THE BIG PICTURE
GSK’s Director of Risk & Strategy, Audit & Assurance, Amanda Bradley, has a litany of impressive of skills, academic achievements and experiences behind her. She also happens to hold FCT status following her completion of the MCT in 2006, but when we spoke to her in December 2016, we found out her background extends far beyond treasury.
ON HER BACKGROUND...
Amanda Bradley’s career has been informed by the rigours of degree-level debate, her prowess as a championship-level rower and a fascination with psychology.
Her bachelor’s degree in religious history from King’s College, London helped her amass skills in assimilating information and presenting arguments, while her rowing abilities – she rowed at international level in her school years and beyond – was the decider in an early career choice when she observed that the teammates who most readily managed to continue in the sport were those who’d opted for accountancy. The MSc in Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy that she has just embarked on reinforces her focus on relationships and personal drivers as the underpinnings of how we interact in business and in life.
In fact, Amanda’s whole career to date has been full of lessons and a focus on development. She initially qualified as a financial auditor, before her love of biotechnology led her next to a role with GSK. Her first audit was of a treasury function, which she was immediately taken with. “I embarked on my first audit, saying: this is the most amazing function – and I spent the next two and a half years trying to get in.”
Amanda’s first treasury role was as treasury manager and 18 months after that she became assistant treasurer, international. She spent the next seven years in treasury.
Over that period, she was involved in GSK’s $9bn bond issue, a piece of work that she led on, putting together the company’s seasoned issuer profile in the US over six months, and witnessing first-hand the C-suite operating at optimum. “It was just a really good opportunity to see what it takes to operate at that level.”
Several different roles followed at GSK for Amanda, but she now spends time with other companies or at conferences researching risk areas and future working models, thinking ahead to how the A&A function will assimilate and audit them. In September, she investigated supply chains and slavery issues, talking to retailers, such as Urban Outfitters and Marks & Spencer, to learn about their experience.
More recently, she has been looking at machine learning, listening to companies like Amazon and Airbnb, to assess what is going to happen to working roles in the future and how that evolution will impact talent models in the future.
“Really my job now is to look at what is coming down the track five years from now in terms of the risks the organisation is going to face and to look at how we would go about auditing that. It’s one thing to learn about other models. It’s quite another to work out how you audit them,” she says.
ON HER EDUCATION...
Not only did Bradley love her years in treasury, she rates studying for the MCT as transformative. She believes it goes beyond other finance qualifications in that it gets behind theoretical models to really probe the economics and business fundamentals of any given problem. “It also focuses on risk in a very pragmatic way,” she says.
And she’s not finished with study yet, having recently embarked on her MSc. Transactional analysis is a psychoanalytic method of analysing social transactions as a basis for understanding behaviour and what drives individuals. It encourages a relationship-based perspective.
“The really astute individuals I’ve encountered have been the ones who really probe the ideas they don’t agree with, who pace around thoughts and ideas, and ask: ‘what else could we do?’” Bradley says.
"The MCT qualification gave me a platform for building a decade-long career in a brilliant part of the business.”
The main cornerstone of her job, she says, is to be curious, whether that is about risk, about the organisational structure of the division she works in or in coaching.
And she encourages team members to be curious also. “We see risk being really well managed when people are transparent, and also when they aren’t afraid to ask questions or to create thinking time to explore situations from multiple angles.”
Fortunate then that she seems to have a natural affinity with seeking out thinking time and providing others with that facility.
AMANDA'S TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- Never stop learning. There’s so much interesting stuff out there!
- Give back through charity trustee work. A treasurer’s skills are extremely valuable in the charity sector.
- Always ask “why am I doing this?” It stretches us to execute better as treasurers, to exercise controls more mindfully and to grow as individuals by paying attention to our behaviours and leadership skills.
- The MCT qualification gave me a platform for building a decade-long career in a brilliant part of the business. Applying what I’ve learnt through the MCT has given me credibility, particularly in M&As, to earn a seat at the table with senior stakeholders. That, in turn, has given me the kind of experiences that created interesting opportunities like the CEO’s Future Strategy Group.
- The secret to my career success is EQ – emotional intelligence is the lever for millennial business. It helped me build relationships and get through roadblocks in my time in treasury. It helps us build the connections we need to learn about future risk trends in my current role. It is the key to empowering talented people to deliver against strategic vision in ways I never imagined.
- The most difficult question my FD could ask is: what is the value at risk? In treasury terms, that used to be more straightforward. We have a principal, a counterparty exposure, a currency volatility to fall back on. Trying to quantify that into enterprise risk terms is a brilliant challenge and one I’m using my treasury and charitable sector skills to try and solve. What is the value at risk on an audit finding? Answers on a postcard to the ACT if you think you’ve cracked it…
- The best way to wind down after a stressful day is to turn off the work phone and spend quality time with my daughter until she goes to bed. Then I practise Bikram yoga. It’s hard to think about work while balancing n one leg in 40-degree heat!