FP&A Today Episode 5 Gemma Davie: Leading from the Front to Score Excellence in FP&A

Gemma Davie, Associate Director, Performance (FP&A) leads a team of 12 in her FP&A function at comparethemarket.com, one of Britain’s best loved finance brands. Speaking with Paul Barnhurst for FP&A Today she reveals her secrets for producing excellence. Gemma defines excellence in FP&A as driving action and leading to better customer outcomes or a tangible benefit. Gemma reveals her unusual “squiggly” career path to Director, the importance of prioritizing her FP&A team’s development, how FP&A has moved from scorekeeper to top coach in business, and why most FP&A teams are only thinking about cash flow when it’s too late. Plus, a surprising hobby that not many people know about.

Comparethemarket, one of Britain’s biggest price comparison sites, is owned by BGL insurance. Gemma Davie runs a team of seven FP&A pros and five management accounting systems experts

Paul Barnhurst

Hello, everyone. Welcome to a brand new FP&A podcast. I am your host, Paul Barnhurst aka the FP&A guy, and you are listening to FP&A Today. FP&A Today is brought to you by datarails, the financial planning and analysis platform for Excel users. Every week, we welcome a leader from the world of financial planning and analysis and discuss some of the biggest stories and challenges in the world of FP&A. We will provide you with actionable advice about financial planning and analysis today. This is going to be your go-to resource for everything FP&A. FP&A Today Is brought to you by datarails the financial planning, and analysis platform for Excel users. I am thrilled to welcome today’s guest onto the show. Welcome Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

Thank you. And it’s, it’s great to be here. Really appreciate you inviting me on

Paul Barnhurst

Now. We are really glad you could make some time to, you know, speak with me today and to share a little bit of your knowledge with our guests. So let me give a little bit of background and then we’ll let her tell a little bit about herself. So she’s currently located in the UK. She received a degree in business economics and finance. She’s worked in finance, some commercial finance and FP&A roles over the last 15 years. She currently works for comparethemarket.com. And why don’t I go ahead and give you a minute to just tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up where you’re at today?

When I started my career in FP&A FP&A was about being a scorekeeper. It then moved to match predictor. In the last 10 years in terms of my career and where I’m operating, it’s now more, I’d say in team selection, and by team selection, not just in terms of leading teams, but actually being that trusted advisor

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

Yeah, it’d be great too. So my career started in the year 2000 or almost 22 years ago as a finance analyst at a U.S Company called Silicon Graphics that some of you may have heard of. So we used to be hugely known for our computers, helping to create things for Disney, things like Toy Story, and The Gladiator movie. So as a first role, it was a really exciting company to be part of. And actually our campus ended up being bought by Google and became the famous Google campus. So, like you said, I’ve spent the majority of my career within financial planning and analysis, and also within some commercial roles as well. And I guess when I started my career in FP&A,  I like to use some sporting analogies and it really was FP&A was about being a scorekeeper and really more focused on the actuals, the historics of what those scores were.

Gemma Davie

I guess as, as we’ve moved over the last 20 years, we’ve then seen FP&A evolve into what I’d call the match predictor. So where we then started looking more forwardly around forecasting, predictive analytics. In the last 10 years in terms of my career and where I’m operating, it’s now more, I’d say in team selection, and by team selection, not just in terms of leading teams, but actually being that trusted advisor. So being that trusted advisor to the business, to the sports team. So yeah, it’s been an interesting evolution of FP&A, and it’s been great to be a part of that. In terms of the roles that I’ve done. So I’d say you quite often hear that careers are less like ladders now and, and more squiggly. The first part of my career you know, there were more steps and ladders, but definitely in the last 10 years, my career has been more squiggly. So I’ve done sidestep roles where I’ve moved out of FP&A to go and get other experience. So when I did my accounting qualification, I took some time out to do more of a general accounting role or what we call nuts and bolt accounting. Then I found out that wasn’t for me, but it definitely made me a better FP&A person, because I understood the accounting. And then I also stepped out into what we call a deals desk role, really to gain some commercial experience and really working closely with sales. And again, it gave me a big advantage coming back to FP&A, because I got what their pain points were.

