Rutherford Cross’ Eilidh Graham recently caught up with Robert Porter at AG Barr. Here Robert gives an insight into his role as Shared Services Centre Manager and life at one of Scotland’s most iconic FMCG brands.
Can you please give an overview of your current role at AG Barr?
As Shared Services Centre Manager for A G Barr I manage our Group Shared Services Centre, with a team of 15 reporting to me. The Shared Service Centre covers a diverse range of activities such as:
My team manage a cash balance currently in the region of £70m across Sterling, Euros and US Dollars. Activities include governing our cash handling processes, cash forecasting, currency risk management and bank reconciliations.
Order to Cash
My team is responsible for governance of the Sales Order to Cash Collection process. This covers activities such as customer master records, pricing, sales order management, credit limit management, delivering to customers, invoicing, cash collection, (and everything else associated with the Order to Cash process).
Purchase to Pay
My team is responsible for governance of the Purchase to Pay process and everything in between. This covers activities such as supplier master records, pricing, purchase order management, supplier invoicing, payments to suppliers (and everything else associated with the Purchase to Pay process).
Tax and Duties
My team provides a reporting and reconciliation service to our Group Finance Tax colleagues in order to ensure we are fulfilling our tax and duties obligations.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Like most Finance teams, that depends where we are in the monthly, quarterly, 6 monthly and annual reporting cycles. Each day, we have early morning routines which focus on ensuring our processes are operating as intended.
We close our monthly financials by Working Day three following a period end, so the first few days of a period are focussing on our Balance Sheet and P&L’s
As we move into week two, we have various committee meetings focused on performance reviews, forward planning, projects, and process governance. Week three tends to be focussed on our people performance and team building, while week four focusses on projects meetings and process improvements.
As you will imagine, diary planning is flexible as we react to matters arising in such an FMCG environment.
What do you think are the key challenges for Transactional Finance Managers and do you think the role has evolved over the last few years?
In my opinion the key is to continuously improve, be that related to our people or processes. Shared Service Centres are frequently perceived as data-entry processing centres. I think in today’s environment that isn’t the best utilisation of the resources.
A good Shared Service Centre should provide a support service to its business partners that enables those partners to perform their role. Simplifying processes whilst retaining an appropriate level of process control and helping people to understand the process is key.
Increased process automation (such as utilising BOTs to perform those data entry tasks) frees up resources that can then be utilised to support the process knowledge of business partners.
What have been the biggest changes that have affected your role over the last few years with AG Barr?
The obvious answer is the impact of Covid. That subject has been covered a lot elsewhere, so I’ll focus on another area. New technology-based opportunities continue to be developed at a fair pace. Ensuring processes continue to evolve to reflect these new technologies has been a big area of focus over the last few years.
What are your main career highlights so far?
There are certainly lots to list given my 35-year career! I was a late studier but gaining my CIMA qualification was a big highlight – studying doesn’t come naturally to me.
In AG Barr, we operate a CIMA Graduate Scheme, which has evolved over the last few years. I am delighted when I see one of our Graduates passing an exam and take great pride when they eventually become qualified. It’s great – they do all the work and I get the pleasure of seeing them progress.
AG Barr is an iconic brand and a household name across Scotland and the UK, what is your favourite thing about working for them?
The number one ambition inside the company is to protect the safety and welfare of our people. Beyond that, the ambition of the company to grow and passion of our people. That’s been the case since I joined the company all those years ago and remains the case today. Yes, we have had the odd bump across the years, but these are significantly outweighed by the successful years. Long may that growth ambition continue.
What do you think it takes to be a successful manager?
Good team members around you who encourage and challenge each other.
How would your colleagues describe you?
I like to think they would say I am both demanding and approachable. Some would probably mention that I am a bit of an honest cheat when we have fun quizzes!
If you were not in Finance, what would you be doing?
Annoying my wife!
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in Transactional Finance?
Be committed to your role, and once you have committed yourself push yourself to grow to your full potential. That advice isn’t limited to Transactional Finance roles, but can be applied to anyone looking to advance in their chosen career.
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