Talk Talk, the major telecoms firm with a turnover of around £1.8bn, has set its sights firmly on the FTSE 100 index of the UK’s largest companies. Notably, it has identified the recruitment of high-quality finance professionals as being key to helping it achieve greater result
In an effort to grow itself into a London Stock Exchange-traded large cap, the FTSE 250 company identified early on the value that quality finance professionals can add to its business.
Finance manager Luke Falconer is a great believer in developing people within the company and viewing the finance function as a key shaper of business strategy. He manages six financial professionals, within a finance function of 50 staff across four teams.
‘Over time we are looking to bring more work from other parts of the business into the shared service function, as this would be more efficient and allow us to use existing skill sets to achieve greater results,’ explains Falconer.
Employing an ACCA qualified candidate or an individual who is studying towards it is that you can almost guarantee a high quality recruit, says Falconer.
‘If someone has decided to study with a professional body it shows that they are serious about their career progression, that they want structure,’ says Falconer. ‘It allows us to ask more direct questions at interview – we can check that they understand the benefits of a professional qualification and that they’re not just doing it for the sake of it.’
Some of the qualities key to working at Talk Talk include commercial awareness and business understanding – something that Falconer recognises in ACCA candidates: ‘They tend to have a good understanding of financial accounting and management accounting – they’re quite well-rounded, which helps the business. Even if they don’t deal with certain aspects of the business every day, they tend to understand how the different parts work, which ultimately means they have the potential to progress quicker than other staff.’
Falconer is clear on what will help you win him over and what values Talk Talk look for in a candidate, and you may be surprised to know it’s not all about academic prowess: ‘Soft skills are crucial, in my opinion, as someone who undertakes the first round of finance interviews for the department, these are for us as a company more important than technical skills.
‘You can teach technical and accounting skills to intelligent people, but it’s harder to teach soft skills. So we also put a large emphasis on these in interviews and we’ve rejected a lot of both interviewees for having poor soft skills.’
Career progression at Talk Talk is clearly defined within the finance function, but there is also scope to move into other areas of the company – in fact, people with finance backgrounds are encouraged to move into the business.
‘Having a finance qualification is a good skill to have; it’s valuable to the business, for example, in procurement – sourcing goods and services – it’s good to have a strong background in finance, understanding how things work, how costs flow through the business,’ says Falconer.
Being an ACCA qualified finance professional means the employer-employee relationship is a two-way street – your skills are just as much a benefit to the company as they are to your career; as Falconer explains: ‘Being able to hit the ground running and understand how different areas work is beneficial to them and us; it means we don’t have to spend extra time managing them, we can leave them to it and they understand the need to identify their own development needs.’
Neil Johnson, writer