When we were asking why this deal is not coming or this variance, I could understand what was driving that. And I think it also allowed me to ask better questions. And then when I moved to comparethemarket for me in a way it was a little bit of a step backwards because I went from leading a team to, to then stepping back from a director role. But for me it was around gaining experience of that industry. So I came from software and got into financial services. And so I did that for a couple of years, but actually I really missed the people side and I’ll talk about leadership separately. But that was something that I really missed and was really passionate about getting back into. So yeah, that’s a little bit more about myself.

Paul Barnhurst

Well, thank you. I appreciate that. And I really, you know, I resonated with a couple things you said – one the ladders and the squiggly line. You know, having started my own business in the last year, having, you know, my last company worked in more of a go-to market than a traditional FP&A role, you know, I started my career in procurement and pretty quickly realized that wasn’t, you know, where I wanted to be long term. So, you know, I’ve been in a few different places and like you, it’s invaluable to know the business and to understand those pain points. It really allows us to be better professionals.

Gemma Davie

It absolutely does. And, it allows us to really build that credibility with the business and be able to think strategically and operationally. .

Paul Barnhurst

Yep. No, I totally agree. So what, what drew you to FP&A. What kind of brought you back to that within, you know, the finance realm, there’s lots of different roles, but what was it about FP&A that gets you excited?

I chose FP&A because I think I’ve always been someone who’s been naturally curious with a love for numbers. When I went through my FP&A career and was given lots of data to analyze, I really loved exploring that “why” mindset.

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

Yeah, I think I’ve always been someone who’s been naturally curious. Naturally curious with a love for numbers. You know as a child, always wanting to do more math. And then I guess when I went through starting my FP&A career and, and was given lots of data to analyze, that I really loved exploring the whys and, and exploring the patterns and, and yeah, that “why” mindset. And like I said, when I switched to the nuts and bolts, I just found that really de-energizing. And so it’s the curiosity that really energizes me. But I think the big thing for me is I’m very purpose driven. And for me it’s all around making a difference and how I can make a difference to my stakeholders. And when I talk about stakeholders, you know, I’m talking about my business partners, but I’m also talking about stakeholders around teams.

Gemma Davie

So how can I unlock the potential of my team, but actually, how can I help wider teams. Not even in businesses, but how can I help stakeholders within my community? So although I work in FP&A, I actually do a lot of work outside of work. I’m a vice chair of governors at my son’s primary school. And so I’ve been able to use those FP&A skills to really help the strategic direction of the school to hold the headteacher to account and really drive some efficiencies there. So yeah, I think it’s all down to back to purpose and, and, and I feel like FP&A is where I can really drive that. And, the really strong thing around that is business partnering and business partnering is what I do best for me and gives me that energy and it fits in my purpose. And it’s absolutely fundamental to financial planning and analysis. Yeah. So it’s that business partnering combined with that curiosity and that “why”, and that “so what” mindset.

Paul Barnhurst

I love that point about the, “so what?” mindset and, you know, having that passion of partnering with the business. Because we hear that buzz word thrown around all the time and I really like how you broke it down and said, it’s not just in FP&A that I use it, but it’s something I use in my life and how it’s part of your purpose. So, you know, if I was to ask you know, somebody coming up in their career and they’re trying to understand how they should business partner, what advice would you give to somebody earlier in their career about business partnering and kind of building that mindset or making sure they look at the business and become that trusted advisor?

Gemma Davie

I think if we break it down and we think about trust first because business partnering is all about building trusted relationships. So, if we break trust down into its components firstly in terms of credibility. When you’re starting a new job, maybe a new industry, new product, new company, it’s not always that you’ve got that credibility because as a new business partner, they don’t know you. And so one thing that I’ve had to learn is when I’m doing something new is really being that sponge and just absorbing and meeting with those stakeholders and asking them about their business, getting to know them, understanding what they do, what’s important for them and how can you help? So yeah, being that sponge and listening. It’s also about making your stakeholders feel valued and involving them and getting their views again, getting their views and, and listening to them.

A key thing about business partnering sounds quite simple. But a lot of people get it wrong. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it.

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

And then there’s also the piece around, so we’ve got credibility, reliability. And This sounds, this sounds quite simple, but a lot of people get it wrong and it’s around if you say you’re going to do something, then do it. But also if, if you end up over committing, it’s just being open and honest and trying to flag things up as soon as you can and really keeping that communication channel going. I think again, it’s when you do get things wrong again being that open and honest person. I say that’s, that’s the big component that I’d say. It’s those softer skills of business partnering. I mean, business partnering in FP&A, a lot of it is storytelling, but it’s actually getting that relationship there that they believe your story. And also thinking, being able to, to think, be open minded and think not just dismissing ideas, but being open to new ideas.

