Colin Berry, Finance Manager, and Elise Bailey, HR at Tesco, answer our questions about working for the global retail organisation
How often does finance get out into the field around Tesco’s global network?
If you want to travel, the opportunities are definitely available. In my previous role I spent roughly a fifth of my time travelling, which was great experience for me. My 18 months as internal audit manager felt almost cross-functional, giving me the opportunity to work with many of our finance and non-finance colleagues internationally, from the US to Europe and Asia. I spent three weeks at a time in country, which was always hard work, but if you planned your time well you got the odd free weekend in some amazing places.
What’s the biggest challenge that a finance team faces in retailing?
The whole retail industry is going through a period of such significant change it is difficult to overstate. Tesco is playing a leading role and the finance team is at its heart. We are seeing a real shift in consumer buying habits in our stores and online. Customers expect extensive range, great quality, competitive prices and exceptional service. Delivering all of these things conveniently through multiple channels requires great planning and better execution. We have a solid diversified foundation, we’ve worked hard to develop the right plans and now we are integrating them to ensure we stay ahead of our new and more traditional competitors.
How are CIMA trainees supported in the workplace?
I think the most important feature of our training programme is the breadth of experience that trainees receive. Financial support towards CIMA courses and time off for study and exams is there, but that is just the start. Trainees complete a number of nine-month placements across a broad spectrum of the business, including a role internationally. This is supplemented by internal training courses, forums and a vast network of people at similar stages to both learn from and provide support.
What opportunities exist for the finance team to work across your global network?
There are very good opportunities, if you want them. Internally, we have a talent-planning process that gives you the chance to influence your development, for example by indicating your availability to move internationally and your preferred next role. If a role becomes available that matches the criteria you agree with your line manager, then you will be considered. In almost every country I visit I meet colleagues I’ve previously worked with in the UK and there are some great success stories.
How does the company help its people achieve a good work-life balance?
This is becoming more ingrained in the way we operate. Last year, a Fit For Life programme was launched to support everyone in taking personal responsibility for achieving a good work-life balance. Most offices have an onsite gym and, depending on how active you are, we have a rugby team, cricket matches, regular 5-a-side football and squash tournaments, to name just a few. Tesco also supports a variety of flexible working solutions, balancing the needs of the individual with the needs of the business. There is always lots to do, so the key is to make it happen.
What is talent-planning like at Tesco and is it for everyone in finance?
We have a well-established talent planning process that aims to match the right people to the right roles, which should match your personal development needs.
Most people can expect to spend between 18 and 24 months in a role, assuming you want to move, of course. This gives you a chance to learn everything you can about the role, the business unit and then make a lasting improvement. There is a focus on continuous improvement and leaving a lasting legacy.
Up until 2010, I had done a number of FP&A and business partnering roles within the UK business but wanted to get a greater breadth of experience. So I took the decision to leave the more traditional areas in order to firstly take on a project role within the Treasury function, where I completed an ACT Treasury Management course before moving to internal audit. In terms of development, I feel it has really helped me to become a more rounded finance professional and to achieve a recent promotion. I am now in an exciting part of the business, supporting the development of a more appealing customer proposition with Euphorium Bakery, Harris + Hoole and Giraffe restaurants.
Tesco is proud to be a diverse business – tell us more about your approach to talent development.
It’s a multi-pronged approach and a number of things need to happen in order to support people’s development.
I have already mentioned talent-planning, which is enormously important, but it isn’t enough on its own. Everybody has a set of personalised objectives and a personal development programme, which are then supported by a suite of internal leadership courses from advanced influencing to presentation skills, through to the Fit For Life I mentioned earlier.
When you are ready to step up to the next level, you are nominated for our internal development programme called Options. This is a structured training scheme to prepare you for a new role by developing your technical and leadership skills, consisting of a number of courses that you complete over a 12-month period. I recently completed the programme myself and got some really valuable feedback from the leadership team and the coaching is excellent. I really learnt a lot about myself. Everyone is treated as an individual and we work to support each individual to reach their career goal. It’s a great investment in people.
Does everyone in finance shop at Tesco? What staff discounts are there?
I’m sure not everybody shops at Tesco, there certainly isn’t a rule that you do so. As long as you hide your purchases in a Tesco bag when you walk in the office, it’s fine! In all seriousness, spending time in other retailers’ stores/websites can help you to keep up to date with your competitors’ initiatives and industry trends. There is no shame in adopting or improving a great idea if customers would benefit from it. However, all colleagues are entitled to a 10% discount in store and a raft of discounts on other Tesco services, so there is more than one incentive to encourage loyalty!
How would your international colleagues describe the finance team in the UK?
Tesco has an expat community like any global business, but we make a real effort to develop our in country teams’ technical and leadership skills to the same standards. As an example, our Options programme and Leadership Framework are available in every country. I would hope our international colleagues see the UK team as a valuable support network to learn from, but we have a culture of learning that I think works both ways.
What made you want to work for Tesco?
Tesco is a tangible brand, I could easily relate to our products, services and our customers. I previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry and, although I enjoyed it, I just couldn’t relate to it in the same way. There is something really rewarding about attending a meeting, contributing to a decision and seeing it rolled out in the stores the following day.
Tesco is also a multichannel global retailer that places a great emphasis on people development. When I joined, I simply thought it would be valuable experience. That was over eight years ago and I have continued to learn and be challenged every day. Places of employment where the opportunities are so vast and interesting must be few and far between.
Why is finance vital to Tesco’s seven-part strategy?
Our company strategy reflects the way consumer needs are changing and the increasingly global nature of our business, and the finance function has a central role in delivering that strategy. The finance team doesn’t all sit together as we are integrated within the business units that we support; so, retail finance sits with the operations teams, property finance sits with the property team and so on. This enables us to build great relationships, understand the business and really contribute. And by supporting business functions to deliver programmes of work on time and on budget, we make a fundamental contribution to helping Tesco deliver a great shopping experience for our customers.
Finance is also integral to the process of setting targets, collating results, interpreting information and presenting it simply to non-finance colleagues, which enables us to measure our performance as a business and to make sure we are always striving to be better at what we do.
Tesco at a glance
- Tesco is one of the world’s largest retailers with more than 530,000 employees serving millions of customers each week
- Tesco is the largest property owner in the UK, other than the Church of England
- F&F has become the leading fashion brand in central Europe. In the UK, F&F sales exceeded £1 billion and have increased by 9 per cent over the past year
- Tesco has recently acquired Giraffe, the award-winning restaurant group
- Tesco Mobile has just been awarded the Which? Award for Best Telecom Services Provider 2013