When Ocado Group was founded in 2000, it aimed to revolutionise the way consumers shop for groceries by tapping into the mostly untouched ecommerce market. Since then, it has pivoted to become one of the fastest growing technology businesses, quickly climbing up the FTSE 100, offering services and technology solutions to grocery retailers around the world.
Vineta Bajaj joined Ocado Group in 2013 as a senior financial reporting accountant and moved quickly up the ranks to become the group finance director. During her time, she has played a key role executing its growth strategy and has led in some of the biggest deals the group has seen including the sale of 50% of the Ocado Retail business to Marks and Spencer.
In the third instalment of our CFO Notebook series, we spoke with Bajaj about what it’s like working in a fast-growth environment, her approach to leadership and the lessons she’s learnt along the way.
00:39 Conquering growing pains
03:02 Streamlining key processes
05:23 Key learnings from managing multiple transformations
06:18 Learning how to be a leader
07:48 Defining your leadership style – fear or fun?
09:26 Managing change fatigue
12:08 Owning your identity
14:09 An unconventional start to finance
Ocado Group has seen phenomenal growth during the last decade. What sort of growing pains have you experienced within that time?
One of the biggest pains we’ve had is key person risk. For example, I’m a key person risk. I still know where all the files are and there are a number of people in the team that are like that. That’s just because we’ve underinvested in finance for many years. But rightfully so, because we have been focusing on commercial growth, international expansion and finance have played a key role in enabling whatever is required by the business, as opposed to putting blockers in front of the business.
The challenges for the finance team have been going at such a speed and changing pace whether it’s new warehouses, international expansion, or transitioning from being an FMCG retailer to now a technology b2b business. From that, it changes the requirements that the business has for finance and it also impacts our finance systems as well. The systems we had as a retailer are very different to the systems we need for a technology business, or they might be the same but the reporting might be different.
More CFO Notebook episodes:
Watch our previous episode with Tadeu Marroco, finance and transformation director at BAT, on the challenges he’s facing in driving a greener future and leading a £1.3bn company-wide efficiency project here.
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To hear more from Vineta Bajaj, group finance director at Ocado Group, register for the CFO Executive Dialogue this October.