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Ford & Stanley Executive

Opportunity Brief: Head of Finance

Ford & Stanley Executive Search (Part of the Ford & Stanley Group) are specialists in Executive Interim and Permanent appointments to the UK & North American, Rail, Engineering and General Manufacturing Industries.

We have been exclusively entrusted and appointed by Sperry Rail on a retained search for a Head of Finance to help drive the continued timely and accurate production of the financial accounts. 

Below you will find an ‘opportunity brief’ developed from notes taken during the scoping meeting (Situational Discovery) held between the Business Manager of F&S Executive Search, Senior Consultant of F&S Executive Search & the Global Controller of Sperry Rail. This brief is designed to give candidates a deeper insight into the opportunity inherent within the role, the challenges the role presents and provide access to the detail that sits behind the job specification.

Client Opportunity Statements:

“Integral to the continuous evolution of our accounting capability is the hiring of a Head of Finance someone who will report into the Global Controller and take control of our financial accounts and our finance team for both the UK and a number of our international subsidiaries (including but not limited to Australia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and France).”

“The position “Head of Finance” will play an essential role in the continuous improvement of our finance teams culture, whilst also being given autonomy and responsibility to help implement further improvements to the processes and procedures to further streamline our capability.”

“Ultimately, this individual will be joining at the perfect time to consolidate the progress made over the past two years and continue to build a culture of transparency and positivity across the team. 

Challenges expected within the first 12 months include:

  • Although we have made significant improvements to the culture over the last three years, there is still ground to be gained and the incoming Head of Finance may encounter some resistance when driving change.
  • Sperry Rail is notorious for their high work volume and fast paced nature, it will take some adjusting for the incoming candidate to thrive.
  • Although the team are working hard to modernise systems and processes, it’s good to be aware that this isn’t a finished project and there are still further improvements to be made.

Key deliverables within the first 12 months include

  • Drive a positive and empowering working culture across the finance team. 
  • Retain 100% track record of filing accounts accurately and on time.
  • Add value across the Sperry Rail business through dedicating time to improving processes and procedures outside of core responsibilities.

Agreed Hard Skills for candidates to secure an interview:

  • Qualified ACCA/ACA/CPA.
  • Will have previously led a finance team with a mixture of abilities. 
  • Will display practical experience with financial accounting.
  • Have sufficient previous experience in a similar role to enable them to ‘hit the ground running’.    
  • Show an ability through their track record of being able to juggle tasks and switch focus at short notice in a fast-paced environment.
  • Completely ‘computer literate’ with capability on excel and accounting platforms.   
  • International accounting experience (Ideally in multiple countries), complete with an understanding of different accounting standards and regulations.
  • We are open to industry background provided that candidates meet the above criteria.

Desirables – US accounting experience is not essential but would be highly advantageous.

Agreed Soft Skills for candidates to secure an interview:

  • Open and honest communicator, some would say ‘over communication’.
  • Resilient and able to thrive in a fast-paced environment with a high workload where change is constant and often at short notice.
  • A natural interest to develop processes and procedures to add value.
  • A degree of executive maturity, including communication, time management and resilience.
  • Ability to work autonomously.

Good to know:

  • The management team at Sperry Rail has been working hard to drive a positive culture change throughout the business and significant progress has been made.  
  • Worth noting that because of the focus and work from the finance team, Sperry Rail’s accounts were all filed on time this year. It will also be the responsibility of the incoming candidate to ensure this remains the case.
  • A new inventory model & system has been implemented to alleviate some pressure on manual processes.
  • The incoming candidate will have the opportunity to add significant value to their CV & experience by getting involved in a variety of tasks and working towards a succession plan in the business.
  • In addition to the accounts being filed on time, Sperry Rail have been able to recover a significant amount of money in overpaid tax.
  • The role has responsibility of finance team in the UK and will be essential in the positive development of its working culture. 
  • The Global Controller and the team have been working diligently to make changes to the accounting system to enable Sperry Rail to submit their accounts and associated requirements correctly.
  • There have been a number of changes in the finance team of late and this has been used as an opportunity to restructure and streamline the capability.
  • The UK has a number of subsidiaries (And associated branches) within it, including – India (Not trading), Australia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, France, Lithuania and Belgium (Total value of ~ £20m).
  • Potential to travel on occasion (America, Germany).
  • The expectation is that this role is autonomous, and the individual can manage their own workload and deliver on time and to standard.
  • The culture being created within Sperry Rail is one of honesty and overcommunication. Within an autonomous team it is vital that challenges, potential problems (And of course wins) are communicated effectively and on time. This allows the team to plan accordingly to tackle potential issues and ensure standards remain high.
  • Worth noting that whilst the company doesn’t operate ‘hybrid working’ there is Ad Hoc availability on a case-by-case basis.
  • Sperry Rail are working diligently to improve the efficiency of their systems and modernise certain elements present, this project is not yet complete. There will be the opportunity for the incoming candidate to add value in this area also.
  • Sperry Rail currently relies heavily on Excel and as such there will be the expectation that this individual is proficient with it.
  • This role will report into the Global Controller.
  • The expectation is that this incoming candidate will take on work that in turn will free up capacity elsewhere for others to drive and add value.
  • There is a significant opportunity for this individual to contribute to the improvement of wider processes and procedures.

