Julie Brown is the Chief Operating and Financial Officer at Burberry, a successful high-end fashion company headquartered in London. Julie’s powerful position within the financial sector has led to her role as Patron of the Oxford Women in Business Society, encouraging women to follow her lead and permeate a career route dominated by men. Julie’s success and eagerness to encourage young women interested in business leave little doubt as to why she can be considered an influential woman.
What is your role within Burberry?
Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer, which means I have responsibility for running the Global Finance Function in Burberry, together with dealing with investors and the stock market. I’m also responsible for Information Technology, Risk Management, Audit and Business Continuity. In addition, I’m responsible for the Transformation Office which supports our strategic transformation and our shared service centre (Burberry Business Services) in Leeds.
Did you know that you wanted to work in the financial sector from a young age?
I knew I wanted to work in business from an early stage and decided to pursue professional qualification with KPMG, which I felt was a great foundation.
What made you want to work in finance?
I felt that finance allows you to gain real insight into a Business and also contribute to improving a business’ performance. I enjoy business partnering roles and I’ve also benefited greatly by moving into Strategy, Business Development and Commercial roles during my career. I feel that finance provides a great foundation and platform for growth.
Do you think that women face more obstacles in the finance sector than men?
Women tend to be in the minority in finance, with less than 10% of FTSE 100 CFOs being female. I think women faced more obstacles initially, but it has improved over the years. Companies now appreciate the need for flexible working, for both men and women with young families and many companies also have policies to promote diversity and inclusion to protect the interests of women and other groups. I am a great advocate of women in business and in finance and enjoy making a difference by taking part in OxWIB and also the Princes Trust.
Women tend to be in the minority in finance, with less than 10% of FTSE 100 CFOs being female.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
It starts early and ends late… I’m writing this at 11pm! I’ll take today as an example, it started with seeing my CEO regarding targets for the year ahead; we then did a call with the top 200 Leaders at Burberry where we shared information on recent company progress.
Then, I had a meeting to review customer insights and product performance ahead of our full year results announcement and finally, carried out two business reviews, covering our Americas region and then our Digital business. I always try to make time for my family and exercise, so tonight also involved a spinning class at the gym and dinner with my family.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to enter the world of finance?
I would certainly advise obtaining a professional qualification from the Institute. The qualification is specialised but also broad, and I have used the professional training so many times during my career as I’ve called on different aspects such as accounting, tax, international standards, audit and corporate finance. I would join one of the Big 4 professional firms to provide a firm foundation and have the benefit of seeing multiple industries and then select the one that means the most to you and move into industry. I love working in business as you can make a real contribution to a company’s success through partnering.
How did you end up being the patron of Oxford Women in Business?
I really enjoy being part of OxWIB. It started with me being asked to speak at a OxWIB event about female leadership. It led to a lengthy Q&A and I really enjoyed listening to the dilemmas and offering help and advice. This was followed by a call in which I was invited to become Patron of OxWIB. I thought it was a wonderful honour, although I did suggest that maybe The Duchess of Sussex or The Duchess of Cambridge may be a better choice! They decided to settle for me and I’m very glad they did.
What is your favourite thing about working for Burberry?
I love the brand. I have an intrinsic interest in our product – I believe in it. I think that’s really important when selecting a company to work for. We have a clear strategy and we put our customers at the heart of our decision making.
We are on a journey and it’s great to be part of a transformation and the next chapter in Burberry’s evolution. And I also love the people I work with – we have a fantastic team of talented individuals who I am always learning from.
Image Source: Burberry Group PLC courtesy of Julie Brown