Five minutes with… Philip McDonald, Chief Financial Officer at Thor Group Ltd

17th June 2024
Richard Guest
Associate Partner & Head of Practice

In our latest ‘5 minutes with’ Richard Guest, Associate Partner and Head of our Procurement and Supply Chain Practice, spoke with Philip McDonald about his role as Chief Financial Officer at Thor Group Ltd.

Tell me a little about your career to date

Having graduated with a degree in Modern Languages and Accountancy, I began my career with Gillette in London as a financial analyst in 1994, before returning to the northwest in 1998, to join NSG Pilkington. Here I spent five years in a variety of Group finance roles, systems implementation,  Shared Service Centre design and SAP design and implementation. In 2003, I was offered the opportunity to move to Spain, as the country Finance Director for Pilkington’s Automotive division, and spent four years living and working in Valencia. I returned to the UK in 2007 and spent the next six years within the Group’s Architectural division, firstly as UK Finance Director and subsequently as BU Finance Director regionally and then globally.

In January 2013, I left NSG Pilkington after 15 years to join Crown Paints, as Finance Director. Crown had recently been acquired by Hempel A/S (Global Danish coatings group) from private equity ownership; my role was to integrate the business post-private equity into Hempel and deliver on the growth story and finance transformation. By 2018, with Crown performing well, Hempel decided to growth the Decorative segment further and much of my next 5 years was spent in various due diligence processes. We were relatively successful over this time, acquiring businesses in Germany, France, UK and Australia. This saw Hempel’s Decorative business grow from €200M turnover to €800M by the time I left, in November 2022.

I joined Thor Specialities that same month as its first-ever Group CFO.

Is there a role in your career which has been pivotal to your success?

I would pinpoint three roles, for three different reasons, that have been important throughout my career. Firstly the SAP project at NSG Pilkington was invaluable as it gave me a really good understanding of underlying business processes. When you design and implement the SAP CO module you need a really good understanding of how business processes interact…how finance dovetails with procurement and manufacturing, how manufacturing and maintenance work together, how the supply chain operates and the wider MRP process etc…

Secondly, moving to Spain: this was a self-contained country Finance Director role for a very busy manufacturing facility, with an active trade union and extremely demanding automotive client-base. Working in a different culture and in a different language pushed my family and me outside our comfort zones, demonstrating our ability to adapt to new surroundings by taking on new challenges. We loved our time in Spain.

Thirdly will be my time leading M&A deals with Hempel, where I gained a new perspective on how value is derived and the importance of truly cross-functional due diligence processes.  The intensity and exhilaration of working as part of a deal team and an integration team are something I hope to experience again.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received? How has it shaped you both as a leader and as a person?

Someone once told me “The only bad decision is indecision. Make the decision, give clear direction and then get out of the way” and I try to remind myself of this every day. Indecision causes uncertainty which leads to inertia. If you have the right people around you, if you agree with them where you want to get to and you are available along the way should they need you, then they will generally deliver.

How crucial is the role of procurement to the ongoing success of Thor?

Procurement has always been a critical function for Thor; as a manufacturing business we rely on our suppliers delivering to us on time, to the quality expected and at a competitive price. We employ procurement professionals at our key sites who are integral to the success of the local operation. We nominate strategic procurement leads for our key raw materials to drive efficiencies across the Group.  However, we believe we can go further, with central leadership, by truly globalising our approach to procurement and further capitalising on our scale.

Procurement is crucial for Thor’s future success, presenting a tremendous opportunity to make a lasting difference to the business.

Tell me a little bit about the exciting opportunity you currently have in your team.

I joined 18 months ago as Thor’s first-ever Group CFO – joining a c.€700M global business, with a footprint across 18 countries and sales into 120 countries worldwide. Historically, we have worked as a very decentralised, entrepreneurial group of 14 legal entities and we have been hugely successful with this approach.

However, the Board recognises the value to be derived from providing centrally coordinated drive and leadership to certain functions across the Group.  Since my appointment, I have recruited Group Heads of Audit & Risk, Digital Transformation and FP&A, and we are now looking to transform procurement within the group, by appointing our first Group Head of Procurement. This is a fantastic opportunity for the successful candidate to devise, develop and implement a procurement strategy for Thor globally.

Full information about the role and information on how to apply can be found here https://berwickpartners.co.uk/opportunities/assignment/91753/

For further information about the work we do in our Procurement & Supply Chain Practice. please contact Richard Guest.

Categories: Procurement & Supply Chain

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