financial control team and another in our internal audit and risk team and, while they’ve been hired for specific roles, they’ll still enter the rotations of the graduate scheme,’ says Doré.

With the ambition to grow internationally comes the need for people who can tap into the business’s strategy, show passion for the brands and operate in a fast-paced environment.

‘We need people at all levels to add value and think about how we innovate, both in terms of taking new products to market, but also in our ways of working and our processes, and that’s just as important in finance as it is in other areas of the business,’ says Doré.

‘One of our values is being open and able to think differently, not being afraid to challenge the status quo, and I think that’s an incredibly important attribute for finance people in our business.’

The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry is characterised by its name – it’s fast-paced, constantly changing, always innovating and forever seeking to influence or predict consumer tastes. Working in such an environment requires keen market awareness; you need to be able to see beyond your computer screen and into the stores, to be able to see a consumer story in the company’s numbers.

‘What can differentiate an OK candidate from a good or great one – among other things – is a level of commercial thinking, being able to spot opportunities,’ according to Doré.

If you do manage to get a job in Britvic’s finance department, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the stores at Christmas putting the products on the shelves: ‘Our Stars in the Street campaign actually gets our employees out into the market in the run-up to Christmas, helping to ensure that all of our products are visible and present in the right places in the major grocery chains.

‘The thing about soft drinks is that they’re highly visible; everybody goes to a shop at some point to buy something or other. You can see what our product looks like on the shelf and it’s the people who can convert that thinking into understanding our key drivers around profitability and margins, and deliver the right kind of insight and analysis to help our business – that’s adding real value.

‘As an FMCG firm we need people who can act with pace to respond to business requirements,’ adds Doré.

‘A lot of our organisation is very much driven by insight and analysis of data, so for finance that means both trying to get ahead of the curve, understanding what information the business needs and what analysis of certain trends will help the business make decisions, as well as reacting when someone comes up with an idea around how we might do something differently.’

Doré points out that while commercial acumen can be nurtured on the job, an ability to communicate well is essential when applying. The most sought-after candidates are those who’ve left university with some experience of a corporate environment, highlighting the value of internships and placements.

‘Those individuals have a head-start in terms of their ability to communicate both with finance and non-finance stakeholders, and they typically have a bit of an advantage to those coming out of university and stepping into that environment for the first time,’ says Doré.

Why Britvic?

‘We’re a big business but we’re not so huge that there isn’t the opportunity for individuals to have a really positive impact,’ explains Doré.

‘We have more than 3,000 employees across the world, so the opportunity is firstly to work in a very people-focused environment, one that is very collaborative and gives you the chance to gain an understanding of the different areas of business outside of finance. If you’ve got the right attributes to really understand what those different business priorities are, it’s easier to have a positive impact and to start to guide your career forward in the right way.

‘Because we’re a growing FTSE 250, there’s a lot of change. We’re growing and changing all the time and, as a result, no two days are the same, there’s always new things going on, and there’s always different things to do – you won’t get bored. As a result, you can build a significant breadth of experience that you might not get in another organisation.

‘It’s an environment more suited to those comfortable dealing with ambiguity, working at pace and who like to sink their teeth into some really meaty work.’

Neil Johnson, writer