About Sperry Rail:

Sperry Rail Service is a rail inspection company founded in 1928 by Elmer Ambrose Sperry . The company was the first in the world to offer non-destructive testing of railroad track. Since its formation, Sperry has been contracted by most of the major railroads in North America to inspect rail. To accomplish this task, the company operates a fleet of rail service vehicles that travel along railroads to detect defects.

For 85 years, Sperry has been the world leader in Rail Health® solutions, helping railroads achieve continuous safety and performance improvements. Our integrated full-coverage solutions are designed to detect more defects in less time, so you can resume operations quickly. Inspired by the passion of our founder, Dr. Elmer Sperry, the inventor of the first non-destructive method for testing rail, Sperry is committed to delivering fit-for-purpose Rail Health® solutions that make railway travel safer and more reliable for everyone.


  • Salary Brackets – Low £70,000/ Mid £75,000/ Top end £80,000.
  • Pension – 3% contribution matched.
  • Private healthcare (individual).
  • 27 days holiday plus bank holidays.

Likely Job Titles:

“Financial Controller, Head of Finance, Senior Accountant, Financial Accountant, Finance Manager, Finance Director”

Working Arrangements & Location:

Sperry UKs offices are based just outside of Derby’s City Centre. There will be an expectancy for the successful candidate to have an onsite presence in the office 5 days a week, however the business is happy to be flexible where appropriate. 

Executive Search Delivery Team:

  • Tom Norton – Business Manager (Client recommendations/Advisory, negotiations, headhunting and interviewing)
  • Billy Jackson – Managing Consultant (Headhunting, search, research, longlisting, and interviews)
  • Ralitsa Kuzeva – Executive Research Associate (Diary Management, coordination, candidate experience)

About Ford & Stanley Executive Search:

At Ford & Stanley Executive Search we go beyond a recruiting transaction with our core mission being that of every interaction we have with clients and candidates is best in class. We are select in the opportunities we represent, as such, work under strict exclusive and retained search assignments with forward-thinking and proactive global companies that place their trust in our ability to deliver a winning shortlist at the first time of asking.

Our Search Directors (who are themselves members of the F&S Group Board) and our in-house research team invest time at the front end of process with our client’s leadership team or stakeholders to consult, understand the opportunity inherent within the role, business need, map and agree timescales with supporting delivery plan well in advance of conducting the search.

All candidates both active and passive (head-hunted) can expect full and professional engagement from the Executive Search team in addition a timely, thorough and engaging recruitment process from a committed employer that seeks to secure ‘cream of the crop’ from a busy and noisy candidate market.

Ford & Stanley Group Ltd is committed to a policy of equal opportunities for all opportunity seekers and approach all opportunity with a mindset of who is right for the job irrespective sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, age, disability, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief or political beliefs and we place an obligation upon all staff to respect and act in accordance with the policy. We shall adhere to such a policy at all times and will review on an on-going basis all aspects of recruitment to avoid unlawful or undesirable discrimination.


    • Job type: Permanent
    • Location: Derby
    • Date posted:
    • Salary:£75000 - £80000

    This opportunity is being managed by:

    consultant photo

    Billy Jackson

    Managing Consultant


    Telephone 01332 344 443