Paul Barnhurst

No, that’s that, that’s a great one. There’s a lot of stuff to kind of unpack there, but I like how you mentioned, you know, trust. Being Able to be trusted, you know, you’re building credibility, listening, and being open to other viewpoints. Right? All those things that allow them to let you in as a partner, instead of just the finance person, who’s there to run the numbers.And I think we’ve all, we’ve all probably seen it or been with a partner that that’s kind of the relationship and, you know, it’s gonna be a lot of work to change that. And it starts with trust and showing how you can add value and that requires listening and learning what the business needs. So I think you gave some great advice there. I really appreciate that. And I know it resonates for me and I’m sure it will resonate with a lot of people who listen to the podcast.

Gemma Davie

I mean it’s so true. I remember recently, I’m always asking for feedback. So that’s another one asking for feedback in terms of that relationship. And I remember a business partner saying to me, you know, Gemma you are so much more than a finance person. You are that seat at the table. You’re that sounding board. It doesn’t have to be finance related, but, but someone that they they trust, but, but someone that positively challenges

Gemma Davie

And holds people to account as well, which is not always easy. And sometimes quite often these skills are not ones that we associate with the stereotypical finance person as well. They are harder to develop.

Paul Barnhurst

No, that’s, that’s a great compliment to have that you’re more than a finance person, because really, you know, the role is to create value and to be a business partner. And often those conversations should go beyond finance if we’re really doing our job. Right. We should always bring it back to the financial numbers and how it impacts, you know, our profitability and the company as a whole, but it’s so much more than that.Well, great. So recently I had the opportunity to listen to you speak at an event where you talked about cash flow. So, you know, I thought that’s an area that definitely, you know, has become more important over the last couple years. And one of the things you listed is, you know, top tips to improve your cash partner skills. Could you maybe talk a little bit about that maybe, you know, a little bit about those skills and just kind of cash partnering?

Gemma Davie

Yeah. I mean it is very, very similar to, to business partnering in general. So, I’ve already talked about the stakeholder side, but I think in terms of maybe some more specific things around cash partnering. Cash partnering can be quite complex in terms of touching lots of areas of the business. So if you think about what the cash flow forecast looks like, you’ve got the cash coming into the business. So I’d say around really focusing on building relationships with sales teams, making sure that you get involved and really understand things at the start of a sales cycle. Because it’s so much easier to be able to influence a contract negotiation at the start than waiting at the end where it’s really the last thing that that sales team want is for them to start delaying contracts that we’re trying to negotiate payment terms, for example. So I’d say definitely on the sales side, get, get close to sales teams.

Sometimes cash can be like the afterthought. It’s what you do at the end of the process, once your P&L’s been done, but whether they are directly involved or not the FP&A need to understand that story.

Gemma Davie

If you are working in FP&A, and you’re not responsible for the cash flow forecast. So for example, in our organization my direct team isn’t responsible at the moment. So we have a team that’s responsible for cash flow forecasting to make sure that they’re involved in the process because sometimes cash can be like the afterthought. It’s what you do at the end of the process, once your P&L’s been done, but they need to understand that story as well. They need to understand the assumptions that you have made. What’s happening for example, what have you assumed about the economic assumptions? And we’ll probably come and talk about the pandemic and energy crisis at the moment. But really getting them on the same page and involving them earlier. So yeah, getting people who were involved in the process, getting early views and really understanding your drivers. So understanding maybe who your key customers are? Maybe you’ve got key customers that are problem accounts in terms of paying cash, but also understanding the big rocks in terms of who you are paying. So you can understand potentially the cash outflows and what levers you’ve got to play with. And also it’ll help you when you’re doing your stress testing, and your scenario planning to really understand those pieces as well.

Paul Barnhurst

Yeah. And I really like how you mentioned that cash is something we kind of think about at the end, which is the wrong mindset, right? You really wanna be able to think about it throughout the process. And for me, I think one of the times I really kind of understood the importance of cash partnering, because I’ve never been in charge of cash flow or building the cash flow forecast. And in my career we had a situation. We had one of our largest customers. They were almost 20% of this company, one of our many companies within the overall organization, but hadn’t paid us for six months and I went to the sales guys and said look, we need to turn them off if they’re not gonna pay us. And they went back and forth and we’re doing it. Finally, I said, look, we need to check on our desk tomorrow or you guys have got to shut them off.

