Job Title
Finance Manager – Budgeting and OperationsName: Carol Keene

Company: Kraft Foods

Professional Qualification(s):
Qualified Accountant- ACMA

Brief job description
The operations part of my title refers to the costing side of the business. I have a team of 5 who are responsible for all of the product costing, that is, all Kraft products that are sold in the UK and from the UK to other countries. The other side of Operations refers to the Capital department which looks after the fixed assets of the business. The budgeting part of my title is actually about the budgeting of overheads and supply chain costs.My career so far…
I joined Kraft over 12 years ago as an Accounts Clerk in the Operations Accounting Department. I joined at a low entry point, as I had no real experience, so began by costing products. I was promoted within 4 months to a Management Reporting role which involved analysis of values and profits of Kraft brands. I moved to costing and then on to a role in the Financial Planning and Analysis Team. This involved looking after advertising and consumer spend and marketing budgets that related to promotional spend.

The company expanded massively with the merger of General Foods and I came back to the corporate controlling side of Finance. I was doing several roles during this period, such as managing the operations accounting team, a smaller costing team and a management reporting team. My role really expanded after the Terry’s acquisition as we now had two new manufacturing plants. I was heavily involved in this acquisition and took charge of the relations between the two plants in York and Bridgend.

My next role was as Financial Controller in our manufacturing plant in Bristol. I decided to undertake this role as I wanted experience in this kind of environment. This job included working with purchasing to look at the purchase price of products and controlling all the coding of invoices. I was also in charge of payroll for the site and had responsibilities for planning and industrial engineering. I believe this was the best move I made, as it was a completely different arena, and was a turning point for my career. The Bristol business was sold and I was heavily involved in the unwinding of this and making sure everything relating to the Bristol plant was removed from Kraft systems. Being involved in acquisitions and divestment’s was a fascinating part of my financial role. I moved back to our commercial head-office after one year and went into the costing and capital side. From 1996 to now my role has included Budgeting, Supply Chain and EU Finance.

What does your job involve in a typical day?
There is never a typical day but I can certainly talk about a typical week. I always have a team meeting with my direct reports on a Monday morning. My team is spread across different areas of finance so it is essential to have this interaction so we are all aware of what each specific area is doing. I have 1-1’s with my direct reports so issues and concerns can be addressed. My role is very much about reviewing, that is, reviewing the processes and procedures which are in place and thinking strategically. I am also involved in a variety of ad hoc tasks, such improving controls and audits. .As my team is so varied, such as EU, Budgeting and Finance, I am always dipping into different areas. This can be stock count plans, budgeting questions etc. I am also involved in the recruitment of finance personnel, not just for my area but sometimes across the whole finance.

What do you like most about your job?
The variety of my role keeps me really motivated. One minute I could be talking about operational issues, the next it could be something relating to Overheads and then talking with a logistics manager in supply chain. No week is the same and there are a lot of ad hoc tasks to do. I get to meet so many people in the business, which I also really enjoy.

What skills are required in your job?
Being able to review and interpret information is essential, finance is not just about number crunching. It is vital to have the ability to look at the bigger picture and challenge those around you. I look at a variety of information from what the exchange rate is doing as I have to know what the impact on cost is going to be. I also look at commodities and capital, it is important to remain focussed on our cash flow and tracking our spending. There are a variety of other skills that are also important for my role such as staff development and team leadership.

How many people work for you?
I have five direct reports and a team of 17.

What is your advice for people looking for a career in the food and grocery industry?
This company and industry have allowed me to progress quickly and become involved in so many different challenges from divestment’s to acquisitions. My best piece of advice is that you should take opportunities as they arise. Breadth of experience is so important – when you reach the higher positions you will have very good knowledge of a variety of situations.