Sarah Quinnen from CFO advisory firm Novo Altum shares what they look for in new recruits and much more


If you're a consultant with a strong work ethic who would thrive in a real-time coaching culture that fosters a high-performance working environment, then CFO advisory firm Novo Altum might be a good fit for you.

"Our advisors are comfortable operating within a highly collegiate and collaborative way of working to focus our collective capabilities to deliver unparalleled success for our clients," says Head of Talent Sarah Quinnen. "If this resonates strongly, then they will most definitely be in the right place."

We recently checked in with Sarah to learn more about her company, how they help their clients and what they look for in new recruits. Here's what she had to say:

Tell us about Novo Altum. What services do you offer? Who should be using them?

Novo Altum is the award-winning specialist finance and risk management advisory firm. We act as the trusted adviser to both the Chief Financial Officers and Chief Risk Officers of the world's leading organisations.

When we are engaged by clients facing significant business challenges, the role that they often ask us to play and which will often add the most value is that of "trusted lieutenant" - i.e. to provide the critical thinking, practical solutions, and structured intervention and to bring precision and certainty during implementation. We know how to transform and improve the finance and risk functions of their systems to deliver greater business performance. This is where we will add the greatest value and impact for our client's organisations - in fact, it's where our teams have established their reputation.

What sets Novo Altum apart from other business consultancies out there?

Our values are as important as what we deliver for our clients. We put our client's interests above our own; and if we cannot add value, then we decline an assignment. We will never put ourselves in a position where our ability to provide impartial advice is compromised. We recognise that the quality and value of our work will only be measured by the lasting impact it achieves.

Also, we are committed to finding and retaining the most talented and experienced individuals to serve our clients and to develop their knowledge and capabilities. We celebrate the complementary skills and divergent perspectives that analytical and creative people bring. Equally, we treat our clients, our colleagues and our competitors with respect and professional courtesy because we believe this approach creates an atmosphere of complete trust in which collaboration and success can thrive.

What are the most common frustrations or concerns your clients come to you with?

The challenges facing Chief Financial Officers and Chief Risk Officers continue to be demanding and diverse, ranging from business and functional strategy, through transformation, change and systems implementations programmes to increasing regulatory and compliance requirements. Often acting as that "critical friend," we are experts in defining pragmatic solutions that will exactly meet their requirements, and our passion is in delivering precision and certainty throughout execution to ensure that the stated benefits are realised.

Tell us about your position at Novo Altum.

I am the Head of Talent for Novo Altum and my responsibilities are threefold:

The first is a focus on talent acquisition. We are an ambitious firm - exceptionally so - and we intend to grow seven times our current size over the next five years.

Second is talent management. I advise our management teams on how best to realise our people's potential, enhance their mastery skills and capabilities, and ensure that our highly professional work force demonstrates our corporate values each day. As an entrepreneurial firm, we foster and encourage career acceleration; and I work with the management teams to deliver a coaching culture that will enable accelerated career advancement to be a real prospect for all employees.

Finally, I work with the leadership team to ensure that our culture and values are embedded and maintained into our organisation whilst we transition through this period of growth. Our corporate values of Respect, Integrity, Entrepreneurial Spirit, Comradeship, Mastery, Work Ethic and Courage are extremely important to us; and we are keen to ensure they are fully integrated into our firm, employees and interaction with clients.

What do you look for in potential hires?

The first thing that we look for is whether a candidate is able to demonstrate a real understanding and commitment to living our corporate values. On a more practical level, our advisors tend to have at least 10 years of relevant experience in the finance function and/or consulting arena. They must have the "technical" know-how and "scars on the back" grey-haired experience to understand and address complex finance and risk issues. We prefer that our advisors are practitioners capable of demonstrating mastery and competency in more than one area of finance or risk; as a specialist firm, they will work across many disciplines. They must have "advisory" expertise to drive through change, project manage and manage senior stakeholders.

What types of experience would you like to see more job candidates bringing to the table?

I would like to see more candidates that are willing to invest their skills and expertise to contribute to growing a firm. It is more an attitude of energy, aspiration and entrepreneurial spirit.

Are there particular universities that you favor?

No, on the basis that we tend to only hire experienced hires and so their experience post university is of more relevance to us. We are, however, very happy to take individuals who are completing an MBA programme, ideally from one of the top 10 U.K. business schools.

What are the first assignments you typically give new consultants?

It depends on the level of the individual and their respective skill-sets. Whilst we encourage an individual to take on more responsibility each time to learn and develop, we would always ensure that on their first project, an advisor will have the support of a more senior member of the team to work with.

For those looking to get into management consulting, why should they consider Novo Altum?

We are a supportive organisation that offers a coaching culture with relevant training and development. We will support them to become an effective advisor to Chief Financial Officers and Chief Risk Officers. We do not impede promotion for our high-performing individuals, therefore offering significant career acceleration and growth. We also offer respect to all of our employees and would like to think that whilst we encourage hard work and adding a contribution to the firm, it is a fun and rewarding place to be.

Start browsing consulting jobs at