Manchester / Finance

Head of Finance Operations

About Travel Counsellors

Founded 26 years ago, Travel Counsellors, the UKs largest network of independent travel agents has transitioned over the last five years from being owner-run to private equity backed, firstly by Equistone, in a £100m transaction where under Equistone’s ownership, the business was professionalised, the leadership team bolstered, and the company doubled in profit. Since then in 2018, Travel Counsellors was acquired by Vitruvian Partners, the private equity firm behind investments such as Skyscanner and Just Eat in a £250m transaction. With Vitruvians financial backing and wealth of knowledge and experience of business change and digital transformation we aim to propel Travel Counsellors toward even more greatness.

The company’s mission is to transform the travel experience for customers and the lives of its travel counsellors. Travel Counsellors’ aim is to ‘scale with intimacy’. The leisure market in the UK alone is a £6bn business, and Travel Counsellors is confident it will achieve impressive, profitable growth under its new owners with aspirations to become a £1bn business with profits of £40m in the short term, with longer term aspirations to reach £3bn+.

Supported by our colleagues in our head office and global support teams we have an impressive network of nearly 2,000 self-employed Travel Counsellors globally. The company operates in seven countries today: the UK, Ireland, South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and the UAE. Travel Counsellors is a disruptive platform that connects a global community of travelers with expert, self-employed travel advisors, who specialise in creating bespoke travel experiences for their customers and is as disruptive now as it was when founded 26 years ago ‘Gig economy’ before the phrase was invented.

In an environment where consumers are losing trust in brands, Travel Counsellors differentiates itself through building trust and intimacy with customers – 20% of customers meet their travel counsellor (TC) in person while the rest speak on the phone.

The business provides the technology and support platform to empower talented, ambitious entrepreneurs to change their lives and scale their own businesses, providing unlimited earning potential, increased flexibility and a highly personal and bespoke level of service. At the heart of the business is its people and the unique sense of community that the company nurtures across its territories, using its support platform that combines the very best talent with constantly evolving in-house technology. The result is a global, digitally connected group of hundreds of caring professionals sharing knowledge, support and expertise to provide their customers with the best travel experiences possible, achieving a customer recommendation level of 96%. All of this is achieve using a mix of off-the shelf and bespoke technologies in the core Technology platform, on a 24/7 basis.

Opportunity Summary

Taking a strategic role in the leadership and management of a highly efficient and responsive Finance Operations team (including accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger and commissions), you will play a pivotal role in driving pace and innovation throughout the department in line with our strategy. We’re aiming to digitally transform our business, improve service quality, cost-effectiveness, operational success, improve our support systems and create high performing teams and environments, therefore it is essential that you’re passionate about people/ process development and improvements.

Reporting to our CFO you will be responsible for shaping, driving, developing and executing both strategic and operational plans as we move towards a more established shared service centre. Ensuring conformity with all relevant legal and statutory compliance, you will be comfortable operating with small and large change initiatives in fast paced, corporate environments to improve the overall business performance.

Customer Success and the whole customer journey is at the heart of the Travel Counsellors business model therefore a fundamental priority, it’s key to our growth and long-term success. By working closely with, and taking the views of our most valuable assets (in our case our Travel Counsellors) we will embark on a journey of change, altering the way we work operationally to produce the maximum results whilst retaining, and continuing to protect our company’s DNA and protect the special culture we operate here at TC.

Over the past decade, digital channels continue to grow at a progressive rate, closing the gap on traditional enterprise customer care and service. Digital messaging has overtaken the need to talk, as more and more customers admit to texting more than they talk on their phones. Where our TC’s have previously used a small number of single channels to call us they now want and need more as they are opting to use a variety of channels depending on geographical territory, age, and other preferences dependent upon their capabilities. We know we must adapt or be left behind.

We’re looking for a Head of Financial Operations who knows what good looks like, a strong leader who can embrace change and make constant improvements to the way we do things. You will be comfortable with digital transformation and possess a demonstrable track record of successfully leading large and varied teams within challenging, KPI driven environment.

The fundamental question is simple, how do we retain the human and personal feel that we’ve operated for so long at TC as we start to invest in breakthrough technologies and experiment with more artificial intelligence, chat-bots and move towards a more ‘self-serve’ support function, in an ever changing, fast paced digital world which is rapidly gaining pace?

It’s inevitable that we require much more flexibility in our approach, moving away from the traditional single channel, single communication style. We want to invest in ideas and technology that will be useful and not harmful to our business and what better way to develop and grow our business and brand than to bring our Travel Counsellors (our users and representatives) and their customers on that change journey with us, helping them to understand the rationale behind our business decisions and closely manage their reactions to change.

