It was only in late 2020 that Duncan Webster returned to Australia to take on his new role as the CFO of Mars Wrigley Australia, a leading contender in the Top 100 Australia Food & Drink Companies 2019 report.
Before his latest tenure on home soil, he was already a seasoned professional in the finance field having taken on various senior roles at the company since 2003. Most recently, Webster was the global chocolate business unit Finance Director of Mars Wrigley in Chicago for the past three years, and prior to this was the CFO for Mars Chocolate Australia.
It was only natural that his expertise would once again be called upon to head the local arm of the company’s financial growth. More than just a CFO, Webster’s talents and passion for his field has seen him take on a leading role in establishing the Mars University Finance College in Australia and New Zealand – an internal continuous professional development program that is available to Mars finance associates.
Webster has also said that his responsibilities today involve empowering his finance team to ensure that their position in the business creates value creation plans for all of Mars Wrigley’s brands well into the future. With a clear focus on the leadership aspects of his role, as well as the technical, Webster believes every team member should understand the area of the business they are supporting and how the business operates at every level, from the factory floor right through to the market.
"I find this is the best way to learn the ins and outs of our business, and it enables our associates to have more meaningful and credible conversations with our customers and stakeholders," Webster told CPA’s INTHEBLACK last year.
"By focusing on more than just the financial aspect of the business, our team – at all levels – can extend to add strategic value to the business planning process."
Flying solo isn’t an area that Webster has forgotten about himself. An integral part of his new role involves being a strategic business adviser to Mars Wrigley’s General Manager and broader leadership team. In this capacity, he is constantly partnering with different functional leaders to help identify areas of the business that can be optimised to uncover further improvements, efficiencies and growth.
And where does the idea of being a value creation architect come in? The leadership component, naturally.
"Position yourself as a ‘value creation architect’. Develop plans that are designed to maximise value by allocating resources in line with your long-term strategy growth," Webster told the CPA publication.
"To influence, you need to be collaborative. Learn the language of your internal stakeholders. Understand how you can develop and nurture key relationships in the supply chain and in the market to ensure you have a seat at the table and can influence core business strategy.
"Remember, you are more than a ‘bean counter’. The finance partner of the future is a partner, an educator, a capability builder, a communicator and a leader. Embrace technology and new ways of working – both are an opportunity to free up valuable time for more strategic and integrated partnership across your organisation."
And for those looking to enter the finance industry, Webster had some more sage advice – be patient in seeing career progression.
"You will learn a lot from the different roles and experiences you have throughout your career. The diverse experiences and the lessons you gain along the way will make you a much better CFO once you get there, so embrace the learning journey and be open to new situations."
Webster’s achievements, wisdom, experience and willingness to impart knowledge on the next generation is the reason why he receives top honours as The CEO Magazine’s CFO of the Year at the 2021 Executive of the Year Awards.