Gareth Hunt: The CA in Silicon Valley
Andrea Murad talks to Gareth Hunt CA, a partner in EY’s audit practice, about making a move to California, the CA qualification and career advice.
What interested you in accounting?
At school, I was always more interested in sciences and maths, but realised that I didn’t want to pursue a medical career like my parents. I attended the University of Southampton and enrolled in their accounting and finance program because I wanted to study something business related and discovered my passion for accounting.
What did you do after graduation? 2002 was a unique time to enter the workforce as an accountant.
During my last year at university, I was interviewing for a few positions. I was fortunate to be offered positions with many of the largest accounting firms. Ultimately, I decided to join EY because they seemed to really invest and care about the people in their organisation, something that I have now experienced first hand. I started at EY in Reading where they were setting up their European Technology Centre.
When did you first consider making a move?
I spent five years in the UK working with many of the largest technology companies. After about three or four years I was looking for a change and to broaden my experience. I wanted to get some international experience and move overseas or look for something else outside of the Big Four accounting firms.
I interviewed with some of the investment banks, but in the end, I realised that I was more interested in working with different companies and thought I’d get more professional development with EY.
I talked to my mentors who were able to help facilitate a global rotation. I moved to California in September of 2007 and haven’t looked back since.
Why Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley is the centre of tech, innovation and venture capital. That creates tremendous opportunity for professionals. Some of the largest companies (Apple and Google), as well as some of the fastest growing companies (Uber and Facebook), in the world are based all within 50 miles.
The opportunity to work in a market that’s so dynamic and constantly changing with incredibly driven people was one I couldn’t say no to. The opportunities in this area are tremendous. I wouldn’t be able to work with these types of companies or to put all the things I’ve had on my resume for the past nine years had I worked anywhere else in the world.
How are companies in the West Coast different than those in London?
There’s a lot more entrepreneurial spirit and a lot more companies that are trying to make their mark on the world. People are prepared to try things, and they’re prepared to fail - failure isn’t a bad thing. People are prepared to take bigger risks, which makes business very different than in London.
What interested you in auditing?
It’s one of those things that has given me a great amount of professional development. When I started with the firm in the UK, I was working with smaller FTSE 250 clients, which gave me a great breadth in terms of companies that I was exposed to. I was able to work on due diligence projects as they went through acquisitions.
Recently, I have worked with companies divesting significant portions of their business. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the largest companies in the world but also smaller entrepreneurial growth companies.
You were promoted to partner after just 12 years. What advice do you have for someone looking rise in the ranks?
Identify your strengths, know what they are and make sure you show them every day. It comes down to getting the right experience throughout your career, being able to build and develop teams to support you, and developing client relationships.
You have to do all of those things and do them well. This has enabled me to be successful in my career - it’s about the combination of leadership, management and technical expertise.
Where do you see the opportunity within your field?
When I look at what’s happening across the US economy, parts of the country have slowed down, but the growth and opportunity in the Bay Area is tremendous. We’re moving people into this area to support the continued growth in our practice. There’s always opportunity here for people who want to move to the West Coast.
How has ICAS helped?
The qualification is a world-renowned qualification. It sets people up very well early on in their careers. For me, transitioning and moving to the US was relatively easy with the qualifications I have through ICAS.
ICAS has established communities around the world to support the growing membership outside of the UK. I am an active member of the ICAS community in Northern California.
What is it you like about living in the US? Was it difficult to adjust to life here?
California is a great place to live and work. The weather is exceptional 10 months of the year. I love the outdoors, and I love to ski, hike and play golf.
It’s hard to remember back to that first year and what it was like to relocate. I was younger when I came here, and single. I am now married to an American woman and have a young son. Life is certainly very different. When you’re single, it’s easy to pick up and relocate around the world. There are a lot more things to think about when you have a family. California is now home, and I am loving being a new father to my first son Lucas. He certainly keeps me and my wife on our toes!