Howard Field, hospitality icon and industry stalwart, speaks to FM Recruitment to share the story of his life-long career in hospitality, what inspires him most about the industry and what advice he’d offer someone just beginning their professional journey.
With a career in the hospitality industry spanning over 55 years, Howard’s first major appointment was as Finance Controller for the Royal Garden Hotel, London. He progressed to top financial roles with multiple hospitality companies – including the Carlton Tower, Commonwealth Holiday Inns of Canada’s European division, and The Savoy Group (now the Maybourne Hotel Group), and as an industry consultant. In these roles, he experienced first -hand, the challenge of sourcing and hiring good finance professionals which led him to found London-based FM Recruitment, specialists in financial recruitment for the international hospitality industry, in 1985.
In addition to his consultancy and advisory activities, he currently serves as Chair of the Savoy Educational Trust, and is a Visiting Fellow of Oxford Brookes University. He has been for many years been a mentor for undergraduates and masters students.
Howard is the author of guides to a number of finance-focused reference books for the industry. His best-known work is A Practical Guide to the Uniform System of Accounts for the Hospitality Industry.
Howard was a founding member and a HOSPA Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and also the recipient of top US 2012 Paragon Award for significant and lasting contribution to US-based HFTP and the Hospitality Industry worldwide.
In conversation with Howard Field
- How did you get into Hospitality Finance? Originally by chance, having completed my chartered accountancy professional exams, and being assigned to assist at what was the newly opened Royal Garden Hotel while awaiting the results. I was offered a position there. Having almost accepted an offer for my next position with a manufacturing company, I saw an advert for a position at the Carlton Tower – and from then my whole career has been within the hospitality industry.
- What are the most important aspects of financial roles in hospitality and how has the role evolved over the years? Perhaps the key consideration is that it is a fast moving, people-centred industry, where the finance function has to balance control with supporting operations to provide consistent standards, as well as profitably. Hotels are capital intensive businesses to own, and need to operate at high levels of occupancy and efficiency to meet their commercial goals. From the control aspects, hotels are 24/7 operations, and systems and information flows require financial managers to understand the business dynamics and be capable of contributing at senior management level. The greatest change that has occurred over the years is the separation of property ownership, brands and management, and the need for financial managers to understand and deal with the resulting complexities.
- What do you consider your biggest achievement so far and why? Establishing the first professional recruitment service focused on financial and related management functions within the hotel industry – that is still flourishing 36 years later is certainly the highlight. You say ‘so far’; I feel privileged having the opportunity to continue contributing to the industry in other ways after so many years.
- What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their career in the industry? Seek advice from experienced professionals at all stages, including from recruiters, to be aware of how the industry and career opportunities are constantly changing; network; and if possible, connect with one or two mentors on the various programmes available to support career development.
- What are the biggest opportunities in the hospitality industry as it recovers from the pandemic? Perhaps ‘challenges’ would be more appropriate than ‘opportunities’. Many historic standards and performance measures will no longer be appropriate as the industry re-awakens and markets re-open. More than ever, working smarter, recognising and minimising risks and exploiting opportunities will mean being having to be constantly creative.
- What would have been your Plan B? I have thoroughly enjoyed (and still do) my career in the hospitality industry that has encompassed many aspects, made me many friends, and spanned a period during which there have been so many fundament changes. It evolved without a clear plan, and I am not sure that I would want to have changed anything.
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