Out of the Trenches > Nicola Patterson, Head of Finance A/NZ, Entain

A year into her role as Head of Finance at sports betting company Entain Australia & New Zealand and Nicola Patterson is on the up. A self-confessed ‘open book’, she prides herself on good people skills and credits some of her team’s success to coaching sessions with former soldiers.  

Team coaching sessions typically discuss the perils of micromanagement and solutions for toxic cultures. Rarely do they involve shooting other people with gel blasters and dragging dummies around in the bush. But Nicola Patterson swears by it.

“We recently completed an offsite where we focused on team building with the crew from Eighth Mile Consulting, the sessions have been a massive help for our team dynamic,” she said.

“They’re Brisbane based ex-army and are absolute legends. They took us out for a team building offsite where we went gel blasting and built catapults. We had to drag a dummy back while being shot at.”

Describing herself as a “spreadsheet and numbers person”, a career in finance was always on the cards for Patterson. She is now in her fourth year at Entain, the international sports betting company that owns brands including Ladbrokes and Neds.  After three years in the finance team she took over the reins as Head of Finance. One of her first jobs was streamlining the month end close process.

“When I first started at Entain, the month end close took 7-8 days each month. I set myself a goal to get this down to 5 days. We were able to achieve this fairly quickly through some tactical persuasion with other departments and implementation of process efficiencies,” she explained.

“My next goal is to get our close down to 4 days by the end of the year.”

Patterson’s previous auditing duties held her in good stead to reshape and streamline some of the finance team’s functions.

“My previous role in the auditing space was conducting deep dive walkthroughs of processes with businesses,” she said.

“We would go in, do a review of their processes, get an understanding of what they’re doing, find any gaps, then write recommendation lists.”

These reviews also revealed opportunities for finance to take on a more prominent role within the company. By identifying ways to collaborate and integrate, Patterson has led a push for finance to become more seen and heard.

“It’s about getting out of your reports, getting out of the office, away from your laptop, partnering with the business and inserting yourselves in the different areas so that you can build those networks and the relationships, so finance isn’t the afterthought,” she said.

“You’re actually taken on the journey with the key stakeholders that are making decisions about whether we launch a new product or diversify our revenue streams.”

Despite a downturn in the wagering category linked to macroeconomic impacts, Entain has looked to diversify beyond bookmaking recently acquiring Full House Group in its build out of Entain Venues as well as establishing its own content production team, which released a horse-racing documentary called Miles in Front last year. It has also entered a 25-year strategic partnering agreement in New Zealand to tun the New Zealand TAB.

Patterson said it’s this variety that makes working at Entain constantly exciting and challenging. Her goals for this year include embarking on two ERP migrations, gradually pulling up and out of the day-to-day finance tasks and continuing to integrate all of the finance team with other departments.

“The next step in my career is getting out of the trenches away from the grunt work and really starting to engage in the strategic side of the business,” she said.

“I’ve kicked off ‘lunch and learn’ sessions where we ask other department heads to come in, give the finance team an hour of their time, to talk us through what they do, why they do it and how they operate.

“All of the other departments seem to really engage with the idea as well because they want everyone else to understand what they’re doing and how their role impacts the overall business.”

Nicola’s top three tips for new Finance Leaders:

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable > The only way to keep growing and learning is putting yourself in situations where you aren’t the expert or you have to be vulnerable.
  • Lean on your network > Sometimes you need a sounding board and it’s good to get an external opinion.
  • Get involved in as many projects as you can > Especially those that sit outside of the finance function.