Financing athletic success: Meet Vikki McPherson CA

Athletic business women
robert-outram By Rob Outram, Editor, The CA magazine

15 March 2017

The CA spoke to Vikki McPherson CA, Acting Director of Business & Finance at the English Institute of Sport, about achieving success in business and athletics.

When did you qualify as a CA and who did you train with?

1996; Arthur Andersen (Glasgow).

Brief career history

I qualified just as National Lottery funding for elite athletes was introduced, which enabled me to train full-time with the British athletics team and compete at nine World Championships (track, road and cross-country) and two Commonwealth Games. Since retiring, my professional career has focused on making a sustainable difference to elite sport in this country.

My experience as a competitor and my CA qualification have helped me to secure a succession of increasingly senior roles. I have managed teams at Commonwealth, World and Olympic leveVikki McPherson CAl, held senior posts within national governing bodies and managed the development and implementation of the £350m UK Sport investment strategy for the 2016 Rio Games.

Since completing this work, I have focused on medium-term projects supporting sport organisations through periods of significant change, resulting from changes to their strategy, governance or resources.

What does your job involve?

My current project is supporting the English Institute of Sport as it steps up for the 2020 Tokyo Games. I oversee the financial and legal operations of the organisation, which delivers science, medicine and technology services across Olympic and Paralympic sport.

The current focus is on agreeing the four-year budget and associated key performance indicators and finalising service agreements and facility contracts. My remit also includes supporting the roll-out of the organisation’s new strategic plan, including the restructuring of the senior management team.

Proudest moment so far?

The success of Team GB at the Rio Games. The aspiration to be more successful in Rio than in London and build a stronger, more sustainable system required a more innovative and rigorous investment approach. Having managed the review, approval and delivery of the UK Sport Rio investment strategy, I took great pride in the performances the athletes achieved.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The pioneering spirit you experience when a team is breaking new ground.

The influx of investment into elite sport has required the rapid development and deployment of financial systems and processes and the experience to determine where to invest resources to best effect.

…And the worst? 

Having to wait one - and sometimes two - four-year cycle(s) before you know whether the strategic decisions you made were the right ones.

How’s your work/life balance?

With athletes training and competing across the globe seven days a week, maintaining a work/life balance while working in an organisation focused on ensuring they have the necessary support in place is a continual challenge. I have learned to manage this by building fallow periods into my schedule between projects to allow time for reflection prior to tackling my next challenge.

What do you do to relax?

Having rediscovered the joys of cycling, I am enjoying cresting new summits and pushing different physical boundaries.

How has your training as a CA helped prepare you for this role?

The influx of investment into elite sport has required the rapid development and deployment of financial systems and processes and the experience to determine where to invest resources to best effect. My CA training gave me the credibility and confidence to tackle these challenges and develop sustainable solutions.

What advice would you give to other CAs looking to pursue this career route?

I would urge CAs with a passion for sport to consider non-executive director roles within the sector. The recently published Code for Sports Governance will stretch many organisations in receipt of public investment, and CAs have the opportunity to play a key role in ensuring the right governance structures and risk management procedures are in place.

This article first appeared in the March 2017 edition of CA magazine.


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