Interview with David Jones, finance director, New Balance
David Jones joined New Balance/Warrior Sports as finance director in January 2012. New Balance is a leading global athletic products company, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. New Balance is a family of brands including Warrior Sports. Georgina Crompton of Page Executive’s CFO practice speaks to him about his career to date, areas of opportunity for the New Balance business and retention strategies.
What have you focused on since joining the New Balance business?
New Balance is an established and leading global athletic products company, headquartered in Boston in the US, with over 100 years of heritage and huge potential for accelerated global growth. Since joining in January 2012, I have spent time getting to know the New Balance people and the product, understanding where New Balance is heading strategically and the milestones to be achieved on that journey.
As finance director, the breadth of role is such that a business-wide understanding is essential. Knowledge of the market dynamics within which New Balance operates so effectively and key external stakeholder relationships are both very important.
What attracted you to join? What are the key areas your role will involve?
The depth and duality of the role proved a compelling proposition – financial responsibility for the EMEA region of New Balance, combined with responsibility for the new Warrior Soccer business (Warrior being an existing brand within the New Balance brand portfolio).
New Balance has a rich heritage and history, with Warrior Soccer being more entrepreneurial in nature, yet hugely high profile within New Balance globally – particularly given the six year kit supply deal with Liverpool Football Club commencing in the 2012/13 season.
In terms of key areas of the role, they are: helping strategically find new paths to grow and analysing performance, being a facilitator of process change and cost management, mitigating and managing risk and delivering positive change through fresh thinking and value added decision-making.
Where are your main areas of opportunity to grow the business? How do you differentiate yourselves from the competition?
For New Balance, 2012 is very significant with the London Olympics and the associated brand marketing opportunity. We have embarked on a TV advertising campaign this year in the UK for the first time, and are sponsoring the ‘British Milers’ – the Team GB guys hoping for success in the Olympic 1,500m event. The appetite for the brand is stronger than ever!
In addition, as a key point of differentiation from other global athletic product companies, New Balance supports local domestic manufacturing, both in the US and the UK – with over one million pairs of footwear produced each year at the manufacturing facility in Flimby, Cumbria.
With Warrior Soccer again the potential is huge, with the Liverpool Football Club deal the first step in a longer term football strategy. The Warrior brand proposition will be very different to competitors in that marketplace and we view this as vital to the success and appeal of the brand moving forward.
What are the priorities for your business and how is the finance function helping to achieve them?
With New Balance, we continue to strive for ‘responsible’ growth, protecting the brand identity whilst simultaneously developing a sustainable cash generative business model. From a finance perspective it is important we are a proactive business partner, supporting the wider business, providing a framework for reporting and forecasting whilst safeguarding the assets of the business.
For Warrior Soccer, 2012 is ‘year one’ of a strategic soccer plan, and it will be vitally important during this time to appropriately leverage the existing New Balance infrastructure as a vehicle to reduce the cost base and accelerate the rate of growth. Finance will be integral to planning the structural economics of the Warrior Soccer business, monitoring performance and working collaboratively with cross-functional teams across the organisation.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
During my time as financial director of IGT-UK Group, we completed three acquisitions in six months. The integration work effort was intense with many different challenges business-wide. From a finance perspective, not only were we involved in the deal structure, but following deal completion we had to ensure visibility of the performance of each business, whilst at the same time changing reporting systems, moving physical locations, restructuring headcount and introducing new performance metrics. It was a busy time!
Similarly the sale of the Barcrest Group business in 2011 from IGT Inc. to NASDAQ-listed Scientific Games Corporation was equally intense a process – extremely challenging but rewarding at the same time, culminating in my winning the North West ‘UK Young FD of the Year’ award in November 2011.
Is retention still an issue in the current challenging economic climate? How do you retain your top performers?
My experience is that, over the last couple of years, people have been less inclined to move roles in an uncertain marketplace, and have valued job security at least on par with an opportunity for progression. That said, ensuring the retention of top performers business-wide is always critical.
My approach with top performers is to ensure they feel both challenged and empowered to make decisions within their daily roles. The opportunity for career development needs to be evident wherever possible.
Tell us a little about your plans to develop your own career? Where would you like to be in five years time?
My career to date has progressed well – with almost six years of experience gained in financial director roles at a (relatively!) young age. My next immediate priority is to make a positive contribution to the New Balance/Warrior Sports business and I am hugely excited by the role, the people and the opportunity this presents.
Beyond that, I am by nature ambitious, and keen to continue to develop and progress at the rate I have enjoyed over the last ten years!
Brief career history:
2012-present: New Balance/Warrior Sports – FD
2011: Winner of the NW UK ‘Young FD of the Year 2011’ award
2007-2011: IGT-UK Group – FD
2002-2006: MyTravelUK – various finance to senior finance roles
Previously: Graduated with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Accounting and Economics from the University of Manchester and qualified as a chartered accountant with PwC in Manchester.