Losing one finance director is an isolated misfortune. But when a quarter of FTSE 100 finance directors box up their desk contents in the space of a few months, it is clear something does not quite add up. 

The level of churn is remarkable. Both Unilever and Prudential announced the departure of their finance directors this week. That brings the tally to 25, according to data compiled by savings platform AJ Bell, two-thirds above the long-term average.

Companies have given any number of reasons for the departure of executives. Yet there are some broader trends to reckon with. 

The first is the close connection between finance directors and chief executives. The latter often prefer to bring in their own lieutenant rather than inherit one. Nine of the companies that are changing their finance directors also have new CEOs. 

A cluster of CFOs have departed amid a new broom’s clean sweep. Unilever, Prudential, BAT and InterContinental Hotels might all fit this bill. 

Regime change is a happy event for CFOs when they get the top job themselves. When companies are doing well, investors are usually happy with the promotion too. Over at poorly performing Vodafone, the elevation of Margherita Della Valle has raised doubts.

However, the finance director merry-go-round is spinning faster than the CEO carousel. Average tenure for lieutenants is little more than four years, compared to five years plus for captains.

One plausible theory is that the bumpy economy has made the job of finance directors more difficult. The role was already getting stretched. Finance directors are these days expected to dip into strategy, M&A and investor relations from their traditional stronghold of planning and control.

Reporting obligations have multiplied, meanwhile. Slowing revenue growth and cost inflation mean the finance department is on the hook to deliver complex and unpopular cost-cutting programmes. Twitchy capital markets make raising debt expensive and hair-raising.

It is no wonder, then, that finance directors might more easily fall foul of their organisations — or decide now is a good time to count themselves out.

Articles You May Like

Weekly mortgage refinance demand revives as interest rates fall to 7-week low
Investors bet on municipal bonds despite accelerating climate concerns
More Americans support per-mile user fees for Highway Trust Fund
Reeves defends fire and rehire ‘in very limited circumstances’
Munis in midst of correction as yields rise further; 10-year tops 3%