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Introducing James Bell, Leiths Group Finance Director


James joined the Leiths Group in March 2020, just two weeks ahead of the first Covid-19 lockdown. He spent the first few months of his role at Leiths working under a very unusual and unfamiliar setting, with a much-reduced team supporting him in the office. 

James’ role as Group Finance Director covers a myriad of functions ensuring the department has the correct processes and systems in place so that they can provide the correct information to the business. It’s also about ensuring control – so the introduction of a new PO system has allowed greater control of the businesses costs making sure management know at any time how much has been spent.

Obviously critical for any business is to control its costs. James commented, “I’m in charge of Finance, IT and Payroll. And no, I have never counted any beans! The role of FD is protecting the business.  Not literally standing guard but, again, ensuring appropriate controls are in place to record and track the assets and liabilities of the company. Ensuring we are compliant with HMRC legislation from a Corporation Tax, VAT and PAYE/NI viewpoint.

“Companies don’t fail because they are not profitable, they fail through lack of cash” – so managing cash flow is another important aspect of my role. Keeping the Board informed and getting accurate reporting to the Board through Monthly Management Reports and accurate budgeting are other necessary responsibilities.  

“Each day is different, one day I can be producing reports in terms of how the business has performed in the month, the next, I can be reviewing IT systems, and the next dealing with the revenue about VAT etc. There is no day which is the same as the next, which can be challenging, but one that I also enjoy.”

James was born in Kirkcaldy in Fife and was ambitious from a young age, becoming School Prefect, House Captain and Vice-Captain of the School rugby team. He also played rugby for Kirkcaldy Colts who got to the final of the Scottish U18 Championship. From there, James attended Dundee University and graduated in Accountancy and Economics before moving on to Abertay University to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Information Technology.

James’ first job was with a small to medium sized practice in Dundee, Bird Simpson, as a trainee Chartered Accountant. With his exams passed and training finished in 1991, he moved to Aberdeen to work for Meston Reid where he was promoted to Senior Manager. James has since worked for several other businesses in both Aberdeen and Edinburgh, including Caledonian Brewery and S&N, before joining Aberdeen Harbour in 2009 as Financial Director. James has a Diploma in Business Strategic Direction from the IoD and was also Chair of the British Ports Authority Finance Group.

James met his wife, Catriona, a Primary School Teacher, in 1999 and they married in August 2004, with their eldest, Andrew, arriving in 2005 and their daughter, Mairi, in 2009.

James enjoys rugby and played throughout his studies – Dundee Uni, Dundee High FP, Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeenshire and finally Trinity – but stopped in 2001 to take up refereeing. He was a top 20 referee in Scotland refereeing Premier one and two, running touch at women’s internationals, and assisting at Pro12 matches for Edinburgh. His most famous moment was when he refereed Ayr v Currie, 1st v 4th in Premier 1. Unfortunately, due to the Touch Judge being late in picking him up, the game had to be delayed by 15 minutes. Little did James know that BBC ALBA were televising the match live causing an embarrassing down time on the channel.

Other hobbies include tennis, going to the gym and swimming, and the family welcomed Loki, their new black Cockapoo, late last year.