CFOs

Coworking with Bill Brundage

CFO of Ferguson Plc
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· 4 min read

Coworking is a weekly segment where we talk to CFOs and other leaders in the finance space about their experiences, their companies, and the larger economy. To be considered, answer a few quick questions for us here and we’ll be in touch if we want to feature you in the newsletter.

Bill Brundage is group CFO of Ferguson PLC, a multinational distributor of infrastructure products including plumbing and appliances.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How do you think the CFO role has changed over the past five to 10 years, both for you, and in general?

It’s become a much broader role. Beyond pure finance functions, the CFO role today is involved in all aspects of strategy and operations of the company. It’s also become a more technical role in areas such as governance, compliance, and ESG.

I spend a lot of time thinking about supply-chain strategy, diving into how we automate and make that more effective and efficient, how we deliver the best services to our customers through those supply-chain capabilities. So I definitely spent a lot of time in both the IT area and the supply-chain area outside of the core finance functions.

How do you make sure that everyone is understanding where the company’s going and what the priorities are, when they’re not as elbow deep in the numbers as a CFO is?

I think the first, first thing to do is really try to simplify because, you know, you throw out a lot of financial terms and abbreviations and metrics and KPIs, and people will glaze over and lose the real message. So really try to simplify, but maybe more importantly, take that simple message and tell a story with it. You can really craft a great story and use the numbers to tell the story of what’s happening in the business and then, what’s about to happen in the business and what people need to be thinking about for the future.

Is there a piece of advice or a piece of wisdom from when you were starting your career that kind of stuck with you?

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The vice president of finance who hired me into Ferguson early on said, “Hey, look, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to have a successful career. Don’t rush it.” Basically, take your time in every role that you have to learn everything you can out of that role. And it’s not just the core finance capabilities, you do have to learn operations. You do have to learn strategy. You do have to learn HR. And don’t try to skip through things too quickly; you really need to build that deep knowledge and experience along the way if you want to be successful long term.

How do you make the case for why to spend money on something that the company might need, even though the economic climate is a little uncertain?

What we try to do is really break our business down. We’ve got a pretty balanced business, where about 54% of our business is residential construction-based and the other 46% is non-residential construction. Within that residential portion, there’s about 18% of our business that’s linked to new residential housing construction, and the other 36% is residential repair and remodel. There are some clouds on the horizon in certain aspects of the business, but then there’s some real bright spots and other aspects of our business.

If you weren’t a CFO you would be...?

I’d love to run a business, or live out my childhood dream of being a professional musician.

Growing up, I didn’t necessarily always want to be a CFO or a finance person. I had a childhood dream at one point of being a drummer. I did play drums growing up, played the saxophone growing up. Now I just dabble with it on the side a little bit. It’s a fun way to let off some steam and to have a diversion from day-to-day stresses.—KL

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