Q&A with Billy Meston CA, ICAS Community Chair in Western Australia
Having decided at age 12 that he wanted to become an accountant, Billy Meston CA followed that dream to the other side of the world, where he found a place to call home.
Sometimes parents have much more influence than they think, even over other people’s children! Billy Meston clearly recalls the fateful day when, as a 12-year-old living in the new town of Glenrothes in Fife, he visited his best mate Craig and received valuable advice from Craig’s mum.
Billy’s father was an automotive mechanic and his mother a full-time mum. Craig’s family was in a similar position, but both sets of parents wished more for their children.
That day Craig’s mum, in Billy’s presence, told him he should be an accountant because he was good at maths. Billy was good at maths too, so he decided then and there to follow Craig’s mum’s advice.
Craig became an accountant and now lives with his family in Boston, where he is currently an at-home parent. Billy did, too, and is now a partner at PwC, leader of PwC’s Private Client Assurance Practice in WA, Chair of the ICAS community in Western Australia (WA), Director and Chair of the Audit Committee of The Bravery Trust (formerly the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust) and coach of his son’s seriously talented under-12 cricket team.
Here we speak with Billy about why Australia became his home, and the plans he has for the community over which he presides.
Where did you study?
I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 and qualified as a CA with ICAS in 1997. I have been an ICAS member ever since. It was such a challenge to get through those exams that there was no way I was ever going to give that up!
And your first job?
I was fortunate enough, during the ‘milk round’ when accounting firms go through their recruitment process with final-year students, to receive offers from five of the six big firms at the time. The only one I didn’t get an offer from was Arthur Andersen. I accepted a job with Ernst & Young and was with them in Edinburgh for over a decade.
How did the Australia connection come about?
In 1999 I came to Perth for two years on EY’s global exchange scheme. My eldest son was born in Australia and when he was 12 weeks old we went back home to Scotland. But we always wanted to return to Australia. In the UK we felt we were living for our holidays. Instead, we wanted to live somewhere that we felt we were always on holiday.
How long did it take you to return to Australia?
We were back in Scotland for about six years. I left EY and joined Baker Tilly (now RSM) as a director in 2004 and became a partner in 2005. Then a friend of mine, a recruiter, found a great opportunity for me at PwC in Perth, growing their private business unit. I came over in 2007 and have been here ever since.
Do you have the lifestyle you dreamed of?
Absolutely! We live the dream. Every weekend we're out and about, helping with the kids’ sport or at the beach. In the evenings we often eat out. It is such a fantastic outdoor lifestyle here that you actually just become accustomed to it being the norm.
What plans do you have for the local ICAS community?
When you’re far away from Scotland it is great to have that connection back to the Institute. We have over 80 members here in WA. In the next 12 months there will be a couple of social functions simply as a mechanism for people to get together and have a chat. In addition to that I am looking to set up some networking and professional development opportunities. At PwC we have a ‘Budget Breakfast’ each year, just after the Federal Budget is released. I will invite ICAS members along to that. Plus I am looking at doing a function or two with the British Chamber of Commerce in WA and with Scottish Development International, the international arm of Scottish Enterprise.
How is the outlook in WA for young CAs?
In terms of Scottish CAs there has always been, and always will be, great demand for individuals with good business acumen, insights and a talent for understanding numbers and trends. The Scottish CA qualification puts us at the forefront of being able to help businesses, whether it is providing professional advice as I do, or from within the business itself as a CFO, as a finance manager, as a financial analyst etc. Economies grow and contract and with that comes risk and opportunity. CAs can help guide a business through any environment so they come out stronger at the other end.
Connect with the ICAS community in WA
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