Interview with an FD: Paul Ramsden
August 31st 2016 | Posted by phil scott
Paul Ramsden, FD, Zuto
How did you get where you are today?
My part time job at Woolworths, throughout sixth form and university, where I ran the legendary ‘Pick N Mix’ section, actually provides the perfect analogy. Throughout my early career I was keen to build up as a wide a range of experience as possible, without getting stuck in one particular field.
To that end, I first secured a graduate training contract with Deloitte before starting the final year of my BA in Accounting with Finance, leaving me free to focus on studying. I wanted to get a start with one of the Big Four, as the training is very well respected and I knew it’d support my long term ambition to get to the top job in finance.
Working in audit allowed me to get exposure a whole host of different businesses, giving me a broad understanding of how different industry sectors worked. I moved quickly through the ranks, finally landing in the role of finance director at Zuto in November 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.
What does your role entail?
Sticking with the Pick’N’Mix theme, it’s varied, that’s one thing I’ll say right from the start. If you like a job that lets you do the same thing day in and day out, being an FD is definitely not for you. Me, I love it. One day I can be dealing with forecasting, the next working on a presentation to secure potential investment in the business.
Being aware what’s happening in the business is my business. It’s my job to decide what makes financial sense for us and what we should avoid by examining the risks and rewards. I also have to take the flak when things go wrong, as they sometimes do, but that’s part of the responsibility that any FD has to shoulder.
What makes a great FD?
There are a number of things that are important, including a real desire to understand the business inside out. If you don’t, you won’t be able to make the best decisions and, ultimately, that’s what I’m here for.
The next is an almost obsessive compulsion to get the numbers right – I think it’s fairly obvious why any FD would need this. Accuracy is vital in financial dealings at all levels.
FDs also need to be confident and comfortable speaking with people from all parts of the business, as well as people from outside of the business too. And if you shy away from confrontation, you may want to rethink an FDs position, as being able to stand your ground, sometimes when you have strong opposition, is a vital part of the job.
However, so is flexibility and the willingness to take a risk. Being brave can reap huge rewards and part of my role is to assess what the outcome of any decision is likely to be.
An ability to prioritise is another area where you need to excel. Knowing where to focus my attention next is one of the key things to staying efficient. My time is limited, being FD is a busy role, so I need to make sure my time is spent on the most important projects that will impact the business.
But most importantly, it’s building, developing and empowering a team that’s the key to being a great FD, as well as the most rewarding. I’ve built the team at Zuto from just one part-time member of staff to a team of 12 now, and we have a graduate trainee programme too, so it’s great to see people develop both within the team and move on to other areas of the business.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
Spending long days sat down in an office, it’s important to me to get some movement into my day. So, I get to the gym as often as I can before work, and get to Manchester United matches whenever I can.
I also like to socialise and I can’t think of anything better than enjoying a nice pint with my mates on a warm sunny evening. I’ve a baby on the way too, so I think I’ll be kept pretty busy with our new arrival quite soon.
Who or what inspires you?
That’s an easy question to answer – Jim and Ryan – our co-founders. That might seem cheesy, but it’s true. They saw an opportunity to change the way people buy their cars, so they ran with it, despite the risks. And it’s more than paid off – we now have over 300 partners working at Zuto, spread across 2 offices, and we’ve had over 1.4 million customers apply to us to help finance their cars.
I quickly learnt that working in a corporate atmosphere wasn’t for me. What I needed was a young, vibrant, entrepreneurial place and that’s what Jim and Ryan offered me. Zuto is dynamic, and offers a fast-paced environment that keeps me motivated and learning new things. The office culture is one of the best I’ve been in, friendly and inclusive and that shows through the in the warm relationships I’ve built with other people at Zuto.