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Interview with Jo Milner: Brakes Finance Director

Book open Reading time: 2 mins

We caught up with Jo Milner, Finance Director within the Commercial Team at Brakes Group, to hear what she had to say about their prestigious Finance Graduate Programme. 

When did you join Brakes Group and how does the Commercial Team function within the wider buisiness?

I joined Brakes in 2013 as the Finance Director for the Commercial areas, those being procurement and category. These areas are responsible for establishing and buying the range of products we offer to customers in a variety of sectors such as education, hotels, and restaurants. Other colleagues across Brakes work in areas such as sales, supply chain, operations and financial analysis and planning. 

What has your experience of this particular industry been?

The Food Service industry is different to any I had been in before; it is dynamic and challenging, and Brakes as a company has a great culture, I knew quite quickly that I would enjoy a career here. 

The company is dedicated to developing people and within a few months I took responsibility for the Finance Graduate programme and training in CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). 

How does Brakes Group approach training graduates?

We have an established, CIMA-approved scheme offering rotational placements around the business, coupled with a generous study package enabling graduates to succeed professionally and gain a wide understanding of our business needs. CIMA is our chosen finance qualification as it has the commercial bias needed in business and industry. 

On joining the business, our first year graduates spend time in the operational finance areas, understanding the fundamentals before going into three one-year placements where they will enjoy exposure to senior managers and take on more challenging roles as study progresses. 

For instance, one of my team is currently working on a project to measure market inflation using an external agency, applying it to our business to measure our competitiveness within the market, while other graduates are working on optimising delivery routes within the logistics network. As new graduates join the business we are building a close community where experience is passed on and buddies and mentors help with those softer skills. 

How do you ensure you are working with the very best talent?

We want to attract the best talent into our business, so selection is made through a one-day assessment centre which is designed to test commercial awareness, team playing, and working under pressure. The feedback we receive from candidates is that the day is well structured and fun, and of course we showcase our new food products for lunch, which always goes down well. 

I am very excited that our graduate programme is gathering momentum; now we're building a stream of professionals to become the Finance Directors of the future.