Mr David Leah
Chief Financial Officer and Director of Finance
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I left school at 18 to work as a billing officer at BT. I stayed with the company for 13 years, undertaking a variety of finance and contracting roles, and obtaining my accountancy qualifications. My last role at BT was working as a financial lead on the national payphones project (in the days before mobile phones were common-place).
In 1990, I joined Thanet College (now East Kent College) and was responsible for most of its professional service functions. During this time, I worked closely with Christ Church, particularly on the financial arrangements for the Post Compulsory Cert Ed (now Diploma Education and Training).
I joined the University in 2005 as Director of Finance and member of SMT. During my time here, I have sought to develop the Finance function into an enabling activity where the questions that are asked of colleagues coming to us are ‘why not?’ rather than ‘why?’
As the institution’s Chief Financial Officer, I see my role as providing the financial leadership to the organisation and ensuring that it remains financially sustainable. This does not mean generating surpluses for their own sake, but rather as a means of ensuring that we are able to constantly innovate, develop and invest for the future benefit of our students, staff and customers. This requires the ability to forecast, as accurately as possible, the future income prospects for the institution in an increasingly volatile and uncertain external environment. It also means we need to ensure value for money in the way we allocate and manage the resources we have in order to make wise investment decisions, ensuring that the planned benefits of our investments are actually realised.
During my time in further and higher education, I have particularly enjoyed the opportunity to see the benefits of careful financial management for our students and staff. This has proved inherently more satisfying than managing a much larger budget at BT, where the impact of financial decision making was much more remote from the customer experience.
I have had the privilege of working for three great organisations, which has given me the opportunity to work with a wide range of staff in various disciplines and engage with, and learn, the motivational factors that prevail for both individuals and groups in the working environment. I take a particular interest in leadership styles and firmly believe that good leadership is about unlocking and developing the potential of those who work in our teams.
What are your current priorities?
The institution is embarking upon an ambitious and exciting investment programme to develop and modernise our estate and systems infrastructure. These initiatives are essential to enable the University to diversify, grow and thrive. Currently, I am leading on the development of a financial and funding strategy to support the realisation of these ambitions, ensuring that we are able to make these essential investments while maintaining sufficient funds to meet the day-to-day operations of the institution. It is vital that our resources are targeted not just for future investment, but to also maintain quality and services for those students who are currently studying with us who will have completed their studies before the new developments are completed.
Working with the Human Resources and Organisational Development Department, we are jointly developing a new HR and Payroll system, which will modernise and improve our processes for colleagues across the University.
I have also taken a lead role in developing the quality of the institution’s student data and management information, and with Cathy Lambert’s appointment as Director of Planning and Academic Administration, I continue to work closely with her as she takes on this responsibility.
I am a member of, and chair, a number of University committees and groups to ensure integrity of data and to generate improvements and efficiencies in process and the reporting of these to the Governing Body and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
What inspires you about Christ Church?
Moving into the education sector, I felt privileged to see the way in which post-compulsory education can help to transform people’s lives and can provide second chances to those who have not achieved what they’d hoped to at school. I enjoy working for an organisation which is values based and seeks to live by them. Of course, we are all human and we can sometimes fall short but, having worked for three fantastic organisations, I can genuinely say that Canterbury Christ Church University is the best employer that I have experienced. I value our commitment to the development of our staff and the strong emphasis that we place on the whole individual.
I passionately believe that the future sustainability of the institution is reliant upon a highly qualified and motivated workforce that has a real drive for excellence in the quality of its services and customer responsiveness. Notwithstanding the challenging external environment, the history of the University demonstrates it is an organisation that is both innovative and responsive. It is vital that we continue to operate in this vein because the University transforms the lives of individuals and the community.
E : Gemma Coleman | T : 01227 782494