Interview: Charles Anderson CA, New York Metro Community Leader
Charles Anderson CA is managing director at PwC for Technology Emerging Company Services and the New York Metro Chair for ICAS. He chose accounting since it’s a key part of any organization and would be a great grounding to explore other opportunities. Almost 20 years later though, he’s stayed in accounting because that’s what he enjoys.
Where did you start your career?
I started working for a midsized firm in Glasgow and qualified there with ICAS. I was there for a few years and looking to expand my horizons. The opportunity to work for PwC in New York City came up — at that time, the opportunity in terms of the accounting profession didn’t get much bigger than working for one of the Big Four in New York City. The combination of wanting to travel and experience something different with the work opportunity was what helped me decide to leave Glasgow. I’ve been here for almost 11 years.
Is it as easy to work in the states today?
I don’t know how easy it is these days — I moved here around the time of Sarbanes-Oxley when there was a big need for accounting professionals. The visa situation is something that can make coming to the states tricky and be politically driven. Many people come on a short-term assignment and then decide to stay longer term.
Why did you decide to stay?
It goes back to the challenge and the opportunity. The New York metropolitan area is so vibrant when it comes to the business opportunities, as well as the living opportunities — what a city to live in! For me, coming from a small village, to go from that to living in a big city was quite a transition. There’s definitely the lifestyle aspect to think about, but the opportunity to live and work here is a big deal.
What is your area of expertise?
I am focused on the technology industry. At PwC, we work with large technology companies and multinationals. While I’ve worked with more well-known companies over the years, more recently, I’ve been working with venture-backed start-ups that want to go public.
There’s a huge ecosystem of start-ups in New York City, and I work with these clients as they go from early stage through to helping them go public. It’s a different role than a large public company audit. We’re trying to meet companies at an early stage that have the potential to go public. Outside of San Jose and Silicon Valley, New York City is the next largest venture tech hub — it’s ranked #2 after Silicon Valley.
Why did you decide to start working with start-ups?
I wanted to get different experience and work more closely with companies that are less established and need more assistance in the early years, which was actually more consistent with the type of companies I worked with in my early years in Glasgow — smaller entrepreneurial companies. There are different challenges as they figure out their path to go public that an established company doesn’t have — start-ups have to figure out a lot of stuff as they grow. There are a lot of opportunities to help them through that and add value as they manoeuvre through this process. Today, I meet with these companies to help them solve their problems and as they address their growth strategy.
What is it like to work with young entrepreneurs and VCs?
It’s a very vibrant environment. It’s a very innovative and young atmosphere because companies are developing new products and offerings, and as they create solutions, they often have to make changes on the fly and pivot to what the market wants. They have to be very nimble and be able to adapt quickly to the market.
I never have the same day twice because these companies face different challenges because they’re all in different markets and stages of growth.
Where do you see the opportunity within your field?
Understanding the impact of technology and how it’s disrupting all types of industries is important. I say that because I work specifically in the technology practice and see it day in and day out. But in any company or industry, you see how big companies are using technology and data to transform their organizations. Having a good grasp of that will be something that continues to impact all companies for years to come as they embrace data and technology.
Are there opportunities to work in house in New York City as well?
Working in house is definitely an opportunity. If you come to New York City and are working with one of the Big Four, it’s a great launch pad to pursue other opportunities. You can either pursue that career, or join a start-up and take the gamble by working with an early stage company that you hope will take off. There are lots of opportunities at the almost endless list of large companies in the NY market that span all industries
How has ICAS helped?
ICAS gave me the training and basic grounding to be able to come to the US and execute and perform. It gave me the platform and skill level so that I can do what I do anywhere in the world, and I just happened to end up in New York City.
The global reach and fundamental basics that the ICAS training and education gives you is second to none, and it puts you in a successful position where you might need to adapt to different cultures, companies, regulations and rules — that skillset is what makes it possible to tackle and embrace this challenge.
What do you like most about working in the US?
There’s this whole ecosystem from small start-ups to some of the biggest companies in the world, and it spans all industries. There are very few places that give you that kind of business opportunity and combine that with the social aspect with working and or living in Manhattan — it’s pretty unique. There aren’t very many cities that can rival that.
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