CFO Series: Tom Coward (Cytora) on Personal Financial Management

He's a Google fan boy, obsessed with the smart home who grounds his opinions and views in data analytics and due diligence.  Next up in the CFO series is Tom Coward, Finance Director of artificial intelligence insurance company Cytora.

Tom, like many financial directors and chief financial officers, studied audit at Deloitte before heading into start up land. His first position was at ad tech company, Yieldify, before he took a travelling break for 7 months. Hes been with Cytora for the last 7 months. 

You have a strong knowledge of financial management from your role as a finance director; how do you approach your personal financial management. 

Keeping track of your personal finances is so important to enable you to go ahead and do the bigger things you want to do in life. I didn't take any time out to go travelling before or after university, so I decided to take a year out last year. That took a lot of planning, budgeting, hunting around for deals, saving etc. It was a great success, and I plan on doing the same thing again after the company I am currently with! I like to make sure I get a good deal on things; when there's a chance of making £500s of savings on a flight, you might as well take an hour or two extra to research (my charge out rate isn't that high!). Google flights (I'm such a Google fanboy), Avios and Skyscanner were all sites I used to access deals. 

When travelling, and in my finances, the balance I struggle to make is not planning too much and allowing for some "go with the flow"... though I seem to surround myself with people who have the latter mindset which brings all the necessary unpredictability I need in my life.

With regards to investments, directly, I have quite a 'risk-on' approach, so I have a Stocks and Shares ISA which is a mixture of ETFs (exchange traded funds) and shares I buy for the long term; I am quite highly hedged towards Cyber Security. I considered robo-investors like Nutmeg but I like the fun of picking your own stocks, though only do that if you don't mind losing!

In relation to my pension, I don't have much in terms of a pension as I'm more focused on having money available now than in 40 years time, though this will change as my risk profile does. (Wee Scot Finance: this goes against my ethos of pension investments. Check out Private Pensions for reasons to invest in your pension)

What is fintech to you? Which personal technology companies, if any, do you use and why?

For my travelling and otherwise, I am a firm user of Google Sheets (unless macros are needed); it's a great collaborative tool. There were 3 of us travelling; using Google sheets meant we could all input on the sheet, and family and friends could stay up to date with any inventory changes. In terms of a financial management tool, they have added keyboard shortcuts too, so it is getting more useable as well. 

I have a Revolut card; this is great for withdrawing cash in foreign currencies and exchanging currency within the app. I also have a Lloyds Duo Credit Card which is £140 per year; I get a free plus one, a free upgrade each year on flights and all purchases abroad on credit cards are at the spot rate. I collect and spend Avios whenever possible.

For my investments, I recently moved from AJ Bell Youinvest to IG due to lower fees and a superior trading platform. The key thing I would say on investing is, make sure you do your due diligence when investing! There's a lot of FOMO in the markets and that can lead to people investing money at crazy valuations into companies which capitulate shortly afterwards. 

Outside of personal financial management, tell me about your favourite piece of technology in your life.

Since watching "Tomorrow's world" as a kid, a connected home has always been a dream of mine. I have a Google Home and a couple of Minis so I can control all my devices by voice. I can control the TV through Chromecast, and music, lights and heating through Hive. I'm really hoping they'll release a Sonos integration so I can retire Alexa!

We should always be learning; tell me what your favourite read was (book, blog, newsletter or otherwise), and why?

I love podcasts; my favourite is Freakonomics. On Freakonomic's they drill down on a subject and share some fascinating insights in an unbiased, data-centric way. There was a great episode lately about understanding the gender pay gap with Uber drivers in Chicago "What Can Uber Teach Us About the Gender Pay Gap?". The premise of it was, that in the gig economy such as Uber drivers, pay gaps should not exist. There core finding was that a 7% pay gap existed between female and male Uber drivers; they examined millions of records from Uber to understand why this issue existed. There 40 minute podcasts provide fantastic knowledge through data centred metrics. 

I also really enjoy the weekly world economics briefing that Deloitte releases (The Monday Briefing). It's compiled by Deloitte's Chief UK Economist. 

Any final comments for Wee Scot Finance readers?

If anyone wants to help fight against Phishing and Whaling scams, check out Re:scam. It's a really smart way to waste the time of would-be scammers and it's super funny as well. It you get a scam email forward it to and they deal with it. 

Thanks for this Tom; if you want to check out some of the other top financial directors and CFOs in London, and how they are planning and plotting their finances, check out:

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