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  • Romesh Jeyaseelanayagam

The Contemporary FD Conference 2022

Updated: Sep 26



It was great to attend “The Contemporary FD” Conference recently, hosted by Evelyn Partners and Equity FD. The presenters and subject matter were engaging, relevant and developmental. It was also a pleasure to be present at an in-person event!


Areas covered were wide ranging & topical for the audience of CFOs & FDs - including fundraising, exits, start-ups, ESG, dynamic budgeting & the impact of inflation.


Interviews with prominent CEO’s (Saasha Celestial One, Olio) and Group FD’s (Vineta Bajaj, Ocado) were complemented with Panel discussions with relevant experts on Fundraising, Director Dilemmas, and US Expansion guidance, as well as an interview with Kitty Ussher (Chief Economist, Institute of Directors) which gave a broad view of where we are in the economy.


Some of the highlights have been expanded upon below.


Saasha Celestial One, Olio


It was fascinating hearing more about an organisation which is so focused on doing good, whilst also determined to be profitable. The growth story of harnessing passionate people and supporters to become invested and get the message out there was so interesting.


Insights included the ongoing evolution of monetisation - plans have and will continue to change as new strategies are tested and evaluated. It was striking to note that Olio will only employ individuals who clearly demonstrate a true passion for the mission.


Selecting the right Investor/NED


Selecting the right investor is crucial - after all, your organisation is your baby and you want to ensure you are working with the right partner who can support and contribute in the most effective way. It's not just about how much are they willing to invest.


It's important to research your potential investors and understand how they plan to work with you. A critical question to ask is - can they add value? How will your investor react in times of adversity? Are you able to question them on this and obtain any historical evidence or precedent?


In terms of Non Executive Directors, find those who can make a significant contribution to the strategy and direction of the business. Research again is important - make sure you do your homework.


For both Investors and NED's, try and speak to parties who have already worked with them to obtain meaningful testimonials/recommendations.


US expansion


It is important to establish clearly why you intend to enter the US market. It is not a decision to be taken lightly .


Expanding in the US will cost more than you think, and is complex. There are multilayered compliance demands which need to be navigated and understood - eg city, county, state, and federal tax requirements. Seemingly simple tasks such as opening a bank account can take months. Hiring the right people can be tough - individuals are generally better prepared than other markets and typically interview very well - making it harder to differentiate.


The upside to expanding in the US is of course significant. Consider your market pricing - it is often possible to charge more in the US for your product or service. You can raise more investment and if you have a great product or service, you have the opportunity to make a lot more profit due to the size of the market. You also have a good chance of achieving a better exit.


It is recommended that you expand in the US first before you start a fundraising process (if this is one of your goals) - this will strengthen your chances of success. Regulated Fintech is harder to grow quickly in the US compared to the UK due to various challenges. B2B SaaS businesses generally find it easier to obtain funding.


Fundraising


Typically, the following is a broad guide to each stage of fundraising.


  • Seed Raise - local

  • Series A Raise - national

  • Series B Raise - global

Economy


The main takeaway here was that inflation is expected to settle down in around 18 months from now. UPDATE: this presentation was made before the very recent government mini-budget, which will most likely have an impact on inflationary expectations.



Many thanks to the organisers for an excellent event and networking/learning opportunity!

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