Protecting Profits & Scaling for Growth > Emma Seymour, CFO | Deputy

CFO Magazine A/NZ’s Kate Jones had the opportunity to sit down with leading tech CFO, Emma Seymour, to discuss what it is like to be a finance leader in the dynamic, fast paced, roller coaster world of a high growth software business, supporting over 330,000 workplaces internationally.    

Joining Deputy, the company pegged to be Australia’s next tech unicorn, was always going to be an upward trajectory, and allowed Emma Seymour to flex her CFO muscles and then some.

“This is just a really, really exciting time for Deputy, we’re planning our next stage of global growth, and working alongside our new CEO, developing the roadmap for all our forward momentum from now,” she said. “It’s been a significant part of my role for the last six months.”

The rapid success behind the workplace rostering software company has seen it achieve $100 million in annual recurring revenue in just 14 years. It employs 318 staff and is used by 1.3 million shift workers.

Any newcomers, like Seymour, need to hit the ground running.

“There’s a few things I absolutely love about Deputy, it’s not just that it’s a good business, but it’s a business that does good,” she said.

“The role that we’re playing, in the space that we’re playing, supporting hourly workers and employers is such an incredible opportunity. There hasn’t been a lot of investment in that space in terms of technology.

“There’s still so much that can be done in making their lives better and we get to play a big part in that.”

Seymour, a former CFO of recruitment software JobAdder, joined Deputy in February 2022 and in her short time there, has seen big changes and expects to see many more.

“It’s very fast-paced, it’s a lot of context switching, but it’s focused, it’s inspiring, it’s driven,” she said.

“We’re operating from a real position of strength, and I’m very fortunate that my role covers quite a lot, so no two days are the same.

“That’s really where I thrive, because I get to touch a lot of different things and it’s a different problem to solve all the time, which is my happy place.”

Deputy was bootstrapped by Australian co-founders Ashik Ahmed and Steve Shelley to help businesses manage rostering and award compliance for shift workers. The technology also integrates with point of sale, HRIS, payroll and accounting systems.

Deputy has weathered some spectacular highs and lows in its time. Ahmed and Shelley raised $US81 million ($111 million AUD) in the biggest Series B raise in Australian history in 2018, but then retrenched almost one third of its workforce in April 2020 when COVID struck a blow to shift workers.

Today it is used in more than 100 countries and 330,000 workplaces, counting major brands such as Nike, Qantas, and IGA among its customers.

This year Ahmed handed the CEO reins over to Silvija Martincevic, former Chief Commercial Officer at Nasdaq-listed buy now, pay later business Affirm.

Seymour has been working closely with Martincevic to bring Deputy to new heights and capture more of the world’s shift-based workforce.

“The last few months have been really just shoulder-to-shoulder with Silvija, working through plans and just getting very crisp and clear on the big initiatives and strategic steps that we want to make,” she said.

“Silvija has been an absolutely wonderful addition to the Deputy team, and under her leadership we’re getting very clear on what our long-term horizons are, the opportunity that stands in front of Deputy, and what it’s going to take to go after that and seize that.”

Supporting the company’s growth plans is one of Seymour’s major roles, which she does through a combination of data-led insights and cross-department collaboration.

Seymour leads five teams totalling approximately 50 employees and that number shows no signs of slowing. Deputy hired 60 people in the past 12 months, including 31 to date this year.

“My finance and data teams here and in San Francisco are integral pillars within the company; we play a critical role in understanding at a high level where we’re going as a business, what that means for each department, and making sure that we’re aware of all the cross-functional dependencies,” Seymour said.

“It’s very much about setting strategy, being agile, monitoring and measuring, continuing to keep things on track, and moving at pace the whole way through.”

Protecting profits in a business that is intent on scaling can be challenging. But Seymour said she does this at Deputy by benchmarking to understand how investments are tracking and what needs to be optimised to keep a healthy balance.

“It needs to be managed across the business in the right way,” she said. “You have to be mindful of not over-rotating toward just cost-cutting and then not investing in the business in the right way,  because you can do that and push it into profitability, but then you don’t emerge as strong at the other end.

“It’s a constant balancing act that CFOs are always juggling. They are a huge component of responsible and sustainable growth.”

The future at Deputy brings promises of more growth, although it may come at a slower pace amid cooling economic conditions and fears of a recession this year.

Seymour said it pays for any business to get to grips with possible market downturns and how they would best be handled.

“It’s critical to make sure you’re developing and playing out several scenarios on different projections and on different estimates, and having strategies against each scenario, so that if things change or shift or anything impacts your customers, that you’re preparedto act in real-time and you can be very agile and get in front of it,” she said.

“We’ve done a lot to enhance our financial position and to be able to withstand fluctuations like that, so we’re very fortunate in that regard.

“Deputy has the right to really scale exponentially from here. This year it’s about making sure that we’ve really invested in our people, the infrastructure, and our operating cadences, so that we can turbocharge things going into next year.”