Core Accountabilities and Responsibilities

As Head of Finance Operations you’ll be responsible for:

  • Leading the Finance Operations team in the delivery of defined, high quality services to agreed performance and cost targets.
  • Agreeing and establishing SLAs (with agreed baselines and service levels) and a monthly service management framework that reports progress against KPIs.
  • Establishing supplier-customer relationships with key stakeholders.
  • Driving change and establishing a culture of continuous improvement based on Lean and Six Sigma principles.
  • Leading the delivery of high-quality business analysis and management information to identify and present coherent and consistent rationales for change, with detailed outcomes and benefits,
  • Leading the recruitment, performance and development of quality staff to ensure that the required skilled staff are available to manage a range of core business support processes.
  • Driving the cultural change within Finance Operations to move to a high-performance framework.
  • Bringing in best practice from the start and good ideas from other leading Finance Operations teams.
  • Establishing and maintaining a robust internal control environment.
  • Supervising and supporting the development of the Leadership Team reporting directly into this role.
  • Being the figurehead for Finance Operations with key stakeholders to manage expectations and ensure that service level performance is good.
  • Continuously looking for ways to improve processes with a goal to heightened efficiency and automation. Establishing the scope for Finance Operations to use advanced analytics and robotics to improve service provision.
  • Working with the transformational leaders to align with our digital transformation and implementation of new processes and technology as we shift towards a ‘self-serve’ support environment.
  • Implementing new innovative ideas to further aid the company’s disruption of the traditional agency model by enhancing the existing platform which currently supports over 2000 Travel Counsellors in seven countries.
  • Ensuring that transformation projects are hitting key milestones and are running to time and budget.
  • Implement and execute an innovative, growth focused Finance strategy based on operational efficiency & effectiveness to meet the expectations and requirements of the Travel Counsellors and their customers globally.
  • Attend Senior Team Leadership team meetings to translate and communicate changes across the business.
  • Driving the strategy for the Finance department, constantly driving for improvements and efficiencies.

Previous Experience

  • Experience of leading a fast-paced finance operations team during a significant period of change
  • Prior experience of system implementations and significant Finance change programmes
  • Experience of leading large teams through change would be advantageous
  • Comfortable leading large gatherings and townhalls to drive effective communication
  • Ability to lead from the front and drive lots of change alongside continuing to provide excellent service levels
  • Good experience of coaching and supporting a leadership team containing senior level accountants/process owners
  • Ability to create and maintain effective relationships with senior stakeholders within the organisation
  • Experience of implementing advanced KPIs and dashboards as well as analytics
  • A strong background in Lean Six Sigma methodology
  • You will have knowledge of service and quality management methodologies, stakeholder management skills and the ability to maximise revenue opportunities.
  • Experience of getting the best out of others and comfortable with delegating and empowering others.
  • Previous experience of working within an entrepreneurial based business where you have demonstrated your ability to develop new products and exploit growth opportunities.

Qualifications

  • Qualified ACCA, ACA, or CIMA or similarly recognised accounting qualification
  • Lean / six sigma skills would be an advantage.

Skills

  • Great leadership and organisational skills, able to manage and deliver multiple products and projects simultaneously against tight deadlines
  • The ability to identify/define and problem solve
  • We operate with pace at Travel Counsellors, so you’ll need to be comfortable working in an agile and fast-paced
  • You should also be an effective manager of people with excellent leadership skills and the ability to motivate and develop the staff.
  • Comfortable operating strategically at Board level
  • Budgetary planning and management experience
  • Ability to work under pressure, manage your time effectively and work on your own initiative.
  • Excellent analytical, decision making and problem-solving skills.
  • Self-motivated, ambitious and determined.
  • The ability to develop and execute Operational Excellence across the business.
  • Strong empathy for customers AND passion for revenue and growth

Personal Attributes

  • A charismatic, confident yet humble leader
  • You will not be afraid to use your voice to challenge or reinforce the status quo
  • Naturally positive, engaging and collaborative with the ability to take people with you to deliver a vision
  • Open and curious, willing to test new avenues that seem to offer viable alternatives
  • Comfortable with ambiguity, flexing constantly in a rapidly changing environment
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment and can balance long and short-term challenges
  • Ability to translate strategy and creative ideas into action plans
  • Action oriented, able to spot opportunities and engage the right people and create plans to makes things happen.
  • Able to drive the idea of using digital technologies to maximise impact on our operational success.
  • Genuinely interested in how customers and tech interact, now and in the future
  • You will view innovation as a priority, be forward thinking and customer focused
  • Ability to think ‘outside the box’ and develop alternative strategies to resolve customer issues

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