We can’t continue to do this after going back and forth for a while. And funny enough, I guess the salesperson told them to address it to me. And I got this six figure check on my desk the next day, you know. I Was kinda like, you know, this is cash. You know, it was just a reminder to me that, okay, on paper we showed all this revenue. But until that check came in, we hadn’t, you know, really earned anything and how important cash was. So it was a kind of a fun reminder of the importance of what you were talking about there.

Gemma Davie

Yeah. And, even with sales teams, if you’re working in more of a service led organization where you’ve got teams of consultants, and implementations, actually they’re great people to connect with as well. It’s quite often that they know the customer more than the sales team because they have got that trust with the customers. They know what the customer pain points are more than the sales team because they have built that trust, rather than the sales person going in and trying to sell them something.

Paul Barnhurst

That’s a great point. The implementation, the customer service, the account manager that is in there with them daily and dealing with their pain points versus the sales guy who usually comes in every so often and tries to add some more sales to the account. No, that makes a lot of sense. So, you know, obviously the last couple years have felt unprecedented for many people, just a ton of change, right? You got the, we had a global pandemic that we’re still feeling the repercussions of today. You know, you got the European energy crisis. We’ve had conflicts abroad. I think a lot of that has changed the way a lot of people have looked at the importance of cash. How has that kind of shaped your view and maybe impacted your perspective on cash forecasting?

Worlds got changed upside down. And for example, with the energy crisis, this shut some of our price comparison markets and income streams overnight.

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

Yeah, I completely agree with you. And if we think about those things, you know, like you said, You think about, you know, the last pandemic being things like the Spanish flu. I remember my parents talking about shortages with energy and, and having three day weeks at work. Um, and I think in terms of situations, I, I remember in the nineties the Gulf situation in the Gulf, but we’ve had that over, over, you know, a space of two years that that’s, that’s, it’s been condensed. And, and I think that’s where, you know, we’ve seen that it’s had a huge impact and in terms of how it’s changed things. I think before people said cash was sort of an afterthought and okay.

Gemma Davie

If revenues are doing okay and, and we’ve got manageable costs, then we don’t need to worry about cash, but we’ve seen, we’ve seen, we saw things change overnight. Worlds got changed upside down. And for example, with the energy crisis, those markets shut some of our price comparison markets, income streams overnight. Things that weren’t a problem became on the Torchlight and that whole mentality of we don’t need to worry about cash just went out the window. So definitely we’ve seen and spoken to lots, lots of other FP&A people, and definitely seen much more focus on, on cash.

Paul Barnhurst

No, for sure. I agree with you. I mean, it feels like the amount of uncertainty and change has been condensed, like you said, what might have we’ve seen in, you know, 50 or a hundred years we saw in a two, three year period. And we continued to see, you know, it’s just unprecedented change, unprecedented uncertainty. And at the end of the day, you know, the lifeblood of any business is cash. You know, the rest of it is accounting. When you really get down to it without the cash, you don’t have the accounting.

Gemma Davie

Yeah. And we’ve seen some real victims of this. Right. Some big, we’ve seen some big names in the UK that were always household high street names that have gone into administration. And, and yeah. They won’t be the last.

Paul Barnhurst

Yeah. Not, not surprised. I remember, I remember for us, you know, when, you know, it first hit in the US and we shut down the company I was at at the, at that time, we supported primarily, you know, claims for automobiles. And so our European business, nobody was driving. So the transactional pieces were all of a sudden down, you know, 90%. And fortunately we had some subscription revenue. We were fairly diversified, but I can, you know, just remember those early days, everything was about cash. What does that mean? How do we get relief from our vendors? What do we do to make sure we maximize how long cashflow will last? Because everybody, you know, nobody had any idea how long this was gonna last. And there was just so much uncertainty. So definitely it, it highlighted that importance for all of us

Gemma Davie

And it, and it definitely made stress testing more real, where, where you’d normally do your stress testers and you know, you naturally think, oh, this, this couldn’t happen. And, and it was.

