INTERVIEW: Sally Jones scales up as Luxaviation CFO

Tell us about your career to date?

I joined ExecuJet in 2007 as group finance manager. I became group finance director in 2012 and was made chief financial officer in 2015, after ExecuJet became a part of the Luxaviation Group. This role saw me responsible for monitoring the financial performance of ExecuJet as a whole, performing business analysis, putting business plans together and obtaining finance for new acquisitions and developing areas. I was made chief financial officer of the Luxaviation Group in May 2017. Prior to my time with ExecuJet and Luxaviation, I worked for Reuters in various finance and project management roles. I was initially based in London, before transferring to Switzerland in 1998, where I progressed to head of finance.

What does your current role entail?

Typically, I can expect to spend my time compiling internal and external reports for the Luxaviation Group, monitoring performance against financial targets and overseeing cash and risk management policies and procedures. I work with a team of six direct reports and the regional finance directors/ chief financial officers and together we ensure the group is functioning efficiently. Although I’m based in Zurich, I regularly travel to Luxembourg, where part of my finance team and most of the Luxaviation management team are based, or to one of our facilities or other offices. I’m often meeting with banks or other financial institutions or advisors, who help Luxaviation fund acquisitions and expand projects.

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What changes have you seen at ExecuJet since its acquisition in 2015 by Luxaviation?

Becoming part of the Luxaviation Group has been really positive for ExecuJet. The company benefits from economies of scale that offer significant cost-savings in areas such as fuel, fixed base operator fees, insurance and pilot training. We are also able to offer customers access to a combined fleet of approximately 250 business aircraft worldwide, meaning increased aircraft availability and a broader range of models. Due to the increase in staff, we can pool valuable experience together from peers who have faced similar challenges – whether in operations, regulatory compliance or marketing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the variety of my job and the inspiring people I interact with on a daily basis. I have regular deadlines for weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reporting, but the rest of my role is hugely varied, be it discussing financing options with banks or reviewing a business plan for a possible new FBO. Interspersed with integration projects and normal cash management tasks, no two days are the same. And I am lucky enough to deal with a variety of fascinating people across many disciplines, including HR, IT and marketing functions, as well as aviation experts in operations, maintenance, aviation and FBOs.

What are the challenges?

One of the challenges in a large, fast-growing group is integrating the individual entities into the wider group. This includes standardising reporting requirements and ensuring the same quality across the finance departments. The data within the group comes from a number of different sources, so making sure they all make sense and are consistent is a regular, but rewarding, challenge.

Tell us about your typical week?

The week normally starts on Sunday or early Monday morning, reviewing the weekly KPIs and providing some comments to the executive committee. I attend a number of video conferences, telcos or meetings during the week with management groups and steering committees.

I regularly attend the local daily line-up, which takes place in every location, providing our 1,700 staff with a universal message about news and our corporate values, and I occasionally facilitate the process in Zurich whenever possible. Otherwise, I’m preparing reports on performance, business plans for expansion, analysis, or approving expenditure, payments, headcount recruitment and Capex. I’ll catch up with the Finance Directors/CFOs of the respective regions spread over the world as regularly as possible.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love to paint and I find it’s the perfect way to relax. It doesn’t matter what I use – acrylic, ink, watercolour – I just find solace in getting the creative juices flowing! My husband and I share a passion for Formula 1 and classic cars; I’ve been lucky enough to have participated in the JungFrau Rallye, a women-only event in Switzerland, in both 2007 and 2014.