From bookkeeper to boss: 5 reasons why CAs make great business leaders

Business leader in a meeting
By Graeme Hartop CA, CEO of Hampden & Co

5 July 2017

Business success hinges on the ability of visionary leaders who can innovate, inspire, and motivate employees to achieve lofty goals. 

Graeme Hartop CA, and CEO of Hampden & