Interview: Melbourne Community Chair Ken Weldin CA
Ken Weldin CA was not terribly bothered when his lifelong dream of becoming striker for his favourite football team, Morton, never came to fruition.
After all, a look at his family tree proved beyond all doubt that his future lay elsewhere.
His mother worked in Clydesdale Bank from the day she left school. His father is an accountant. Four of his cousins are CAs, as are two of his uncles. “So I didn’t choose this,” he laughs, dryly. “I guess it chose me.”
Today Weldin is a Partner with PKF in Melbourne. He is a long way from the town of Kilmacolm, not far from Glasgow, where he grew up. But Australia is a land, a lifestyle and a community that he has proudly called home since arriving 11 years ago.
“I now have two children with very Australian accents,” Weldin says. “Maybe one day they will be CAs. In terms of ICAS, we have 164 members in Victoria but since we began our efforts here, we have had over 100 individuals turn up to various events, so we have a very high penetration rate. We may not be the biggest ICAS community, but because of the way we manage events, we achieve great engagement.”
Having regularly witnessed the power of the ICAS network for individuals who have made the trek to the other side of the globe, Weldin is constantly expanding the network’s reach. We spoke with the ICAS Melbourne Community Chair about his history, the current state of the Melbourne network and his plans for its growth.
Where did you study?
I did a B.Acc at the University of Glasgow. There is a healthy population of ICAS CAs who have done that course. One of my lecturers from Glasgow is now one of my members here. And when we had one of our first ICAS functions in Melbourne, in the room were two people who were in my class at university. I hadn't seen them in 22 years.
Where did your career begin?
I worked for a small practice in Glasgow called Bannerman Johnstone Maclay while I did the ICAS program. It was very hands-on, a great training ground. We always did a little bit of everything, rather than doing the same task on every job.
I worked with chap called John Beattie, an ex-Scottish rugby international and a British Lion. My one particular memory was playing five-a-side indoor football against John. When you are playing as a skinny 25-year-old and you have a British Lion running towards you, it makes you think quite a bit about risk management (hello, John, if you’re reading this)! He was probably three times my weight.
Then you spent time at Andersen?
I did, and it was fascinating. I travelled the world with them. I went to Holland, Belgium, France, Sweden, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Korea and even England. When the Sultan of Brunei gave all of his money to his brother to invest, and he spent it on toys, I was part of the insolvency recovery team of about 150 accountants, from all over the world, working in the middle of the Brunei jungle. That was an amazing experience and was when I began to get into contact with some Australians.
Were you at Andersen when it collapsed?
I was seconded to the head office in Chicago, and was on the same floor as all of the senior executives. I had a unique and close-up view of the collapse. I felt as if I was at the centre of the hurricane. It was that experience that gave me such an interest in risk and governance.
What brought you to Australia?
After Andersen I worked in commerce in Glasgow, in the bus building industry, for three years. Then I got married, and our honeymoon was in Australia.
We wanted to try living somewhere else, and we thought if we don’t do it now we never will. So I went through some old Andersen connections and made a couple of calls. I met some people when we were in Melbourne and received a job offer with EY. I was there for 11 years before moving to PKF this year.
What does ICAS have to offer to CAs in Melbourne?
First of all, while we are the ICAS institute and the majority of us are from Scotland, we have a range of other people in our network. We have English, we have Welsh, Irish, Polish and French. This is the power of the qualification.
We have a range of nationalities, backgrounds and experience and I like that diverse dynamic. We also have people that have been members for over 50 years and we have new members. The power of that diverse community is great.
At one event we had somebody who had only been in the country for two weeks. As a result of coming to the event, three days later he had a job.
What are your plans for the future of the community?
Rather than monthly events, we concentrate on quality over quantity. So we have had events with very sought-after speakers, such as Michael Woodford MBE, ex Olympus CEO, and Ian Moir, the CEO of South African company Woolworths, when they decided to take over department store David Jones.
We are also partnering with Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand, and very possibly with the Institute of England & Wales, to extend our reach and scale.
But the community is as amorphous as it needs to be. You don’t have to wait for a major event if there’s someone you need to communicate with. Just contact me and I will put you in touch with the right person. There is a hub in every wheel, and in Melbourne that hub is the ICAS committee.