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Tim Kowalski - Creating a legacy in finance

The 2018 Finance Awards North West saw 14 awards handed out to the finest finance professionals and businesses the region has to offer. The Lifetime Achievement accolade acknowledged the legacy of an esteemed figure of the North West finance community, selected by the panel for their outstanding contribution to the region’s finance economy.

Tim Kowalski, Chief Financial Officer at NCC Group was the winner of the inaugural 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award and he spoke to Robert Walters at the 2018 Finance Awards North West, sharing his route to success as a Finance Director, advice for aspiring finance professionals and the outlook for finance recruitment in the North West.

Experience all sides of finance

“After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant at KPMG in London, I worked in London and  took up a Corporate Finance position with the Arcadia Group. In a role working across the Group, I was able to experience all aspects of the finance function across its retail, property and IT businesses. Making multiple career moves has allowed me to gain expertise in strategy, turnaround, operations and cashflow in many varied business sectors.”

“I would recommend gaining a breadth of experience across all sides of finance within a variety of companies early on in your career – this will give you a holistic view of a business’ finance operations, which is essential if you want to progress to management and director-level positions.”

Look for the opportunity

“I’ve always chosen companies that I’m passionate about rather than solely focussing on the salary, which is why I ended up moving from the London  to the North West to pursue my career in Finance, in a role where I could see true delivery.”

At Findel, recovering the business saved around 3,000 jobs. Taking into consideration the business’ supply chains and dependants, that’s around 15,000 peoples’ lives you’re affecting.

 

“Go for companies that motivate or challenge you to initiate change. A common thread throughout my career is heading financial turnarounds [at HomeStyle Group Plc, The Homeform Group and Findel Plc]. My first day at HomeStyle Group involved persuading our biggest secured creditor not to pull financial cover which would have seen the Group go bust. Similarly, facing huge debt at Findel, the first year as Finance Director involved stabilising the finances via a class 1 Rights issue and 5 year refinancing and then go onto selling the divisions to reduce the debt mountain”

“My motivation isn’t solely about saving a business financially. At Findel, recovering the business saved around 3,000 jobs. Taking into consideration the business’ supply chains and dependants, that’s around 15,000 peoples’ lives you’re affecting. Working for a cause that you believe in grounds you in the work you’re doing and keeps you engaged in a way salary cannot.”

“Now moving into cyber security at NCC Group, the emphasis of my role is assisting in operational change. I am excited to be part of a transformation programme that will deliver the next phase of the business’s growth.”

Strong teams are central to success

“I was honoured and humbled to win the Lifetime Achievement Award. It’s great to be recognised by your peer group and have the support of the teams I’ve built over the course of my career.”

“In each of my roles my focus has been on building strong teams which are the core of a thriving finance function. My success in delivering financial restructures would not have been possible without the dynamic and unified teams working beside me. It’s always important to remember you’re only as strong and your team - listening to your colleagues and other stakeholders is paramount when driving positive change in an organisation.”

Outstanding job growth in the North West

“The North West, and Manchester in particular, is seeing significant job growth, with more and more businesses relocating their operations from the capital as well as overseas. The wave of businesses moving to Manchester coupled with new enterprise is having a massive impact on the marketplace and the skyline – the city is growing upwards at an ever-increasing pace.”

“It’s a fantastic time to be in the North West as a budding finance professional. With benchmark salaries for NQ professionals circling £40-50k.”

Leaving a finance legacy

“I’m honoured to receive the Lifetime Achievement accolade, even though it does sound a bit like I’ve served a long prison sentence! Reiterating what I said in my speech, I’m not intending to retire (or die) and plan to continue my career at NCC Group.”

“With such a colourful and varied career, my best piece of advice would be to be resilient and never give up even when you’re facing what seem to be insurmountable challenges. Having the motivation to keep going when things are tough will stand you in good stead to succeed in your career.”

For advice about taking the next step in your finance career, contact the Accounting & Finance Team at Robert Walters for a confidential discussion about your situation.

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