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Navigating the World of Finance at DRWakefield


I am Carol, the Financial Controller here at DRWakefield.

I joined the DRWakefield team in 2009, making me one of the longest-serving members. When I started, there were only three traders, including Simon Wakefield! Since then, the team has grown significantly, and I have seen many new faces join us. I’m fortunate to have worked alongside some colleagues for many years, and I consider some of them to be firm friends.

It occurs to us that some of you might be interested in how one of our back-office departments operates. In the finance department, we are typically tucked away in a corner (out of sight), but we are an integral part of the DRWakefield machine. So, I thought I’d walk you through a typical day for us.

First things first – we need to confirm our cash position. Cash is King, and every morning, we update all our bank accounts with any overnight transactions. With 26 different accounts, this can take some time. We need to know about any receipts from clients, especially those waiting for their coffee. Our logistics team must be notified immediately of any “net-cash” (cash in advance) receipts.

We also confirm that all supplier payments raised the previous day have cleared our accounts. Sometimes payments can be delayed or even returned by the banks, requiring thorough investigation and re-processing if necessary. But any unidentified or unexpected debits come in for some very close scrutiny! 

Next, we ensure our records align with the daily statement from our futures broker. Our traders buy and sell futures (and sometimes options) to protect us from fluctuating global coffee prices. We ensure all transactions are correctly logged by both our traders and our broker to avoid any surprise margin calls.

Now we are ready to raise our payments for the day. While there are some GBP overheads to handle, our main focus is on paying for coffee. Coffee invoices arrive throughout the day, and we usually have four or five to process each morning. International payments often go through several banks before reaching our farmers, so we meticulously check and double-check every detail.

We have a team of three responsible for our daily coffee payments. Rahena reviews our available cash position and instructs Sheila on which payments to raise and which bank accounts to use. Sheila then raises each payment, ensuring that each invoice is pre-authorized and that supplier bank details are verified, especially for new suppliers. Each invoice comes via a secure method (DHL or TNT normally) and will have the supplier’s bank details included. If these already exist on our system then, we can feel pretty secure that they are safe to use. If they are new to us, then some independent verification is required. Cybersecurity is crucial, so if necessary, we will call the producer to confirm details.

Sheila then passes the day’s payments to Rahena for checking and then to Bea, myself, Terry, or Simon for final authorization. Normally, at least two of us are required to go online and authorise each payment. One of us will normally re-check before actually authorising, though. It is so important that they are right that we just can’t help ourselves. 

Once this is done, we can move on to the less stressful tasks of the day. Invoices for both sales and purchases need to be logged into the accounts system. Luckily, we have an excellent sales ledger manager – Shaan, who maintains relationships with most of our customers and our bank. He makes sure all of our customers accounts are kept up-to-date with sales, credit notes, and receipts. He makes and takes emails/telephone calls to make sure any problems are quickly resolved. So if you are one of our customers, and you have a question – he’s your man. 

Traders often travel to origin countries and need sufficient cash. I’ve had to procure various currencies, including Ethiopian birr, Honduran lempira, Brazilian real, Colombian peso, Peruvian sol, Burundian Franc, Indian Rupee, New Guinean kina, and more, to name a few. Plus – of course – plenty of USD. Which seems to be the currency that is accepted pretty much everywhere nowadays. It was such a smorgasbord of different colours, shapes and sizes, that we now have a collage of them on the finance team wall. Whenever a trader comes back home, another couple of notes get added. 

Currency Frame

DRWakefield has grown tremendously, with a presence in Ireland, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium, and the UK. That’s a heck of a lot of VAT returns to do. Some monthly, some quarterly, some somewhere in-between. Each requires us to declare Intrastat reports (no that’s not a typo). These are lists of goods which we have moved across European borders each month. I must say that these have always been pretty complicated, but Brexit has not helped at all. It’s consequences for us, reach far and wide.

DRW Operations

Each month, we create a management pack of our results and directors’ comments. This takes up a fair bit of my and Bea’s time. The first step is to check our monthly stock position across approximately 11 warehouses in 6 countries, plus there is always plenty of coffee on container ships on the oceans.  We then check for new stock which has left it’s country of origin and then make all of the adjustments for sales and transfers. The resulting amount is many thousands of bags of coffee so it’s a key number for us. 

Port of Santos

Once a year, we are fully audited by an external company of accountants (in fact, this is going on right now). Of course, they need to see a whole year’s worth of accounts and this year, they will be spending a whole month in our London offices going through every detail. It’s a bit disruptive to our other duties (I’m sure some of you can relate to this).  But it is completely worth it. It’s how we get an independent, financial clean ‘bill of health’ every year. 

So our duties basically come down to:

  • Paying all of our suppliers
  • Ensuring debts are paid to us on time
  • Balancing all of our various bank accounts and facilities
  • Reporting to the bank, the directors and HMRC
  • Giving backup and support to all of our colleagues.
  • Supporting the external audit.

Some of these are yearly, quarterly, bimonthly, monthly or weekly. But we keep an eye on some of them almost every minute!