Case Studies

Interim role to cover maternity leave for fashion retail brand

Background

Our client is a world-famous luxury fashion and accessories retail organisation managing a number of prestigious brands from its UK head office in central London.

The company has 43 stores in the UK and also have reporting responsibility for three stores in Ireland and stores in three Scandinavian capital cities.

FD Solutions were brought into the organisation at a time of managerial change in the UK finance function: a newly-appointed UK Finance Director arrived from the overseas head office, the (recently appointed) Financial Controller was about to go on maternity leave, and there was a team of three Financial Accountants none of whom had more than five months’ service with the company. All this and a year-end looming!

Our brief was to support the UK Finance Director and to manage and support the finance team of 16 on a part-time basis (one day per week) during the Financial Controller’s maternity leave.

Year end accounts

Our FD’s first task was to supervise the management accounts closure for the December year end and to review the production of year-end audit schedules and consolidation packs for overseas group head offices.
Serious control issues arose during the audit. These resulted in a change of scope for the assignment and our FD was requested to commit full-time to the organisation for the remainder of the FC’s maternity absence. His responsibilities increased to address the underlying systems issues and improve the control processes within the head office finance function.

Key achievements

Eliminated manual keying – introducing ODBC procedures for collecting and collating data from the JD Edwards ERM system – greatly improving the efficiency of month-end profit and loss reporting per store and improved margin analysis.

Assisted the client’s staff – coached the finance team in new techniques to prepare treasury reports (eg downloading bank statements into Excel and automating the matching process) which enabled improved data analysis for day-to-day reporting and control.

Corrected system error – identified a major system error accumulated over a number of years in one of the smaller brands, relating to stock transfers/purchases from French stores. This had resulted in invoices raised by Paris head office (denominated in Euros) being automatically posted to the UK ledger with the same Euro figures – but into a sterling ledger. This had a ‘knock on’ effect on earnings and inter-company balances. The correction improved margins by £50,000.

Resolved inter-co issue – addressed an inter-company reconciliation issue with one of the major brands that had not been fully reconciled for 18 months. Applied sufficient pressure on the Italian Finance Director to result in two Italian accountants visiting the London office for three days to clear reconciliation differences.

Email fraud prevention – took an active role in reviewing and recommending improvements to control systems for the new e-commerce website, visiting the Paris HQ internet sales call centre and introducing innovative measures to detect fraudulent credit card users. We also introduced an action plan to learn from fraudulent transactions and to share the findings quickly with other group companies.

Irish VAT recovery – identified that the recovery of Irish VAT was not being recognised and organised the recovery totalling over £20,000 for a nine-month period.

Inaccurate accruals – identified that month-end accruals procedures were not effective (at the year-end, accruals of £200,000 were short by over £100,000) and introduced improvements to processes to recognise purchased services accruals by store.

Staff structure – At the conclusion of the assignment, we undertook the completion of staff appraisals and recommended proposals for a new structure for the finance team necessary to improve controls and workflow, which was adopted by the Financial Controller on her return.