A good finance team doesn’t just focus on payroll, tax and fiscal reporting, but it also helps guide the company in making strategic business decisions while bringing fresh new ideas to the table.
This, says Marie Charpentier, VP of Finance at data collaboration platform InfoSum, the company behind ITV and Channel 4 Data privacy tech, is the essence of the modern-day finance function.
“We need to move away from seeing finance as a support team,” she says.
“It’s about being a strategic partner to the business and working closely with business leaders.”
“I’m quite commercially-minded, so it’s important to work alongside heads of departments and senior management and advise them on the best course of action and the financial impact business decisions will have on certain teams and on the company itself.”
Driving financial systems’ efficiency through technology
Marie, who has worked in New York, Paris and now London across various finance departments of international technology businesses, says her main focus is around leading efficiencies to help drive business strategy and ultimately, business growth.
A big part of this is around accountability and full financial transparency: which areas are still prone to human errors? Which requires modernising? Which needs entirely new systems and process overhauls?
“At InfoSum, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at how we can automate and digitise some of our core processes, such as payroll, invoice payments and payments received,” Marie explains.
“Payroll in particular was initially done by a third-party provider and invoice approval was entirely manual. All of this is now automated and in-house.”
“One of the challenges when you are a small team is managing the segregation of duties which is a key principle in financial control.”
“In order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, we decided to improve our process by adding a touch of technology.”
“Our invoice processing tool was enhanced by an add-on that created a workflow for invoice approval. Payments themselves were previously done manually by InfoSum’s finance assistant. This initially took one day a week, entering sort codes and bank account numbers, and was inevitably prone to human error.”
But, says Marie, this too has been transformed. Payment details are now uploaded automatically and the time spent by the finance assistant has decreased to just one hour per week.
“That, in itself, has been a big gamechanger,” Marie says.
Automation is key and expanding R&D
Automation allows us to focus more on career and professional development.
“We hired our finance assistant for an account payable role initially but thanks to the efficiencies and automation we’ve made across the function, she’s been able to take on much more of a management accountant role.”
It’s not just efficiency and automation which Marie has focused on since joining InfoSum, there’s the R&D investment side of things, too.
Since she joined the company in early 2021, the finance team has grown under Marie’s leadership from a team of 1 to 5.
Marie has also helped drive business expansion into a further five countries: Germany, Italy, France, North America and Australia. For an SME like InfoSum, this is quite a feat.
Marie’s journey at InfoSum
“InfoSum’s focus on going international was why I wanted to join the team,” Marie explains.
“I enjoy working with companies where either they want to expand to new territories or they already have plans to. That willingness of going international, the ability to work with different cultures and people is what drives me. In fact, during job interviews, I always like to ask ‘do you want to expand abroad?’ The multinational focus is really important to me.”
It’s also because Marie likes a challenge. She thrives in roles where there is lots to implement and lots to set up.
“I like to solve problems,” she says.
“Finance is a really interesting function. We get to work with everyone, we get to see the bigger picture but also have a really granular vision of the company. That’s what I really like.”
“Yes, there are days or situations where things are very stressful, that comes with the territory of leading a finance team, but once you find a solution, it’s a great feeling.”
Marie’s Power Profile
What music empowers her?
“Music is a mood booster for me. I’m not fond of any particular group or particular artist, but I like anything that has a good vibe.”
Who is her hero?
“My mother. I’ve actually realised that since becoming a mother myself, that mums are superheroes. My mum has always been dedicated to her work as well as raising myself and my sister. I always think 24 hours to do everything in one day is not enough.”
Want to meet other forward thinking finance leaders like Marie LIVE?
Then come join us at GENCFO’s first live event in The North, the Debate, on July the 14th. We are delighted to be hosting our popular networking, drinks and debate evening in Leeds.
Join our thriving community of finance professionals at this invitation only event, hosted at the Maven Club in Leeds at 18:30.