Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » Q&A: Kris Lee, CFO at Daisy, on finding the right balance between traditional responsibilities and being a strategic leader

Q&A: Kris Lee, CFO at Daisy, on finding the right balance between traditional responsibilities and being a strategic leader

Speaking to the CFO, Kris Lee, the newly appointed CFO at Daisy, shares his plans for driving financial growth, and his views on how the role of the CFO has evolved over the years

The UK’s business environment is facing a myriad of challenges today – the cost of living crisis, the continued fallout of Brexit and the pandemic, soaring inflation, and supply chain disruption caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Business leaders are under intense pressure to find a way of navigating their organisations through this uncertainty while continuing the search for growth. Over the past few years, it has been the CFO whose expertise and knowledge are being called upon more than most to help CEOs achieve this.

The role of the CFO, and the broader finance function, was once thought of as a very siloed department – the number crunchers. Today, they are expected to have a full view of the business and provide detailed insights to help their businesses make data-driven decisions.

“My experiences in privately owned, private equity and PLCs especially in retail have given me a diverse perspective on what’s important in business,” says Kris Lee, Daisy Corporate Services’ new CFO.

Lee was appointed Daisy Corporate Services’ new CFO on January 23, 2023 and started on February 1. He brings a wealth of experience to the table, having served as CFO for Card Factory since 2017. During this time, he helped the UK’ card manufacturer through the Covid-19 pandemic, positioning the business for future success.

Prior to his stint at Card Factory, Lee occupied the role of Group CFO for Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group. He has also held senior finance positions at Phones4U, JD Sports, all:sports, Barclays Bank, and BMI Healthcare.

“I have worked in different capacities over the course of my career; for example, at Edinburgh Woollen Group, I was responsible for directly looking after a group of 48 companies and setting up new companies,” he tells The CFO.

Having worked across numerous sectors Lee has described how his experience has prepared him for the new role.

What will be top of mind for you as you take on this new role?

For the first few months on the job, I plan to fully understand the business and the opportunities available. This includes analysing the market, understanding the structure of the finance team, and developing a clear five-year strategy and financial plan in collaboration with the commercial team and the board.

But I also want to get involved in the details and walk through the full customer journey to understand what the customer sees and ensure that the service provided by Daisy is the best it can be. I plan to get involved in the customer journey to provide the best service to customers.

As a CFO, it is important to understand the business as a whole and not just focus on the finance function. Getting involved in the customer journey and understanding the technology space will help me identify opportunities for growth and improvement. It’s important to take the time to get up to speed with the business before making any major changes.

What do you think are the biggest differences within the finance function now compared to when you first started?

More than half of the time, the CFO’s role should not be about the core finance function, but rather about being more involved in business strategy and growth opportunities.

A good CFO should not be bogged down by the day-to-day operations of the finance team, but leading the finance team and focusing on working closely with the CEO to analyse market trends and assess the company’s position in terms of value, quality, technology, customer service, and metrics.

The goal is to find the right balance between traditional finance responsibilities and strategic planning to drive business growth.

In terms of a group finance controller and some of the day-to-day running, if that team is working well, the CFO shouldn’t need to be in there every day. If you do, then you probably have the wrong team structure.

If that team is working well, the CFO shouldn’t need to be in there every day. If you do, then you probably have the wrong team structure.

What innovative ways are you planning to use to approach ESG compliance particularly during the economic downturn?

This has become a very big topic in PLC (public limited companies), especially those that deal with the market. But certainly, where we source our energy is important and the negative impact of some sources like lithium batteries on the environment. I also think that focusing on carbon neutrality is important for companies’ ESG and the environment. There are also different options for generating electricity, like anaerobic digesters, wind farms, and tidal lagoons and these are just ideas, and again this is something I need to investigate more when I’m in the business.

What are your immediate goals for Daisy, and where would you like to see the company go?

I’ll repeat something that I said at a previous interview, about the Caudwell Group. “Everything started with [what] John Caudwell did in the 1980s trying to sell his first three mobile handsets, which were about £1000 a piece. Of course, in 2006 he ended up to selling the business for £1.46 billion.”

I’m not sure I can say that I’m going to achieve that, but certainly It’s good to be ambitious. I believe that within a three-to-five-year period I’ll be disappointed if we have not doubled economic profit in the business.

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