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Do functional roles exist anymore?

7 November 2014

Having met numerous ‘clients’ over the last 3 months and asked to recruit various functional roles there is a real shift from the type of candidate wanted for the growth phase in the current economy. Traditionally businesses have wanted classic functional Directors; Finance Director = technically brilliant accountant, HR Director = process driven HR specialist, CIO = Tecchy who can keep the lights on, Marketing Director = multi-channel marketing expert. Of course I am being slightly flippant but this is how the functional roles within any organisation were viewed and recruited for.

The shift is towards a more commercial, well rounded and agile individual. In the examples above those types of functional leaders are no longer accepted or wanted by growth businesses, they are viewed as “old school”. Talent selection is now based on each individual and the strengths  they can bring to an organisation. So, a Finance Director is expected to front up to investors, be aware of the marketing channels and customer relations, embrace IT and certainly have a handle on the various effects  that their decisions will have on human resources. Likewise, a HR Director has to have financial knowledge to drive the profit of the business from a human capital perspective with customer service at the forefront of any decision. In IT the CIO is has to drive the internal mechanisms of an organisation to fit the needs of the business whilst taking into consideration cost and effect on both the customer externally and internally. The Marketing Director must have great knowledge of data, analytics and how that can be used to benefit the proposition for the customer. All functional heads will be agile, commercial and see issues and decisions from a holistic view point. These individuals are known as the “new breed”.

We are all now more customer focused and disruption in the various industries has led to the shift in putting the customer at the forefront of any commercial decision.

I recently recruited an Interim CFO for an asset management business. The salient points were; investor relations, liaising with marketing, engaging fund managers and fronting new projects. Business as usual was taken care of by the very technical and capable Financial Controller. I have also recruited for an Interim CIO where the pressing requirements were; to work ‘PR’ magic across the business, to ensure people believe that the system change is the right thing for the organisation, to coach and mentor the IT Director from the step change of business as usual to a more commercial, engaged CIO.

It appears that businesses want ‘strong’ individuals who can motivate and bring something extra to a functional role, generally in the form of engagement, customer focus, key stakeholder management and a balanced perspective.

I use a term “old school” versus “new breed”. New breed seems to be winning.

Paul Smith, Partner

Paul is a Partner in the Financial Services, read Paul's profile.

Categories: Financial Services


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