I thought David Frew would be an older person. His youngish face surprised me when I matched it with his responsibilities as Area Finance Director, Corinthia St George’s Bay.
David graduated in Accountancy and Finance at Edinburgh University and followed this with CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants).
He related his work history with ease but with satisfaction. “I started as a Night Auditor with the Hilton Hotel just outside of Belfast in Northern Ireland. This led me into the cluster finance team in their Belfast hotel, overseeing payables for two hotels.
I then followed a development programme with Hilton, spending one year in Prague and another in Amsterdam. My stay was extended in Amsterdam after becoming Assistant Finance Manager at the Waldorf Astoria.
I then left Hilton and experienced the world of ‘White Label’ hotel management, first with Cycas Hospitality and then Interstate Hotels. My last role with Interstate involved overseeing 14 hotels across Benelux, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 2022, I was in Prague with Corinthia. I confess my stay there was much shorter than originally anticipated, but it was a great onboarding for the company in terms of the culture and getting to know the ways of working.
I arrived in Malta very recently, on the 1st of December last year. It was something I have very much been looking forward to, and I am sincerely excited to be here.”
Even though he has been in Malta for a very short time, what was the main difference from Corinthia Prague? “Undoubtedly, the hotel types. In Prague, we have two of our biggest hotels within the group, catering for large groups and events, business and corporate guests. Malta is naturally much more of a leisure destination with a very different clientele and, of course, different expectations.”
The job title of Area Director indicated his directorship in Malta involved several hotels. Which were they?
“I am responsible for four of our Malta hotels, three of which are situated on the Peninsula, namely Corinthia St. George’s Bay, Marina Hotel & Radisson Blu St Julian’s. The fourth is our recently opened Hotel Verdi in Sliema.”
I queried his duties and responsibilities as Finance Director. “I am responsible for all financial and accounting aspects relating to the hotels. That involves putting in place a control environment that gives both owners and auditors comfort that the assets are secure, while simultaneously striving for efficiency and driving financial performance to ensure the hotels deliver the return sought after by senior leadership.”
Those are quite onerous duties which certainly require specific skills. “A good finance director will be able to prepare a tidy set of accounts. A great one is someone who can explain the numbers in a manner that is easy to digest for those who lack a finance background. We work daily with colleagues who are specialists in delivering exceptional service to guests. It’s important that as a finance function, we support the operation by giving information that is both relevant and presented in a way that it’s easy to understand.”
I wondered what a typical day’s work would consist of. Or is there no such typical day? David smiled. “Like many other colleagues in the industry, the typical day does not exist for me! However, I usually like to arrive at work early. Doing so, gives me an hour or so to plan and prioritise what is important for that day. If I don’t do this, it’s very easy to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of hotel life.
As my team arrives, I like to catch up with my colleagues, ask them how they are, what plans they have for the day and see what support, if any, is required from me.
The daily briefing at 10 am is another important aspect of the day. As a back-of-house team, it’s our one opportunity in the day to gain an insight into what the other departments have scheduled for the day.
Aside from that, my day can involve anything, from senior team meetings with the hotels’ executive team, to reviewing tenders with our procurement team, working on projects to enhance the efficiency of the finance department, forecasting, budgeting, and engagement with auditors (both internal & external).
One thing is an everyday constant: there’s never a dull moment!”
Training of staff is essential. I asked David who managed this process. “The development & growth of our team is not only essential but crucial to our success. I like to oversee it myself. Given Corinthia’s growth plans for the coming years, it’s very important that we create a conveyor belt of talent. It’s both difficult and inefficient to go outside and recruit new colleagues every time we open a new hotel. If we can mix external recruitment alongside a core of colleagues experienced in Corinthia’s values and ways of working, we will be in a much stronger position to succeed.
From a colleague’s perspective, it’s also important that they can see there is a ‘next step’ in their career whenever they are ready. That way, we keep our team engaged and motivated.”
David’s way of speaking and disposition clearly portrayed him as an amenable character. I could also see he had a good command of his duties. “I would say I am quite a relaxed person who doesn’t stress easily. I work well under pressure.” He then added with a half-smile. “I would also say I have a good sense of humour. That helps along well.”
I was sure his relationship with his colleagues was good, but I could not resist asking him. He chuckled, “It might be better to ask some of my team! However, I’ve always valued myself having an open-door policy. I like my team and colleagues to be able to approach me informally whenever needed. I don’t like to micromanage and prefer to give someone a platform to do their job and support when needed.”
Surely his work involves a closer liaison with certain officials more than others. “Naturally. As an Area Director of Finance, my main stakeholders on a daily basis include our Directors of Finance and Assistants in the hotels themselves, as well as Jonathan Pace, our Area General Manager and the Executive team here at the peninsula.”
Did he arrive in Malta alone? “No, I am in excellent company. I came with my partner, Nicole, with whom I have been for almost ten years. She’s also Irish, like me and has accompanied me to the Czech Republic, Netherlands, back to Czech Republic, and now Malta. Thankfully, she also has a hospitality background, so she enjoys travelling.” His voice softened. “Her support throughout has always made it much easier.”
I prankishly remarked that being together for ten years was quite an extended time. David looked at me fixedly and spoke even softer as if confiding a secret. “We’re engaged to be married in May next year.” Wonderful news! Must be Malta magic! At least he can relax in good company after a hard day’s work. “I enjoy going for a walk. It helps to clear the mind after a day in the office. At the weekend, when we have a little more time, we enjoy going out for a nice breakfast or lunch and exploring parts of Malta I haven’t seen yet.”
“I look forward to a good stay in Malta. I like what I’ve seen, and my new Corinthia Malta adventure stimulates me.”