Ricky Munday CA on audit, Antarctica and climbing Everest

Ricky Munday
By Alec Mackenzie, CA Magazine

3 March 2017

The countdown to Ricky Munday CA’s Everest expedition has begun.

World travel is part of the job for many CAs, but few can boast as many passport stamps from remote and insecure parts of the globe as Ricky. 

From professional beginnings in audit with HBOS, his career moved into the humanitarian aid sector and he has led support functions within the Red Cross Movement and international NGOs in countries including Sudan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

His last overseas posting was a two-year deployment to Haiti with the Canadian Red Cross, which saw him coordinate more than 300 staff dealing with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

He returned to the UK in 2014 to take up a position with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge, the body that runs the UK Government’s operations in Antarctica. Ricky is the organisation’s Head of Corporate Services, with strategic responsibility for its £50m resource budget. It’s the ideal job for an avid adventurer who has completed mountaineering expeditions to six continents and is currently planning to reach the summit of Everest.

Ricky Munday CA

Describing his current role at BAS, he said: “Essentially, I oversee the finance team, human resources, and science support.

"There are two sides to science support: one is about helping scientists identify and obtain fundraising opportunities and the second is actually supporting them once they have that, both by managing projects and by providing laboratory provision.

"We run the labs that are based in Cambridge and at our various Antarctic stations, and on our ships.”

Ricky also serves as the BAS representative on the main operational planning group of the Natural Environment Research Council, which is the parent organisation of BAS and others including the British Geological Survey and the National Oceanography Centre.

The research undertaken by BAS is as varied as the Antarctic continent itself, and is designed to address major scientific and societal issues. This year, for instance, BAS scientists contributed to studies demonstrating how seabed creatures absorb atmospheric carbon, the decline of New Zealand southern right whales, and the successful establishment of a new marine protected area in Antarctica’s Ross Sea.

Challenges

For someone like Ricky, who has a keen interest in life at the extremes, working with BAS is an ideal match.

He agreed: “I’m really lucky here because I guess the ethos of this organisation matches my own personal ethos. 

"BAS has been in existence since the Second World War but we can trace our history and lineage back to the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. One of the ships we operate, for example, is called the RRS Ernest Shackleton. So there is very much a spirit of adventure and exploration here and I’m also grateful BAS has given me time off to pursue my Everest expedition.”

Between April and June this year, Ricky will leave the home comforts of Cambridge for the oxygen-starved climes of the Himalayas.

Ricky will be tackling Everest from the peak’s north side, which lies within Tibet. Traditionally climbers have favoured the Nepalese route from the south but this has only reopened recently after a devastating earthquake in 2015.

The next extreme

Ricky began trekking while at school but, despite being related to the famed Canadian climber Phyllis Munday, rugby was his primary sporting pursuit. He enjoyed 10 seasons playing for the Glasgow Hawks.

His appetite for taking on gruelling endurance challenges began during a break in his CA training in 2004 when he completed the Marathon des Sables, a six-day ultra-marathon in the Sahara Desert, dubbed the toughest footrace on earth.

“It was absolutely the most amazing thing I could possibly do with my life,” Ricky commented. “Completing it gave me a sense of confidence that now means I find it hard to turn things down or believe that I can’t achieve something.

“It was a tough, tough event. There’s a stage that’s 80km long and I had to go on a drip at one of the checkpoints because I was so dehydrated. But you rest for a while and you get back on with it. The support I had from my friends, family and teammates at Glasgow Hawks was just incredible, so there was no way I could give up.”

Ricky Munday CA

Ricky trained as a CA with Deloitte in Glasgow and with McCabes, a three-Partner firm based in Edinburgh. He started officer cadet training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, but, despite a successful start, left for family reasons and took up an internal audit post with HBOS.

His next post was as a Senior Analyst, Infrastructure Finance, with Bank of Scotland, and this gave him the opportunity of a secondment to help Kenya Children’s Home in Nairobi. That was the start of a career in aid and development, working in finance and management roles for NGOs in Sudan, the German Red Cross in Pakistan and the Canadian Red Cross in Haiti and elsewhere.

If Ricky successfully reaches the summit of Everest next year it also means he can tick off another big name from his own “Triple Seven Summits” Project.

This hugely ambitious endeavour is an attempt to climb the three highest peaks on every continent, a feat that to date has only been achieved by the Austrian mountaineer Christian Stangl. Ricky has so far ascended Kilimanjaro, Mount Stanley in Uganda, Indonesia’s Carstensz Pyramid, the Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, Mount Elbrus in Russia, and Aconcagua in Argentina.

He said: “It’s something that is long term for me and just an interesting idea. I like to have a project to focus on for the future, and being able to plan these expeditions keeps me really motivated and engaged. I’m probably going to do one every year or two now.

“I enjoy every aspect of them. When you’re up high on a mountain at 5,000m watching the sunset, it’s an amazing perspective and an experience that refocuses you. You can push your boundaries each time and understand that you can actually look after yourself in a really difficult environment.

“There are still lots of mountains on my list of 21 that I’ve got to climb, so there will always be something else for me to plan and prioritise.”

A version of this article was first published online on 4 January 2017. The full version of this article is available in the December 2016/January 2017 edition of CA magazine.

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