360-second Interview

Claire McClune, Finance Director, VMLY&R Commerce

Just ten years after Simply360Search found Claire her very first finance role as Commercial Analyst for the fabled ad agency Fallon London, she is Finance Director of WPP’s thriving creative commerce business VMLY&R COMMERCE, a role she took on in January. Here she shares some of what she’s learned along the way.

Beyond governance and figures, how can finance team members best contribute to a company’s success?

I think by understanding the business. Governance and accounting are super-important, but my heart lies in the commercial aspects of finance, so I love partnering with all aspects of a business to push us forward and grow. When I started at Fallon I learned so much, everyone was so open and helpful, so I got to partner with lots of colleagues outside of finance and really learn every aspect of what the agency did. You have to be hungry too and really go after opportunities and build your network and knowledge. 

Is that an outlook you look for in new candidates?

I’m impressed by people who want to really get stuck in and understand the business, not just report numbers and work off Excel spreadsheets because those things only tell you half the story. I look for someone who is asking questions about what we do and how, what we are proud of, where do we want to take the business. Having a good, strong culture across an agency makes such a difference and good finance people can be a key part of that. 

What challenges are you dealing with currently in the wake of all the pandemic’s disruption?

Like pretty much every agency and company, we’re trying to work out what ‘the new normal’ looks like, and how best to transition to a new, hybrid way of working. And the last year has taught us so much that I think is helping us to work differently and work better. We have a weekly team call with everybody where anyone can raise any challenges they are facing. And I think this has built a really safe environment where people can be more than their office personas, be open and honest about things they may be struggling with, and it has taught us to be more sensitive to and supportive of the diverse ways individuals work at their best.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had? To get a mentor. I’m really lucky, for around three years I’ve met once a month with a really good mentor within the business. They are more senior than me and sit outside of finance, and their outside perspective has been really helpful through my career progression. As I’ve become more senior, I’ve had to take on different challenges and learn to let go of certain things and embrace new ones, and their coaching has helped me work out how to approach that. I don’t think I’d be quite where I am now without it.