Paul Barnhurst

Yep, exactly. You’re like, not only did it, it is happening, we’re living it like, yeah. We need to do stress testing. You know, I, you know, I gained a little bit of an appreciation for stress testing cuz I went to work for a bank in 2000 late 2008. So right at the end of the global financial crisis, when all the rules were coming around, stress testing, I wasn’t so much involved in that part of the business, but always hearing about it. But I really only thought about it, you know, for the big, huge banks who have, you know, sometimes trillions of dollars or hundreds of billions, of dollars of cash and are critical to the whole economy. This pandemic helped bring it down to every, I think every company, I think many big companies have kind of got lax in cash management. Yeah. And it hit home.

Gemma Davie

Yeah. And it’s like the energy crisis in Europe. It’s affected every single business and every single household,

Paul Barnhurst

Not, not surprised. So kind of switching gears there a little bit, you know, you’d, you’d mentioned earlier in the podcast and I know you talk about this on LinkedIn. You’d mentioned it in your profile, you have a passion for, for people and helping empower people, helping grow and unlock their potential. So maybe, can you talk a little bit about, you know, how you empower people, how you help individuals and teams grow to reach their potential?

I remember my father saying to me that the greatest gift you can give someone is time. And, I think when we’re really busy at work, sometimes the easiest thing is to just move meetings or move those one to ones.

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

Yeah of course. And I’m really, really passionate about this and, and again, it’s, it’s all about paying it forward for me. So the more people I can help the better. So in terms of practically how I do it, because I always like to give sort of practical examples. The first thing I say is I remember my father saying to me, you know, the greatest gift you can give someone is time. And, I think when we’re really busy at work, sometimes the easiest thing is to just move meetings or move those one to ones. And you know, I’ve got a real passion for making sure that the people come first. Because I need my team to perform. I need them to feel valued because if they aren’t successful then I’m not successful. So my first tip would be around having really meaningful one-to-ones.

Gemma Davie

So not just having one-to-ones for the sake of it and something that I’ve recently introduced is really taking a step back and thinking, how are we using those one-to-ones? And giving them a little bit more structure and empowering my team to actually own their own agenda of one-to-one. It’s not, it’s not me owning the one to one as their manager. It’s actually. And the first thing we go through is, you know, what do you want to get out today? Is there anything critical that you want to discuss? Because quite often with teams if you need to discuss something and it’s, maybe it’s gonna be a bit of an awkward conversation, people tend to put it off and leave it to right at the end of the one-to-one. So I tried, it was another podcast I was listening to. And it said about just actually just bringing that first, if there’s anything that they need to critically talk around.

Gemma Davie

And then we split it into the Four Ps. So the first thing is, and again, they drive that own agenda, whether they need to talk to me about people. So it might be support that they need with, with a person. The other one is about priorities. So whether they, again, discuss priorities, but whether they need me to. I asked whether you needed to discuss, make a decision on, one to one, so they might need help prioritizing their time. Maybe feeling overwhelmed again, bring it back to helping them with their wellbeing and making them feel valued. And we talk around if there’s any projects that are happening at the moment and progress. So what’s happened in the last week? What are they focusing on next week? But it’s really their own agenda. And they drive that. I will, you know, there may be things that I need to discuss as well, but it’s down to them owning that. The other bit of practical advice is, getting them involved in the decisions because that’s where people do feel valued. And when you think about empowerment and we think about the opposite extremes of empowerment, so you’ve got someone who’s so fully empowered and they’re just left to their own devices and, and on the other end of the scale someone who is very controlled.

We’ve been looking at the commentary and the storytelling around Management Information. And what we’ve noticed is there’s not enough of the “why” and the, “so what”, and the “now what?” So my brief was can we get, let’s get more of that. I asked them to go and redesign the MI for that. And again, encourage them to have check-in points, but really let my team feel that they’re able to bring their own ideas to the table.

Gemma Davie

It’s not about just having complete full empowerment. And this is something I’ve learned recently through a leadership development program. It’s all around empowerment, but with clarity. So, With my teams, it’s around actually, this is what I need you to do, but you go and do the how. And so an example is we send daily MI (management information) out and we’ve been looking at the commentary and the storytelling around that. And what we’ve noticed is there’s not enough of the “why” and the, “so what”, and the “now what?” So my brief was can we get, let’s get more of that. So what, and now what into it, and not just the what, but you go off and you go and redesign the MI for that. And again, encouraging them to have check-in points, but really letting them feel that they’re able to bring their own ideas to the table.

