Duncan Burgess’ “number one passion” in his role is people. “You could put in the best process and/or technological solutions, but if people in the business and finance team don’t believe in it or understand it, it’ll fail.”
“So, success always comes back to the people,” says Duncan, who is a Global Finance Director.
One of Duncan’s favourite aspects about being a Global Finance Director is the opportunity he has had to develop and build the finance teams.
Developing a finance team
He really enjoys understanding what motivates the people in his teams, then aligning this motivation to help transform the finance function and the business together.
As Duncan says: “The thing that I get the most fun out of is the development of my finance team, I love to see them grow.”
To enable this growth, Duncan believes every person should be actively working to replace themselves thus giving everyone in the team room for their development.
“We shouldn’t be trying to protect our jobs, we should be trying to find our successors – we should all be continually developing.”
This attitude has been a hallmark of Duncan’s career, where he has worked in many different financial roles across different industries.
Duncan’s journey in finance
Duncan, who is Canadian, began his career working for Ernst & Young Canada. This provided great grounding, he says, particularly in financial accounting. But he soon transferred to the UK to take advantage of its wide range of opportunities.
He joined oil and gas company BG Group in their budgeting and forecasting team to broaden his management accounting and reporting experience. This provided a great grounding once he took on the Financial Controller role at a division of Kodak.
He then moved to the security construction technology company ICx Technologies as division controller. Here he was responsible for the finance functions of 12 smaller companies throughout North America.
“What I learned from most of my roles is that in order for finance to be really successful, you have to be ingrained in the business.”
“You have to enable your function to work alongside the business to be successful.”
Beginning his role at Gett
After a few other job roles, he became UK finance director at taxi transport and technology company Gett in 2018. He later became Managing Director, then Global Finance Director Of Transformation where he was able to assist the company’s future IPO.
“When starting at Gett, the finance function was a mess for various reasons, so we built a finance team, fixed the problems and created a financial foundation to enable financial partnerships to the business.”
“This included a financial structure that delegated financial responsibility throughout the business rather than just at the top,” says Duncan.
“This meant everyone felt empowered to make the appropriate decisions to drive the company’s profitability”
“By the time I left Gett in April, we had basically reversed the loss-making situation – we went from considerable monthly loss to an opposite monthly profit in three years.”
Global issues affecting finance
This was also throughout the pandemic, which Duncan describes as a very interesting time to become an MD. After building this success, the company decided it was at a great stage to do an IPO.
Duncan then built a global transformation team, aligned to local markets. The project was on target and the whole team was excited about the roll-out of the transformation to the SOX control environment. Then Russia invaded Ukraine.
“One of our major regions was Russia so we could not continue with the IPO given the uncertainty of future operations within Russia.”
“It also did not help that the markets for the vast majority of technology companies completely plummeted.”
”So, it just didn’t make sense to move forward with the IPO anymore,” he adds. “It made no sense for me to stay around for that given the IPO was delayed.”
However, Duncan says he is now looking forward to his next challenge after taking some time off through the summer where he finally had the opportunity to get married, which had been disrupted by Covid.
“I want to get the right opportunity – something I’m passionate about because you put a lot of yourself into it”
Duncan’s Power Profile
What music empowers him?
“I’m a huge fan of movie soundtracks. They’ve been composed to create an emotional response and it does that for me, if you’re watching the film or not. So they inspire me often, they can lift my mood and change it based on what soundtrack you’re listening to. Kingdom of Heaven or Gladiator are excellent ones, or Blue Planet from the BBC for something calmer.”
“But my favourite music, not for work, is dance music. Something with a rhythm and energy.”
Who is his hero?
“My wife Natalie, who helps me have more balance in life which helps me be more productive. She encourages me to do different things and not just working – no matter how passionate you are about it. It’ll make you more effective in the times that you are working.”
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