Finance to lose 93 jobs by 2014

Zarin Patel Zarin Patel: Losses will be 'hard to bear'

Ninety three finance posts are to go by 2014 as Finance division shapes up for the future.

Staff numbers will fall from 372 today to 279 by late 2014, with most of the losses taking effect in 2013.

The redundancies will help deliver 10% cost savings; a further 10% will be saved in operational costs - particularly through the retendering of the contract with Steria, which provides financial transaction processing services to the BBC.

Zarin Patel, chief financial officer, accepts that the announcements will be 'hard to bear' for some and may involve 'difficult personal choices' for others. 'I regret that,' she says.

But a balance has to be struck, she continues, between 'the finance function we want to be and the finance function we can afford'.

'Very logical'

Divisional finance staff - who are embedded in divisions throughout the UK - will be cut by 32 from 91 to 59. Cardiff will lose 26 of its 179 jobs, while Central Finance will shed 17 posts from its current team of 60.

The 35 finance staff working within World Service and Monitoring, meanwhile, will fall by 18 when they are integrated with the rest of BBC Finance in 2014.

Patel promises to redeploy staff wherever possible and to provide training and support where needed.

'Finance folk are very logical,' she tells Ariel. 'They understand we have to make changes, but they have to be treated as individuals. It's their lives, their jobs and their connection to the BBC that is threatened. I want to make sure we treat everyone fairly, transparently and with compassion.'

The slimmed down structure is part of the division's Finance Effectiveness proposals - announced on Tuesday after a wide consultation process which involved staff.

The plans focus on the need for simplicity, improved systems and a new breed of BBC accountant.

There will be a single way - 'not ten' - of accounting and reporting, Patel explains, with all such activity carried out in a new centre of excellence in Cardiff under a new Cardiff-based director of centre.

For some presently based outside of Cardiff this may involve the relocation of their jobs; for others, the loss of elements of their workload, Patel says.

'Accountants love their numbers, but where that part of their work can be run as a process elsewhere, they can spend more time analysing, understanding business needs and understanding creative ambition.'

She wants her accountants to add greater value to the BBC through more insightful financial analysis. And she wants them to develop additional skills, such as communication and influencing people, and to build relationships with other parts of the BBC.

As such, a more systematic learning and development programme has been developed for staff. Job rotation, job mobility and secondments will also be encouraged towards the drive to 'create more satisfying jobs and career development'.

Real learning

'You get your professional qualification, but the real learning comes when you are coached through the difficult stuff at work,' Patel considers.

Time will be freed up for development through improved systems and a more streamlined approach. 'I will be keeping my eye on simplicity,' claims Patel. 'Finance can sometimes make it too hard.'

The new SAP system, through which invoicing and payment takes place, is a case in point. Patel hopes it will be implemented in late 2013 or early 2014, replacing the 'clunky' existing system with ease of use and improved functionality to people across the BBC.

'Buying will be easier, processing will be easier, and it will be magic nirvana for managers if they can get all the financial information they need every morning in just three clicks.'

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