Interview: David Ronald CA
David Ronald CA, Partner in PwC's Sydney office, speaks to Chris Sheedy about moving to Australia and the benefits of cultural awareness.
As he was growing up in Cumnock, Ayrshire, David Ronald came to know a friend of his parents who happened to be a CA. There was something about the man’s career, and the way it was able to change and evolve and take him into different industries and across the globe, that attracted the youngster to the same field.
Today, as a result of a stellar career at PwC, David is a Partner in Financial Assurance and is speaking with ICAS from PwC’s office in Sydney, Australia. Along the way he has worked for various periods of time in Scotland and the USA, as well as travelling to China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong for client projects.
“One of the key drivers for me going into the Big Four was the opportunity to travel and to accept secondments as a life opportunity,” he says.
“My lack of ability to speak another language meant my main place of work had to be an English-speaking territory and, coupled with the fact that I had no real desire to live in North America, that left Australia as a fairly obvious choice.”
Actually, David almost never made it into the workforce in the first place. Near the end of his studies – accounting and economics at the University of Strathclyde – he was living in a university hall. He had been interviewed by PwC during their annual ‘milk run’ but, because of his living arrangements, the callback for the second interview didn’t reach him.
“This was before the days of mobile phones. We had just one landline to cover all of the floors,” he smiles. “I ended up calling PwC to get feedback, because I hadn’t heard either way. They told me they’d been trying to contact me for two weeks!”
After four years in PwC’s Glasgow office, David applied for a secondment to Sydney and landed Down Under in September 2004. In Sydney he met his Northern Irish wife, and the pair made a new home.
“Both of us enjoy the lifestyle that we have in Australia and the better weather, in particular,” he says. “Also, for both of us, the career opportunities in this market are better than what we might have returned to.”
How are career opportunities in Sydney better than the UK?
We didn’t want to live and work in London, and anything outside London is inherently a smaller market. And in terms of career advancement, I felt the opportunities in Sydney – which is a much larger office than what I came from in Glasgow, or possibly Belfast – were greater.
But you have also worked elsewhere?
Yes, I worked with a client who took me to Chicago twice a year, for a month each time, over a period of six years. A couple of other clients have also facilitated me travelling to China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. They have all been fantastic experiences in a client context, and in achieving an overview of their businesses and the global nature of their operations. Also, it has been valuable to get to know the cultural differences that exist across the region, and what that means in a business context and on a personal level for our clients’ people and for our teams.
Does that cultural awareness help with your daily work?
I think it does, for a couple of reasons. One is that I have a network of partners and teams in the region that I can call on and have a relationship with. Also, we have such a diverse cultural background within our own team here in Australia, and in Sydney, that I hope it gives me better insight into their culture, and therefore helps me work better with them.
What are the most interesting challenges in your role?
There are a couple of key themes. One is the new and continually developing technologies that are changing the way we provide assurance. These include automation, robotics and machine learning. They are being discussed across the market in different fields, and we can apply them in various ways to do audit better and quicker.
The other theme is the discussion that is going on across the globe around the expectation gap around audit. It’s about how our industry needs to continue to listen in to what is being demanded, particularly in the public domain by investors and consumers of the product. How do we continue to close that gap and make sure we’re always evolving to meet market demand?
How do you develop solutions to such enormous and constantly changing challenges?
Success is about approaching the problems with an open mind. It is about having a genuine desire to understand what the opportunity is, for all stakeholders, and how it can be deployed and used to help us to continue to improve as we go about what we do. That’s how we find success.
You’re the Chair of the Sydney ICAS Members Network. What is important about this?
I have always been interested in broadening my own network, and part of that is being better connected within the ICAS members network. I’m now better able to network others and hopefully influence how some of the benefits for ICAS members develop over the next couple of years. It is something we need to continue to improve on – there are huge opportunities that will come from better connectivity within the membership group. These include mentorship, career guidance, and maybe even opening some doors to new career opportunities.
What’s your advice for other ICAS members moving to Australia?
It’s similar to what I said about finding success in an ever-changing business environment. You have to arrive with an open mind about the culture and the lifestyle. Look to embed yourself in the local community, and not just lift your life from one city in the Northern Hemisphere and try to replicate the same lifestyle in Australia.
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.