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University College London (UCL) is London’s leading multi-disciplinary university, renowned for their world-class research, influence and impact with an annual turnover of c£1.75b.
Allen Lane has enjoyed a long and successful business relationship with UCL, and has partnered on many key appointments. Notable key appointments include the Chief Financial Officer, Director of Accounting Services, Director of Financial Planning & Analysis.
Following an internal review, the decision was taken to recruit a high profile Head of Financial Strategy who would play a lead role in maintaining the new financial strategy for the whole organisation. Allen Lane were engaged once more to lead the search.
The Head of Financial Strategy would work with the senior leadership team to embed the new financial strategy, support its ongoing communication with key stakeholders, and ensure that the Financial Strategy shapes the future financial plans of the University. They would play a lead role in supporting the implementation and realisation of Financial Sustainability activity through the development and delivery of multi-year budgets from 2023/24.
This high-profile role required significant engagement with University Management Committee members including the Provost, CFO, Vice President Strategy and Vice President Operations, as well as academic and Professional Services colleagues across the University.
Allen Lane undertook a detailed brief with the hiring manager and relevant stakeholders to determine the skills and ideal background of the candidate sought.
It was determined that UCL were looking for a fully qualified accountant with demonstrable experience of leading the team to develop the financial strategy in a complex environment. What made this brief even more interesting was that UCL needed a credible finance professional, comfortable with leading, operating and influencing at senior management level. In particular, be able to demonstrate a high level of oral and written communication skills. Thought and consideration was given to where these skills would come from and if outside of the higher education sector, which would be most transferrable.
Written communication skills were of paramount importance as part of the role would require the incumbent to write compelling narrative and reports to support and influence the most senior stakeholders, such as the Provost and Academic service leaders, with financial decision making. There are not many higher education institutions or indeed organisations of similar scale and complexities to that of UCL who would have this type of role so it was quite a specific search. It was agreed that profiles of candidates from Central Government departments have worked well in the organisation. This was partly due to the standard of communication required from high level finance business partners who are supporting Ministers with making financial decisions, and writing the supporting papers. This was factored into the headhunting and search. Owing to Allen Lane’s extensive track record of supplying senior finance professionals into Central Government, we were able to effectively identify key players in Government departments who would be relevant.
Allen Lane undertook the first stage preliminary interviews with identified candidates who were then interviewed extensively by UCL.
Happily an appointment was made to a candidate who not only gained their relevant experience within a Central Government department, they also had exposure to the HE sector. The appointment of this critical role will ensure that the financial strategy is aligned with UCL’s strategy and strategic plan, ultimately securing financial sustainability for the future of UCL.
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