Gemma Davie

And then from a structure point of view, I’ve recently introduced 90 day plans. So I have my own 90 day plans, but my team, we work together and they come up with what they believe their 90 day plans should be. And this is something that they’ve shared with our wider finance team, because they’ve found it so useful to be able to give them focus on daily activities, weekly activities, but also for them to think around their own development. And so every four to six weeks, we also have development one to one. So we have regular one-to-ones but we have development one to ones. And then they inform the next 90 days as well. Another thing around unlocking people’s potential is by me leading by example. And it’s such an important thing. So if I’m wanting my teams to come out of their comfort zones, which I always encourage, I need to come out of my own comfort zone.

So I need to go and try new things. So an example of that might be, it was today. So this is my first ever podcast. And we spoke earlier about it, it’s something that I’ve, I’ve always wanted to do and probably needed to just be a bit braver doing that. And so when you said about doing the podcast, I was like, yes, let’s, let’s tick that off the bucket list. So, and, and also encourage learning. And, again, me leading by example. I’m always trying to think of ways to better myself. I do. I listen to a lot of other podcasts. I listen to one, called The Amazing If (Squiggly Career Podcast) which I’ve found really, really useful. It’s a UK based free UK based website and tool and really, really practical. So, again, leading by example as well,

Paul Barnhurst

I think I appreciate you sharing, you know, a lot there, a lot of great information. But a couple things stuck out with me. I like how you had the four P’s and 90 day plan. So I see a few areas, there was structure , there was also the importance of enabling and empowering because at the end of the day, you know, if you don’t allow people to feel involved and feel ownership, they’re always going to fall short of their potential of what you can, you know, what you can get out of ’em because, you know, that’s such a huge thing. So there’s a lot of great things there. Like I said, how you challenge yourself and then I’m just grateful we could have you on the show to cross off something off your bucket list. That’s always nice to, you know, reduce one line and go on to the next one. So, you know, congratulations on being on your first podcast.

Gemma Davie

Thank you. And you, you never know in a few months time, maybe one of my team will be on the podcast that they’ll feel inspired to come and do something like that.

Paul Barnhurst

Well, that’s exactly it, and I hope they, you know, enjoy listening. And then the last thing I like, what you talked about is just the importance of situational leadership is what I like to call it. You know, and I learned this principle through some leadership courses. I did a lot of scouting. I was a scout leader for a lot of years with youth and it really helped teach me. They gave, I did one of their leadership courses and I loved the way they explained it. They called it the, the edge principle: explain, demonstrate guide enable. And Teams and people are at different points. And depending on where they’re at, you need to take a different approach. Like when I’m teaching a new skill to boys, I’m gonna explain it. But if I have older boys who have done it before, then I’m gonna stand back and let one of them explain it.

Paul Barnhurst

I’m gonna enable them. And that’s where you always wanna get is that enablement, but depending on someone’s skill set and where they’re at you, can’t always just jump in and say, Hey, here, go do that project. Right. I’ve enabled you. Sometimes you actually really need to hold their hand and do it with them. And that was really, just always stuck with me, that leadership training. And I’ve had to remind myself of that a few times over the years, you’re working with someone, okay, step back. Where are they at? You’re expecting too much at this moment, you know, kind of working through those different stages.

Gemma Davie

I’ve written that down edge. I’m gonna have a look at that.

Paul Barnhurst

Yeah, no, it’s great, it’s been a great leadership principle. In fact, you’ll kind of laugh. It sits here on my desk. This is the card from what’s been 13 years ago? I think. So when I took the training, I still kept it in my office and it has examples and a few different pictures and things. And it’s really kind of helped guide me in my way of thinking about leadership.

Gemma Davie

So, well, if you’ve had that for 13 years, then it must be a good thing.

Paul Barnhurst

Yeah. It’s one of the few things that survived on my desk that long. I think there’s been maybe two or three, so not many.

Many years ago I remember my mentor saying to me, you know, Gemma, you’ve got your comfort zone and then outside of that’s where the magic happens.

