As Chief Financial Officer for one of the world’s largest companies, Graeme Pitkethly doesn't have the luxury of staring into the rear view mirror for very long. His company, Unilever, produces products that are used every day by 3.5 billion people. But for those wishing to follow in Pitkethly's successful footsteps, a quick examination of his career is more than a little illuminating.
Pitkethly, who holds a bachelor’s in applied chemistry from Glasgow-based Strathclyde University, started his career at PwC in 1987. Over a period of nine years, he not only became a chartered accountant, he also shot up PwC's ranks, going from managing consultant to a director. Still establishing his career, his next move was to join FLAG Telecom, where he worked as vice president in corporate development for a number of years before becoming vice president of finance.
In 2002, Pitkethly joined Unilever as its group chief accountant in London. As ambitious as ever, the following thirteen years saw him continue his upward trajectory at the multinational consumer goods company, assuming a range of roles with increasing responsibility, from CFO of Unilever Indonesia, to head of mergers & acquisitions, to general manager of Unilever’s U.K. and Ireland businesses. Then, in 2015, after nearly 30 years of paying his dues in the business world, Pitkethly was finally appointed Unilever’s CFO. The following year, he was appointed an Executive Director to the board of Unilever PLC.
Looking back at his incredible rise inside Unilever, Pitkethly credits his wide range of positions for helping him land the much-coveted CFO role. “Everyone who is shortlisted for the CFO role is smart enough," he said in a Deloitte article. "It’s about how distinctive and broad your set of experiences are.” In particular, he believes his time as a general manager had a profound impact on his ability to excel at the CFO job. “Being a GM was a finishing school for the CFO role, not only for the operational experience of running a business but also for leadership.”
In a personal capacity, Pitkethly is a strong advocate of giving back to the community. When he is away from the office, he serves as a member of the advisory board of Strathclyde University’s Centre for Sustainable Development. In addition, he is Vice-Chair of the Financial Stability Board Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.