Graeme Morrison - rugby stood me in good stead to be CA

Graeme Morrison

Former Scotland rugby star Graeme Morrison is now working for RBS and studying to become a CA. Here he answers a few questions and talks about how the skills he learned on the rugby pitch have served him well as an ICAS student.

What prompted you to become a CA?

I never saw myself coming down this path. I played professional rugby for 10 years and during that time you don’t really think about what’s going to be next because you’re so immersed in dedicating yourself to being as good as you can be at the sport.

But I had several knee operations and eventually, one day, a surgeon told me that it was time to hang the boots up. It was a bit of “what now?”.

I initially thought that becoming a CA wouldn’t interest me, but the more I spoke to people about it and researched what it could lead to in the future, it became evident it would be a great thing to do. It would help me to get a really good career.

It would be a huge challenge as well - there would be a lot of hard work, but I take a lot of pride in getting through quite hard work.

What finally tipped the balance for you?

My dad, Kenneth Morrison, is an ICAS qualified CA who lives in Hong Kong. I attended boarding school from an early age as my parents saw more opportunity for me in Scotland. So during the years when you are becoming more interested in what your parents are doing, I was over here learning. I didn’t know much about the CA world.

However, when I looked more closely and I saw the business leaders in Scotland and around the world that are CAs, it attracted me to it.

I was contemplating applying and I went to Hong Kong for a holiday to see my parents. I set up a couple of meetings with CAs out there to coincide with my trip.

I met Martin Murray of Cathay Pacific and Sandy Dudgeon Managing Director of Cazenove Capital Management Asia. Speaking to these guys as well as my dad, who’d been there and done it and were able to tell the stories of what being a CA had done for them had a massive role in deciding to go ahead.

You don’t just have to be an accountant; you acquire the tools for business. I wanted to test myself with the CA training and get involved because of the doors that it would open.

How has it been so far?

Entering ICAS and having to understand and learn how to study to the extent that you need to in order to get through those exams was a real shock to the system. I had probably read about 10 novels in total during my time as a rugby player! It really was a case of having to retrain myself to study, whilst learning how to do my job at RBS.

The support I’ve got in class and at work from some of my tutors and colleagues has been brilliant. There have been times when I have questioned my ability, but they fill you with a bit of confidence and keep you going.

As a rugby player, you’re trying to get into the best shape possible, push through the pain barriers and do everything to win. This is just a different kind of work

One of the more challenging things for me was my first couple of months at the bank. As a rugby player, we used to wear a suit on special occasions and now I had to come in every day wearing one, to sit at a desk all day which was something I was not used to.

Being out of my comfort zone and having to keep on striving to adapt to a completely new environment has been character building. It’s made me stronger as a person. I’m fairly comfortable with the way things are now.

Did your rugby background help?

As a rugby player, you’re trying to get into the best shape possible, push through the pain barriers and do everything to win. This is just a different kind of work.

It’s the same mentality - I did have to learn how to hit the books and with some of the more maths-based areas I had to really dig into the grey matter. But, ultimately, having been a professional rugby player for so long, putting myself through such high intensity environments has definitely helped me to get through it – to push through the pain barriers.

The rugby lessons I learned about how to keep on going have stood me in good stead.

What have been the high points?

The satisfaction I got from getting my exam results (so far). I’ve played some pretty big rugby matches in my time but the nerves experienced when going into an exam hall, or the day you’re about to open your results don’t compare. It is fairly brutal!

One thing that kept me going was keeping my eyes on the goal - the finish line

The enjoyment you get when you realise that the hard work you’ve put in is paying off is one of the really good things for me.

I’ve learned so much since I started and I’ve met some really good people at RBS. They work hard together and support each other to do well. It’s been really good.

Where do you see your future as CA?

When people ask me, I say in 10 years’ time I’ll probably still not know what I want to do with my life!  For now, I want to get through the qualification to the best of my ability.

And then hopefully doors will open. My parents are still in Hong Kong, so the thought of going back there for a few years to learn and to work in a completely different environment would be quite exciting for me, although I have a wife and young baby so will have to see what suits us as a family.

I want to do as well as I can do in life. If that means working my way to the top of a company, that’s what I want to do. I want to test myself to be as good as I can be, so we’ll see.

Have you got advice for fellow students?

Have the discipline to put time aside to really focus on studying. In the grand scheme of things, it’s for such a short period of your life, so dedicate yourself to it.

If you don’t understand the material in class, keep asking questions. There’s no sense in sitting there feeling uncomfortable. Just keep asking and using the resources available.

One thing that kept me going was keeping my eyes on the goal - the finish line. That one day I’ll be a qualified CA and I’ve just got to put in the work and stay focused.

It takes a lot of work, it’s absolutely required – if you don’t work you won’t get through.

Thanks to Scottish Rugby and Scottish Rugby/SNS for the photos.


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