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

Yeah, just, it reminded me of a couple of things that people have said to me. So my mentor years ago, I remember her saying to me, you know, Gemma, you’ve got your comfort zone and then outside of that’s where the magic happens. And I’ve seen it a few times now, but it is so true. And again, it’s really helping, like you said that little bit, I just need that little bit of encouragement to get them out of that comfort zone. Yeah and also allowing them to make mistakes, and we talk about failing fast a lot. But like back to the daily MI piece I described, you know, they’re not gonna get it all right. But it actually, it’s what, it’s what you learn along the way.

Paul Barnhurst

Yeah. No. So true. It’s about the journey and letting people fail, as you say to say fail fast or getting outside the comfort zone. Like right now, I’m trying to kind of a personal story, but my daughter is we, we have an amusement park close by and we go quite a bit and I’m trying to get her on one of the, what’s considered the scariest roller coaster in the park and she keeps like, I’m gonna go. And then like, no, I’m not doing a dad. No, I’m gonna go. No, I’m, you know, and I think I’m gonna share the saying, you said they were trying to help her get out of her comfort zone. I’m like, what’s, you know, what’s the worst that could happen here. You enjoy it. Like, you know, or, you don’t, you don’t go again. It’s not, you know, there’s nothing life threatening here, but to her, it’s just, you know, that, that terrifying moment of like, I can’t do this

Gemma Davie

Well, that’s it. And quite often it’s the buildup with anything, isn’t it it’s like when you’re planning for maybe a difficult conversation, doing something new for the first time, the build to it is far worse than the actual thing that you are doing.

Paul Barnhurst

Yeah. Almost always very, very true. So we have just a couple more questions here. I’ve, you know, I’ve loved the conversation and could keep going, but I know, you know, people don’t wanna listen forever and we all have things to do. So just a couple more questions. One here is just kind, as you look at the future of FP&A, what do you maybe see as the biggest either opportunity or challenge, where do you see kind of the future of FP&A?

I know as a business ourselves, it is so difficult to forecast at the moment. Because that trend analysis that we used to do, [how can you say] what is normal?

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

A, yeah, that’s a really good question. I think if I start with challenges first and I’ll move on the opportunities. So in terms of challenges we’ve mentioned before this whole volatility. I know as a business ourselves, it is so difficult to forecast at the moment. Because that trend analysis that we used to do, yeah. What is normal? So, I think that’s the biggest challenge. And, and like we said, this isn’t over yet and understanding the trends and trying to strip back is a real challenge. And the second thing is around data quality. So I don’t know if I’ve ever, if I’ve come across a business which hand on heart can actually say that they haven’t got a data quality issue. It’s how we can work with what we’ve got, understand its limitations and maybe try and fill some of the gaps, but, but actually also working on a more serious note, working with the data teams to really understand root causes and working together on that.

I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a business which hand on heart can actually say that they haven’t got a data quality issue. We work with what we’ve got, understand its limitations and maybe try and fill some of the gaps, and with the data teams to really understand root causes and work together on that.

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

I think that’s the biggest challenge. In terms of opportunities. So going back to the volatility, I don’t think the business has needed us as much as they need us now. I really, you know, they are crying out for business partners. That’s the feedback that I’m getting and actually it’s about us creating those opportunities to be able to spend more time business partnering. And I think in terms of the ways that we’re setting up our structures, I think as FP&A leaders, we need to be really thinking about how we’re gonna set ourselves up longer term and taking that step back to look at that long term success.

Paul Barnhurst

No, yeah, no, that makes sense. I mean, managing that uncertainty and data quality, I, I laugh because right. We’ve all been there. You know, we’ve all worked for those companies where you’re like, wait, the data’s how bad? And you think it’s only that company and you go somewhere else and you’re like, wait, we have what kind of data problem? You, no matter where you go, it’s, that’s why there’s studies that say, you know, sometimes FP&A spends upwards of 60% of their time doing data prep.

Gemma Davie

Oh yeah. Cleaning cleansing. Yeah.

Paul Barnhurst

Yep. You know, we’ve all, I’m sure we’ve all been there, late into the night, sometimes cleaning something up. So, you can actually find the value add information out of the data. Right. So yeah. Yeah. I know that that one hit home for me. And I think, you know, opportunity, I agree. We’ve never been needed more than we are now.

We used data to give us insight into changing our forecast cadences, and whether it was gonna really increase or reduce our accuracy. We found our forecast was no more accurate between weeks 1 and 2, and between 3 and 4, which justified removing weeks 2 and 4.

