6 May 2015 09:06am

As I see it: Lesley Jackson

Lesley Jackson is chief financial officer of Stock Spirits Group. She was previously chief financial officer of United Breweries, and group finance director at William Grant and Sons

I loved working for United Breweries in India. There are many practices of working in India that work better than in the West.

My first six months in India were by far the biggest challenge in adapting to working and living in a different culture. You either love it or hate it.

The best way to get things done as CFO? Have a great team full of people who are better than you are… then delegate.

My guilty pleasure, or should I say, “part of the job”, is a large gin and tonic.

My initial contract was with Thomson McLintock in Birmingham (now KPMG). At the time it was difficult for women to progress and opportunities to move around within the firm were limited. I enjoyed audit but felt the lure of being on the other side of the fence.

My first senior role was European financial controller for Albright and Wilson. The company didn’t have regional FDs, only the group finance director, so there was a huge amount of responsibility. It was very exciting.

The regular updating of excise duty has been a relentless lever for governments to help fill fiscal budget gaps. But governments so often overlook the negative impacts that this can have on consumer behaviour – most importantly, the decline in consumption, often leading to an overall reduction in tax collected, but also the stimulation of black market alcohol.

It is true that the alcohol industry has been stereotyped as male-dominated. But most consumer goods companies recognise you can’t grow your business without appealing to female consumers. You can only exploit this opportunity if you employ women to help influence and stimulate these debates.

Becoming CFO of United Breweries (UB) in India was a big hurdle. I was female, and foreign, and UB CFOs have always been local Indians. While the chairman, Vijay Mallya, had been very supportive of my appointment, it was hard being the lone voice representing all shareholders. The CEO of Scottish & Newcastle, Tony Froggatt, gave me some of the best advice I have ever had: “Always ask the right questions, and remember that the war was not there to be won so choose battles carefully.”



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