News in Brief: EU reforms, employment, investment, CFO appointments

News in Brief

PM visits Brussels for crucial EU talks

David Cameron is holding crucial talks in Brussels, where he hopes to gain support for his EU reform demands.

The prime minister is due to discuss the renegotiation with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and senior MEPs, reported the BBC.

This comes ahead of a two-day summit of EU leaders, which begins on Thursday (18 February 2016).

EU Council president Donald Tusk said negotiations over the UK's demands were at a "critical moment" and warned the risk of break-up "is real".

Tusk is overseeing the negotiation, and was speaking after talks with the Romanian and French presidents as part of a tour of European countries ahead of the summit later in the week.

'Skills trump education on CVs'

Ten times more finance professionals check candidates’ skills and experience before looking at qualifications and education when reviewing CVs, according to research.

A study by recruitment firm Robert Half found on average, companies review 21 candidate CVs before extending an offer for an accounting and finance role.

However, one in 20 firms will review on average 100 CVs before making a job offer. The research highlights the importance many employers still place on traditional CV applications.  

With regards to the finance sector, the study found only 4% of those reviewing candidate CVs would look at qualifications over skills and experience. 

The average length of stay at each previous employer can have a significant impact on employability, as 25% of those recruiting accounting and finance professionals look at this first on a CV. The most recent role and job title is the first thing checked by 19% of recruiters. 

Phil Sheridan, managing director at Robert Half UK, said: “A high quality CV remains crucially important in the recruitment process and in many cases is still the primary factor as to whether an individual will even meet a representative of the company where they want to work.”

'Non-financial information is critical to investors'

Non-financial information must be as reliable as its financial counterpart for investors to make informed decisions, according to a report.

The latest report published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), ‘The journey milestone 4: materiality in assuring narrative reporting’, highlights the areas that assurance providers should focus on when establishing materiality levels, especially with regards to non-financial information.

Establishing ‘materiality’ - what information matters - is the first concern for assurance providers, who need to ensure that the content is relevant to investors’ needs and expectations. They then establish which items are “material” and how to test them, to ensure that there are no errors or omissions that could influence the decision of an investor.

Due to annual reports being overloaded with information, assurance providers and prepares must disregard items that are irrelevant to investors. The same assurance principles apply to both financial and non-financial information.

Henry Irving, head of audit and assurance faculty at ICAW said: “As important as financial statements are, business accountability is not based entirely on the balance sheet. Investor and others also want to know about company’s corporate social responsibility, carbon emissions, diversity or ethics. The diesel car emissions scandal is one perfect example that shows how important these non-financial aspects are.”

Irving added: “When establishing materiality levels preparers and assurance providers should focus on both qualitative and quantitative aspects. With regards to the former both should ask themselves, is this information decision-critical?” 

Merlin Entertainments poaches new finance director

A FTSE 100 theme park operator has poached its new finance director from veterinary drugs giant Dechra Pharmaceuticals.

Merlin Entertainments, the home of Alton Towers and Legoland, announced that Anne-Françoise Nesmes will leave her role as finance director of Dechra to take up the same position at Merlin, replacing Andrew Carr who is retiring in August 2016, reported the Telegraph.

Chairman of Merlin, Sir John Sunderland, said: "We look forward to welcoming Anne-Françoise to the board later in the year. Her extensive finance and international experience will enable her to make a significant contribution to our business as we continue to grow."

Nesmes joined Dechra in 2013 from GlaxoSmithKline and has also worked for Caterpillar, ADP, Tetra Pak and John Crane. During her tenure at Dechra she developed the company's financial strategy, including introducing "efficient tax and treasury solutions".

Zurich appoints CFO

Zurich UK Life has appointed Helen Pickford as its new chief financial officer.

Pickford will succeed Neil Evans in the role, who will retire at the start of April 2016, reported

She was previously finance director at insurance company Aegeas, and has also worked for insurance company Affinity.

Zurich has not revealed who will succeed former UK Life chief executive Gary Shaughnessy, who became chief executive of Zurich’s global life operation at the end of 2015. Jim Sykes is currently interim chief executive of the company.

Zurich UK Life made an operating profit of £113m in 2015 on the back of the sale of its stake in platform provider Seven Investment Management.

Sykes said Pickford would help the company continue to make a profit, and she would help to change the business in line with the pension freedoms introduced in April 2015.

Sykes added: “Helen’s broad expertise will be crucial as we adapt to the changing needs of customers in the new pensions landscape, and continue to drive the profitable growth of our business.”