Rutherford Cross recently hosted Bruce Pritchard, Chief Operating Officer (International) at Liminal BioSciences Inc., to speak at the latest Next Generation CFO series in conjunction with RSM UK in Edinburgh. Our audience was treated to a unique insight into the world of a NASDAQ listed CFO and the path taken to get there.
Bruce’s interest in the profession was ignited by a family friend who was a successful accountant in the late 1980s. His mobile phone, red Porsche, and plane (yes, a plane!) all demonstrated the potential rewards of a career in accountancy. The lure of such rewards prompted Bruce to go on to study Accounting & Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University and then onto a CA training contract with Pannell Kerr Forster.
However, it was working in the cash room at Marks & Spencer in Edinburgh throughout University that really provided Bruce with an insight into the world or work. The attraction of a commercial environment and early level of responsibility, with the cash room often taking in £1m per day, meant that Bruce always felt destined for a career outside of the accountancy profession.
Since those early inspirations, Bruce has spent over two decades working in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry, initially in Scotland and then both nationally and internationally. His introduction to the industry was largely by chance, but it has been the constant challenges and opportunity to positively affect the lives of patients that has kept him in the sector.
Those challenges have fallen into many categories, but Bruce cited the deal making and finance raising, or the “thrill of the chase”, as he puts it, as the key to making him tick. Also, the learning curve of moving from the CFO to the COO role, taking him from finance and into new areas such as program management, marketing, manufacturing, supply chain and business development, has provided a welcome challenge.
Bruce also described the fulfilment of working in Biosciences where doing good for patients is core to all their activities. Liminal BioSciences specialises in discovering, developing, and commercialising novel small molecule compounds for respiratory, liver and renal diseases. With the majority of patients being children, and with Bruce having a family of his own, it has provided a unique environment to achieve both professional and personal goals.
Outside of the day job, throughout his career Bruce has sought out other roles to broaden his horizons and help him connect to opportunities later in his career. He became the first “young member” appointed to the ICAS Council and since then has served on a number of boards and committees covering areas such as qualification, commercialisation and oversight. In addition, he has held a number of Non-Executive Director positions, is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and has chaired Audit Committees, all of which have maintained his learning journey and bolstered his personal networks.
However, Bruce was keen to point out that no career is plain sailing and that aiming to win, but being prepared to lose, was all important. He also emphasised the need to surround yourself with excellence, both within your business and your external networks, and to remember to be nice to people, using your skills to advance others. After all, Bruce commented, your career isn’t a practice run so you have to be brave and go for it!
As one of his take-aways, Bruce mapped out what he sees as the key attributes of today’s CFO and likened it to a hybrid encompassing the Big 5 animals on a safari. In his view, a modern CFO has to have the skin of a rhino, the memory of an elephant, the agility of a leopard, the resilience of a buffalo and the courage of a lion. More specifically, he broke it into three key areas:
Business Partner not Bean Counter
- Specialise in your sector and understand the business
- Exercise sound judgement
- Be an enabler not a disabler
- Think like an investor
Strategic Thinker with a Hands on Approach
- Think straight, act straight
- Be respected for what you show you can do, not what you say you can do
- Be a leader not a dictator
Highly Developed Emotional Radar
- Read People – learn when to talk and when to listen
- Be respected not liked…confident not arrogant
- Keep Calm: Don’t panic, unless there is something to panic about
To find out more about Rutherford Cross’ events or how we can help you progress your own career, contact [email protected]