My journey as an AIM-listed Deputy CEO and CFO

Nicole Burstow has recently been appointed Deputy CEO of DSW Capital plc. She is also its CFO and an Executive Director. At the time of DSW’s listing, she was one of the youngest CFOs with an AIM-listed company. We take a look at the unique challenges she faces in the role and discuss her views on the role of a CFO as a career choice.

My journey as an AIM-listed Deputy CEO and CFO

What’s been the most challenging aspect of your role?

Our listing on AIM in December 2021 was an amazing achievement. It provided DSW Capital plc, owner of the Dow Schofield Watts brand, a platform to accelerate the growth of the network by building a brand profile and providing capital.

However, a vast amount of work went into the IPO process. We embedded new financial and operational controls, overhauled our risk management framework, standardised internal processes and established a governance structure to comply with the QCA code. There was intense scrutiny from advisors to ensure we were ready for the IPO and could deliver the standards required of an AIM-listed business.

What are you most proud of?

I led a team of just five to support the IPO, which raised £5 million to invest in the growth of the business – it was a key moment. We were one of the last IPOs to get away in 2021 before the market effectively closed in 2022; the investor roadshow and book building was a really challenging process, particularly given the size of our business. However, investors believed in the potential of the model. The IPO has helped to boost the profile of the Dow Schofield Watts brand and increase our client base to benefit our existing licensees and attract prospective licensees.

Tell us about your career path.

I joined DSW in 2019 originally as the Group Finance Director to oversee the transformation of the business in preparation for the IPO. Previously, I’d been with Deloitte for over 15 years in roles including Director and Audit Senior Manager. I was fortunate to gain significant experience leading the audits of PLCs, international groups and PE-backed businesses, as well as in financial due diligence, IPO readiness advisory, assurance projects and accounting advisory. I was also heavily involved in talent management and was part of the Deloitte Women in Leadership Programme.

I enjoyed the variety in my role but decided the Partner route wasn’t for me, which was when DSW approached me. I immediately saw how the model would appeal to people like me at the ‘Big Four’, and the prospect of building a platform that provided an alternative career option for ambitious finance professionals to launch their own businesses was really exciting.

What are your current priorities?

I want to enhance the quality and breadth of support we provide to our licensees while leading on our strategic recruitment and integrating new licensees. Our aim is to be the most sought-after location for ambitious, entrepreneurial professionals to start and develop their own businesses.

What does your role involve?

I’m responsible for the financial health and strategy of DSW and, as an Executive Director, have additional fiduciary responsibilities. I engage with investors and analysts, build relationships with shareholders and help communicate our financial performance and strategy. I really enjoy contributing to DSW’s growth and working in a dynamic, fast-paced environment  – it’s a great fit for me.

What advice would you give to a budding CFO?

If you have a strong background in finance and enjoy working with financial data, being a CFO enables you to leverage your expertise in areas like financial planning, budgeting, forecasting and risk management. If you enjoy leading and mentoring, the role can provide opportunities to develop these skills. CFOs wear many hats, so if you want diversity, you’ll find it very rewarding. Being a CFO of an AIM-listed company brings additional challenges, such as regulatory scrutiny and the need to manage investor expectations. Still, it’s a role that aligns with my career goals and values and has led to me being appointed Deputy CEO.

On a lighter note – do you have a hidden talent?

I asked my children (aged seven, nine and twelve) for ideas on this one. Apparently, I am great at maths homework, make the best smoothies and spaghetti carbonara, and I’m unbeatable at Monopoly!

And do you have a secret claim to fame?

The Stone Roses filmed their ‘One Love’ video in the yard of my parents’ haulage business. I was nine then, and my Dad had met their Manager in a pub – he said he needed a large open space to film a video for the band’s new single. The band had cups of tea in our house, and John Squire drew a caricature of me and my two younger brothers – unfortunately, I’m not sure where it is now!