Gemma Davie

Gemma Davie

No. And I think it’s about taking ownership ourselves in terms of how we can unlock more time to spend with the business. And that might not necessarily be just chucking people at it. It’s really looking at our processes and really challenging why we’re doing things, how we’re doing them. And, one thing that we’ve looked at recently is in terms of our forecasting cadence and actually how much value is doing weekly forecasting versus biweekly forecasting? And it’s something we’ve changed. And, what we did was we used data to give us that insight in terms of how it was potentially going to change it, whether it was gonna really increase or reduce our accuracy. Our forecast was no more accurate between weeks 1 and 2, and between 3 and 4, which justified removing weeks 2 and 4. And, it was back to back to that storytelling. So using our FP&A skills to really go and have a conversation with our CFO in terms of, do you really need a forecast every week?

Paul Barnhurst

No, I appreciate that. And that’s a great example. And I love how you use data to inform the decision. Right. You changed the process too.

Gemma Davie

Yeah.

Paul Barnhurst

Well, so here’s kind of a fun, fun question we like to ask people. And so what’s something that not many people would know about you. Like if I went and looked online, you know, I could see your LinkedIn profile, learn a little about your career and things, but what’s something that maybe people wouldn’t know about. Something they would find interesting?

Gemma Davie

I guess it depends what you define as the word. Interesting.

Paul Barnhurst

I’ll leave that to you.

Gemma Davie

Yeah. So interesting to me. So I, my husband and I have a huge passion for gin as in the gin and tonic. We have our own little gin bar and my husband just built a little gin bar in our garden. And, we must have about 50 bottles of different flavored gins. And yeah, so I’ve, I’ve got some really weird and wacky flavors. So we’ve got. I’m a Yorkshire girl, so we’ve got a Yorkshire Tea gin. And we’ve got a tomato gin.

Yorkshire Tea Gin – find out more at https://www.masonsofyorkshire.com/

Paul Barnhurst

Alrighty.

Gemma Davie

And, also a lavender gin so drink that one before bed to help calm you. So yeah, that’s some little fun fact about me. Like I said, it depends on what you find interesting.

Paul Barnhurst

Well, Hey, it, you know, it can be fun. And it sounds like you got quite a collection, lots of different flavors. I imagine a little bit of everything.

Gemma Davie

Yeah. As well as normal stuff as well. Yeah.

Paul Barnhurst

Yeah. I would imagine there’s some of the normal, but people usually like to hear about the more interesting things, lavender gin, isn’t probably a real common one. No. You know, Yorkshire tea, some of those that you mention aren’t ones you typically think of. So that’s, that’s fun

Gemma Davie

Tomatoes. Yeah,

Paul Barnhurst

Exactly. The tomatoes as well. Yep. So the last question here is, you know, on the show, we’re big, we’re a big fan of Excel here. And one thing we like to ask every guest is their favorite Excel function. What is it and why?

Gemma Davie

So I guess these days I spend less time in Excel than I used to when I first started my career. Um, so the most, my favorite one is the one that got me, my first role. And I say it got my first role. In my first role, I was asked if I knew what a pivot table was and fresh out of university in the year 2000 , we hadn’t learned about pivot tables.

Paul Barnhurst

Sure.

Gemma Davie

And then, I was honest and I said, I don’t know what a pivot table is, but in my second interview, I will come back and tell you what one is and I’ll know how to use it. And, I got the role on the second interview. Soh, so yeah, it’s a good one, but it’s more of a nostalgic function, I think.

Paul Barnhurst

Sure. No. Well, I mean, and you know, pivot tables is definitely one, a lot of people use, but I can see where the nostalgia is of having got you your first role. So that’s a great story. And you know, it’s a great feature in Excel. So just kind of in wrap up here, I really wanna thank you for your time today. Gemma, we’ve really enjoyed having you on the show. You’ve been a great guest and given a lot of good information, and I know our audience will, you’ll find your advice around partnering and leading teams and those things really valuable. So thanks again for taking the time to be with us on the show today,

Gemma Davie

You are more than welcome.

Paul Barnhurst

And again, congratulations on crossing one item off the bucket list.

Gemma Davie

I’m gonna do that. I like a tick, so it’s definitely getting ticked tonight.

Paul Barnhurst

All right. Well, good deal. Tick it and have some, some lavender gin while you’re at it. Appreciate it.