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CFO Spotlight

Chris Tham | Bailey Nelson

Founded in Bondi Beach in 2012, Bailey Nelson has changed the face of the retail eyewear sector with its outstanding customer service and stylish prescription glasses and sunglasses.

Passionate employees and high-quality products all contribute to an amazing retail experience. Today, the company boasts over 70 boutiques in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada. Read more about the Bailey Nelson story.

Check out what Bailey Nelson’s forward-thinking CFO, Chris Tham, had to say.


In short:

  • At the board level, CFOs are expected to have a greater understanding of technology platforms than ever before.
  • Offshoring is increasingly being replaced with automation.
  • Finance talent should focus on developing soft skills like relationship building and storytelling.
  • Modern CFOs must forge strong relationships across the entire business to succeed.
Chris Tham, CFO, Bailey Nelson
“It’s a lot of people skills, and I do view 5-10 years from now, the reporting will be better, the technology will be better, information will be more accessible, so all that stuff will be given to you – what do you do with it? How would you use that to engage with other team members? How would you use that to tell a story to the market? That’s more important. Those are the things that are harder to teach.” Chris Tham CFO, Bailey Nelson
Bailey Nelson business

Q&A

How has the CFO role changed over the years?

Chris Tham: I guess I would say that in the current role that I have today, I probably spend 30 to 40% on numbers and pure finance. But the responsibilities I have are much broader than that of the traditional CFO. Within my portfolio today I have responsibility over merchandise planning, inventory management, IT, commercial operations and property—so a much broader kind of remit. I also support in helping with the business expansion in North America as well.

Do you think the CFO’s role in the boardroom has changed?

Tham: The expectation is that we have much stronger influence in understanding the digital world we operate in and the technology platforms and solutions that are available today than [we did] before. I think there is an expectation from the board that the CFO will weigh in on those things and be able to influence and direct technology and our data strategy.

Bailey Nelson finance

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing?

Tham: For me, it’s balancing the level of investment required in the business to keep up with the speed of how things are changing. I think it’s important for a CFO to be at the forefront of where technology is, and where trends are shifting, how consumers are evolving and making sure that we are protecting the investments that are required to drive the business.

Do you think that will change over the next decade?

Tham: I do expect the speed of solutions and technology to evolve, and how the company keeps up with these changes [will shift] so that we are able to evolve rather than being stuck.

Has technology eased the load on your finance department?

Tham: Accessibility of information for me as a CFO is a lot quicker and easier than in the past. I don’t have to ask someone to send me a report. I just have to log in and pull it myself and I can be anywhere. That’s a big difference from 10 years ago where I'd have to ask someone to send a report or print it. Now it’s available when I need it.

How will technology impact CFOs in the future?

Tham: What I’m seeing now in the broader finance operations space are different levels of finance automation. At one point we were thinking about shared services and moving things offshore where there is cheaper labour. But now we are skipping that since there is technology or robotics. I’m curious to see how that evolves and what’s going to be available.

What are the most important relationships a CFO has to build to ensure business success?

Tham: I think I must have strong relationships with the entire leadership team. The beauty of the role is that I get to work with everyone in the company, especially within the leadership team. Forging strong relationships with the CEO and other functional leaders in the business is critical. I think finance can add value in every single department in the company, and we’re often leading planning meetings and strategic planning sessions.

Which skills will the CFO of 2030 need to develop?

Tham: Some of the critical ones will be communication, relationship building and storytelling. Obviously, you will need to have a foundation—which is the numbers—but how you tell a story to investors, how you engage with the board, your ability to develop relationships with other people in the company and how you’d gain their support [is important]. It’s a lot of people skills, and I do think 5-10 years from now, the reporting will be better, the technology will be better, information will be more accessible, so all that stuff will be given to you – what do you do with it? How would you use that to engage with other team members? How would you use that to tell a story to the market? That’s more important. Those are the things that are harder to teach.

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