Chief Finance Officer

Job Title: Chief Finance Officer
Contract Type: Permanent
Location: Cheshire East
Salary: Competitive salary and generous pension
Reference: 10070
Contact Name: Claire Wheelhouse
Contact Email:
Job Published: December 23, 2019 12:06

Job Description

This is an ideal role for a talented and influential finance leader who can work at operational and strategic level to deliver excellence and change in a complex international environment.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a global project to build a multi-purpose radio telescope that will play a major role in answering key questions in modern astrophysics and cosmology.  Thirteen countries are now participating in the project, with others engaged in discussions regarding possible membership.  Facilities for the new telescope will be located in South Africa and Australia, with our headquarters in a purpose-built building at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, UK.  SKA HQ currently houses around 90 staff but has just undergone a major expansion to accommodate up to 150 staff as the project moves towards construction and operation of the SKA telescopes.

Negotiations between the governments of SKA member countries to establish the SKA Observatory as an Inter-Governmental Organisation (IGO) have recently concluded; the IGO is expected to be established in late 2020.

The Role

This is a new high-profile leadership position in what will grow to be one of the world’s largest research infrastructure projects; the successful candidate will lead the Finance department at a strategic level, as well as overseeing the application of the company’s Finance Policies and Procedures. The post holder will report to the Director-General and be supported initially by a small team of 3 staff at SKA Headquarters.

The establishment of this role presents a unique opportunity to be involved at a critical time, as the company transitions to an IGO, and the global project moves from the conclusion of its design activities to construction.  The postholder will require the vision and drive to plan and then establish the necessary future financial and commercial requirements of the SKA Observatory as it enters operation, while acting as the financial leader for the delivery of a multi-million Euro cutting-edge research infrastructure.

In line with the evolution of organisation, the successful candidate should be a high-potential individual with the capability in the future to take on a broader commercial leadership role as required.

Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

  • Work closely with key stakeholder groups to develop a finance operating model and new financial procedures and processes for the future IGO;
  • Provide high-level financial advice and guidance to the Director General, senior managers, the Board and its relevant sub-committees;
  • Develop and maintain strong working relationships with external parties including project partners, Intergovernmental Organisations, advisors, contractors and suppliers;
  • Ensure effective cross-functional working by the Finance team, and in particular with HR and Procurement, to contribute to the development of financial planning across the company;
  • Lead and manage budget management and business continuity planning for finance, including risk analysis, mitigation and recovery;
  • Ensure that company financial systems are robust, compliant with best practice, and support current activities and future growth;
  • Ensure that relevant regulatory requirements are met;
  • Manage and develop the Finance Department and its functions, including financial accounting, management accounting, cash flow and treasury management, compliance and control, audit, payroll and pensions;
  • Oversee the the implementation and on-going development of the new ERP system;
  • Provide visible leadership to staff, setting clear direction, developing and motivating staff through change;
  • Travel both inside and outside of the UK as necessarily required by the position.  It is anticipated that the need for travel will be infrequent; and
  • Undertake any other reasonable duties as directed by the Director-General.

Mandatory Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • University degree or equivalent in finance, accounting, business administration or a related area;
  • Qualified member of an internationally recognised professional finance-related body or equivalent;
  • Proven track record of working in an international context with internal and external stakeholders, building effective working relationships at all levels with people from a broad range of national and cultural backgrounds;
  • An influential communicator with commercial acumen and a track record of operating effectively at a strategic board level or equivalent;
  • A highly motivated strategic leader with an analytical and enquiring mind, able to identify and deliver effective changes to meet organisational needs now and in the future;
  • A technical expert with an in-depth knowledge of financial management and accounting principles, laws, strong 'hands on' financial analysis, budgeting, forecasting and reporting skills and working knowledge of financial controls and risk management;
  • Knowledge of foreign currency transactions and associated risks;
  • Strong IT skills and open to new technologies;
  • Able to work effectively at operational level to develop a small team to deliver excellent operational services, whilst also operating effectively at strategic level;
  • A leader with high integrity and openness combined with commitment to good governance, equality and diversity and sustainability; and
  • A flexible team player who collaborates effectively with other functions and is adaptable to change.

Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Experience of interacting with public bodies such as universities, research organisations, local and national government departments, etc;
  • Experience of research grant funding;
  • Experience of managing, and accounting for, in-kind contributions;
  • Experience with procurement in an international setting;
  • Experience of managing subsidiaries from a finance perspective;
  • Experience of facilities contract management;
  • Proficient in the use or development of ERP systems, ideally Unit4 Business World; and
  • Experience working with distributed staff located in remote locations.

Equal Opportunities Statement 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are at the core the SKA's agenda and we are committed to being an equal opportunities employer. Our aim to is recruit and retain the most talented individuals, regardless of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, religion or nationality. 
Women have traditionally been under-represented in the fields of science and engineering; SKA Organisation welcomes and encourages female applicants.  
Where applicants with a disability need facilities or adjustments to enable them to participate in the recruitment process, these will be provided.