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BUPA’s General Manager of UK health services on business partnering

Wayne Close, General Manager, UK health services of BUPA, reveals how value can be created through co-piloting between the CEO and CFO


How important is it to gain powerful insights in the healthcare industry?

As a business leader, you have a responsibility to know your industry. I do not pretend to know everything about healthcare but I have a broad understanding of the whole industry and more specific knowledge on the aspects of it which are important to my business. Where I do not have the answer I have can turn to a contact network who support me, through giving me insight, specialist knowledge and the ability to make decisions and choices.

One of the characteristics I find really valuable is being able to solve problems through connecting with a wide community of people with different views. That’s vital because as you move into more senior roles the problems get bigger and less well defined. I include the role of coaching in that concept. I’ve used coaching on a number of occasions to give me a perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

Why are insights important to you?

Healthcare is a complex business which is right in the public eye and heavily regulated. So it’s more about where the insights are sourced and their relevance to the business. Managing your customer experience, and ensuring this is top class is always on top of the list. Getting customer feedback through NPS and other customer measures can provide you with great insights into the good the bad and the ugly.

Of course every business has a different dynamic, with varying degrees of public involvement. But for BUPA, working with the NHS and therefore operating in the public eye means our work has a highly emotive element to it so we have to constantly monitor feedback from all our stakeholders. We also have to define a wide variety stakeholders we engage with. As well as patients our stakeholder map features consultants in hospitals and insurance brokers who play an important role in delivering private healthcare.

How important is it to work with a CFO and finance team able to make good judgements based on these insights?

I believe finance is a commercial function as well as transactional. Finance has the key to good data and information and as such has a responsibility to provide insight, direction and options. A strong commercially led finance team is an incredible asset to a business and it’s CEO. Some of the important characteristics we seek are a high quality of data and the ability of the team to analyse that data to gain powerful insights.

I am also keen to ensure that the finance team has an intuitive approach to what insights are required, to be business-oriented and to have a commercial view of things- so that they can work in a symbiotic manner with sales and marketing. If finance directors are given permission to act in this way, they can move from working in a transactional way to thinking and acting commercially.

How important is it that finance is able to challenge key strategic decisions and influence through financial insight?

Objective independence from finance is critical. Sometimes in life and in business we need to make tough decisions. These often are not black or white – they are grey. This means as a leader, the CEO needs to make a call. In this instance an objective un-bias risk based view of choices is critical. I empower CFOs to stand in this space.

How has this strong co-piloting approach worked at BUPA?

It is at the heart of our business model. Finance directors in a number of our business have moved into CEO roles and this is because they are empowered to be commercial and business orientated. I have followed this path on numerous occasions – steadying the ship initially as the CFO and then taking the lead as CEO. In this sense, it is good to have two strings to your bow.

How has this approach been translated into successful outcomes?

I personally feel that solving problems well as a leader requires both hard and soft skills. The two which in my mind matter are your ability to lead people and influence behaviour and your grasp of the numbers. Both of these skills are gained from experience and seeing different businesses and in my case operating many business in different countries and cultures.

With these skills and a lens on your customers you can turn businesses around, you can accelerate growth and you can improve both employee and customer satisfaction. I would say that emotional intelligence becomes more important the higher up the corporate ladder you go, where technical skills are not enough. It’s about understanding how to communicate in the right way, and understanding how that message is received, so that the right outcomes can be achieved.


Wayne Close, who has 25 years’ experience of working at BUPA, was appointed General Manager of UK Health Services in October 2017. A qualified accountant, he has held a number of roles across the group including most recently Acting CEO of International Markets.

Hear from Wayne Close on how CFOs can co-pilot with CEOs to drive growth by understanding business objectives and influencing through delivering financial insight at CFO Agenda at Twickenham Stadium on 9 May:

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