Bruce Thomson CA: Adventure? Yes! Business? Nnooo!
With a CA qualification you can go anywhere and do anything, as the fascinating career of Bruce Thomson, Business & Marketing Director of Sydney-based video games company Nnooo, proves.
“During my career, I often wanted to do something completely different,” exclaimed Bruce Thomson, and his comment turned out to be one of the understatements of the century.
Bruce is currently Business & Marketing Director of Nnooo; the business, he says, is named after the fact that those playing video games are often heard to scream “NNOOO!” as they lose yet another life.
To date, Dundee-bred Bruce has worked in an accounting firm, a music company, a major FMCG business and in several banks and finance businesses all around the globe, demonstrating the broad options available to CAs.
In 2006, Bruce and his partner, Nic Watt, founder and CDO of Nnooo (an architect who turned his design talents to video game development), arrived in Sydney for what now appears to be the rest of their lives: “We got permanent residency two years ago and we're not going back! We're applying for citizenship this year. We are Aussies through and through now. We just love it here.”
Staying ahead of a moving market
Together they now run Nnooo, and the video game industry provides plenty of challenges, said Bruce.
“This business moves so rapidly. It takes two or three years to develop a game and you start making it for a specific console, but by the time you finish making it the console manufacturers might have released another console, a whole new generation with different specifications that your game has not been made for,” he explained.
“For me, it is a big challenge to make sure that we are structured to survive to make the next game. Having said that, in this business, you’re considered successful if you’ve been around for 10 years. Nnooo has been making independent video games for a decade, so that is a success.”
How does a CA end up working with a video games company? Bruce’s exciting journey has been varied and loaded with experience.
In his formative years at Dundee University, Bruce completed a joint Honours degree in Psychology and Accounting. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the first time the university had ever seen such a mix. His original plan was to follow a career into psychology, but the joint Honours degree actually put him behind graduates who had majored only in Psychology. His choice was to do 12 months of volunteer work in the field of psychology, to boost his CV, or to join the milk round.
“After living on a student grant for four years I didn't know if I was really up to doing another 12 months of unpaid work,” smiled Bruce. “I thought to myself that I might as well just go down the accountancy route because it might be quite lucrative and I was sure it would be interesting.”
Bruce Thomson CA, Business & Marketing Director, and Nic Watt, Nnooo founder
Racking up experience points across the sectors
The milk round earned him a position with Grant Thornton (then known as Thornton Baker) in 1985. In four years with the firm he earned his ICAS stripes, just as a position with Scotland’s biggest music promoter, Regular Music, became available.
“Glasgow in 1990 had been awarded European City of Culture and the city wanted Regular Music to put on a number of outdoor shows on what was called the Big Day.
There would be a major outdoor concert in Glasgow Green and a lot of smaller concerts around the city. It had a £1 million budget, but at the time Regular Music just had a bookkeeper,” explained Bruce.
“The council said, ‘We're not giving you £1 million unless you have somebody who can do proper financial reporting and recording.’ That was me.”
That's the beauty of being a CA. You really can just jump from one industry to the next.
Next stop, in 1991, was with FMCG giant Procter & Gamble, where he worked in the UK and across Northern Africa and continental Europe, particularly in Brussels. Here he transformed the way several departments recorded their financials, assisted with the launches of major products and managed the creation of new manufacturing plants.
Moving on up and Down Under
By 1995, Bruce moved into the world of finance, first with Bank of Scotland’s Acquisition Finance team, then with the bank’s London-based management buyout finance body, Caledonian Capital, before moving to ABN Amro’s Mezzanine Finance.
This experience led to a role with Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and its UK Acquisition Finance Team, which eventually brought him Down Under when he was asked to start up the business’s Asia Pacific branch.
“I’d been here with a friend in the 1990s and we spent some time in Sydney,” he recalled. “I remember thinking this is such an amazing place and that I would love to work here, but I never really considered it might become a reality. When the chance arose, I thought here is my opportunity to do something really exciting and to live in my dream location.”
Has he achieved his lofty goal of always “doing something completely different”? Without doubt.
“That's the beauty of being a CA,” said Bruce. “You really can just jump from one industry to the next. The biggest advantage of that qualification is that no sector is unavailable to you. You can do anything anywhere.”
About the author
Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine, GQ, In The Black, Cadillac, Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.