The Tanker and the Speedboat – insight from Lynn Brown, Executive Director of Finance, Glasgow City Council

Rutherford Cross’ consultant Derek Lauder shares insight following the latest in our Next Generation CFO series, featuring Lynn Brown OBE, Executive Director of Financial Services at Glasgow City Council.

We were privileged to welcome Lynn Brown OBE to open our 2016 series of Next Generation CFO events. Lynn addressed an audience of finance professionals in Glasgow to give insight into life as Executive Director of Financial Services at Scotland’s largest local authority, and how she has achieved her own personal career success. Below we share some of Lynn’s advice and insight, as well as her career highlights.
Driving progress – the tanker and the speedboat

Lynn describes her role at Glasgow City Council, and indeed that of any CFO, as being akin to simultaneously captaining a tanker and a speedboat. The tanker represents the slow, steady progress that forms the bulk of the work of finance in a large organisation, where sharp turns and kneejerk reactions are impossible to make.

Conversely, the speedboat represents the moments where the CFO can really see results, for example when accounts are submitted, projects come to fruition, and targets are met. For Lynn, both the slow and steady and results driven aspects of the job are equally valuable and rewarding.


Respect is at the heart of Lynn’s professional life. It was instilled in her at her first professional role at the National Audit Office where she was required to work closely with people of all levels of seniority from an early stage in her career.

At Glasgow City Council, Lynn is known for her ‘hard but fair’ approach as a leader. She believes in the importance of respecting the value added by all members of her team, regardless of seniority. She runs a tight ship and her staff understand that a ‘head in the sand’ approach to problems will not be tolerated!

Respect has also underpinned her approach to working with politicians during her time with local authorities. Lynn recognises that politicians are the face of the organisation but have to rely on the work of officers to deliver their election commitments. As such, officers have to respect the view and priorities set by councillors.

Lynn has also sought out colleagues and peers she respects to act as mentors throughout her career, favouring an informal approach. She understands the importance of asking questions and learning from her network. Lynn has found this hugely valuable in her own career, and as a result regularly mentors more junior colleagues in their own careers.

What makes it worth it?

Lynn attributes much of her professional success to her ‘how can I make this work’ approach. She prefers to focus on solutions rather than problems. She has applied this approach to many of the stand out projects she has worked on throughout her career at GCC.

Lynn took a key role in securing the 2014 Commonwealth Games Bid for Glasgow, and in making the Games a success for the city, working in partnership with multiple organisations to pull off what is arguably one of the city’s most successful ventures.

By sharing its financial expertise and access to extensive networks across the city and beyond, GCC has also been instrumental in the success of some projects which Lynn takes much personal satisfaction from. Lynn discussed MacMillan’s Long Term Conditions project, which has helped over 1000 people to manage their finances and avoid homelessness when diagnosed with a condition such as cancer or lung disease. Glasgow Helping Heroes is another such project helping Glasgow war veterans access housing, secure employment, and access mental health services.

At this Next Generation CFO event, Lynn offered a fascinating insight into the varied and challenging role that she holds, and the values that have underpinned her success, as well as what she feels makes it all worth it. At Rutherford Cross we understand that the path to the top is a challenging one, but by building expertise, developing networks, and ultimately understanding what motivates you as Lynn has, success is undoubtedly achievable.

For more information on how Rutherford Cross can help your career or your business, please contact [email protected]. To find out more about our Next Generation CFO series please contact [email protected].