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Charlie Edge on becoming a flexible Finance Director

Charlie's helping several tech firms fulfil their potential, all from the comfort of his sitting room.
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Charlie Edge is a flexible Finance Director at his brilliantly named personal practice, Cutting Edge Finance. But his taste for light-hearted humour belies a shrewd mind and incredible aptitude for helping businesses grow.

With experience working in multinational professional services, Charlie turned freelance in 2020 — but not because he lost his job. No, for Charlie it was a passion for steering exciting startups through turbulent times and onto massive success that precipitated the switch. 

At the time of writing, he’s helping several tech firms fulfil their potential, all from the comfort of his sitting room. For those in the finance space looking for a more flexible career path, the following interview must surely be the first port-of-call.

Can you give me a run-down of your career so far?

I started my career proper at Deloitte in 2012, working in audit. After that, I moved on to more forward-looking, value-add roles in startups, SMEs and entrepreneurial businesses. Going that route allows you to join at an early stage and be thrown in at the deep end. I love a challenge, and in that period, I did everything — oversaw raises of £30 million, helped startups pivot into new areas, you name it.

Most recently I moved to contracted, flexible roles. Being able to work with numerous different companies and people at once is really energising. There’s nothing I love more than meeting founders and learning about their story, their challenges, and how I can help them. 

Currently, I’m working with a seed-stage insuretech business that will move to Series A later this year, a risk management technology platform, and an arthouse tech company that’s currently raising.

To what extent did COVID lead you to move into flexible work?

Not massively. However, it did facilitate the move, in some ways. Let me explain… 

I’ve seen so many bad finance contractors that are terrible at maintaining a personal relationship with their clients. My spiel is ‘I’m outsourced, but I want to be as present as if I was in-house’. 

In the pre-COVID world, I imagine my clients would have wanted everyone on-site, which wouldn’t have worked for me. Can you imagine zooming around London in Ubers all day? But with everyone now working from home, I am able to balance several contracts and be as present as anyone else in the team.

“Being able to work with numerous different companies and people at once is really energising.”

I’ve also benefitted from a recent shift of startups and scaleups getting business intelligence, and data and finance professionals, in at an earlier stage. Plus, the uncertainty of COVID has made the finance function even more high-value — they’re the ones who can really help guide you through complexities and read the tea leaves. 

If you could give your past self a piece of advice prior to going flexible, what would it be?

Do it! Everything that I expected, has happened. I should say, though, that I knew my organisation would need to be first-class, so I started using Asana and other tools to help plan my work before I even signed my first client.

Actually — I need to check myself there! They’re not ‘clients’, they’re partners. I stay with these people through pivots, growth and all the rest of it, I’m there for the journey. I’m not an in-house finance lead, but I’m as close as one can be — maybe you’d call me ‘conservatory finance lead’? Is that a bit of a stretch?

What’s the future of finance looking like?

Something that’s been on my mind recently is how some founders have a slightly dim view of finance, that it’s just the engine room of the business — how people get paid, how reporting gets done.

Those tasks, the nitty-gritty, will become automated in the coming years (take a look at this Juggle piece on how AI is affecting recruitment). And what will be left? Well, the aspects of finance that really add value, those that are centred on data, modelling and commercial strategy. That’s where my strengths lie.

“They’re not ‘clients’, they’re partners.”

I use an acronym for how I work: D.I.I.D. First, you take the data, which you convert to information, which gives you insights, which assist decision making. So many people stop too early — many even stop at the data stage! Very few get to the decision-making stage, which ultimately drives me. That’s my foundation in my work. 

For more insight into switching to flexible work, check out this piece that focuses on Talent Manager Saj Rasul.

Toby Douglas-Bate

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