Graham Russell reveals his plans for New York CAs

New York City
Andrea Murad By Andrea Murad, CA Today

2 August 2017

Graham Russell CA, Business Processing Operations Director at WPP Group, tells Andrea Murad about his new role as the ICAS New York Chair, travelling the world, and specializing in shared services and transformation.

The road ahead: networking, mentoring and sharing knowledge with new members

From the time I qualified in 1979 until I met Anton about five years ago, I had very little interaction with the Institute, perhaps because I was overseas or out of the public accounting profession.

Graham Russell CAThen along came Anton Colella, who realized that CAs working around the world were an untapped resource. He successfully challenged that potential and helped create the international aspect of the Institute, that we all now enjoy.

The efforts of both Anton and Atholl Duncan (Executive Director, UK and Global), has created more interest for members; internationally and outside the profession. We’ve become better networked and will become better together.

My professional goal is to help further these same ambitions by creating a networking environment for our members living overseas. New York has about 200 members and is the head office for many companies and institutions.

We also have a lot of young people who come here, so for them it’s an opportunity to leverage the knowledge and skill of those of us who have been around a lot longer. It’s shared learning.

I would like for us to be a touchpoint for visiting or relocating CAs with a view to improving networking.

The key for me has been to build a small team of people to help us focus on the key objectives. These mainly revolve around communication and engagement, with a specific focus on younger members, mentoring, partnerships with affiliated organizations, and events such as the October visit of our recently appointed president, Sir Brian Souter.

I would also like for us to be a touchpoint for visiting or relocating CAs with a view to improving networking, and I would encourage any interested visitors or relocating members to make contact.

Specializing in streamlined systems and outsourcing

My area of specialization within Business and Finance Transformation has become Shared Services and Outsourcing. Over the years, my teams have put in place regional shared service centers around the world that transfer work from back offices in our legacy environments.

This usually leads to the transfer and consolidation of like functions to a central location, where processes become more automated and professionalized to run as a service.

New performance metrics are introduced and the employees - many are new hires - become key service employees to the business. In each of my experiences, we have gone on to outsource or offshore aspects of the work from the Shared Services centres, usually to India and/or one of the Eastern European countries.

The creation of this critical mass in one location - or even virtually - allows for process streamlining with greater automation.

At each stage of your education and development, there are passports that help you get to the next stage of your life.

I created my first ever shared services centre 25 years ago in Central America long before the concept was popular or well known. That gave me an early view of the opportunity and led me to what I’ve now been doing across four companies.

While I used my finance and accounting technical skills early in my career, there’s not a day that I don’t use the management skills I’ve acquired during my business years.

I believe that at each stage of your education and development, there are passports that help you get through that new door to the next stage of your life.

Your life becomes a sequence of experiences that build upon each other.

Discovering the opportunities outside traditional finance

For those interested in pursuing a similar career, you want to come through the organization and become specialized in certain processes, change management and outsourcing. These are all things that most large businesses now have, but it’s not something widely taught.

This route is more distinct than traditional finance, but no more specialized than taxation or investor relations or hedge fund management. It’s a specialized niche, and once you get the right experience, there are opportunities.

Work in this field greatly helps companies transform to become leaner and more customer focused, with consequent benefits to top and bottom lines. Change never comes easy to organizations, but successfully leading an organization through it is rewarding.

About the author

Andrea Murad is a New York–based writer. Having worked on both Wall Street and Main Street, she now pursues her passion for words. She covers business and finance, and her work can be found on BBC Capital, Consumers Digest,, Global Finance and


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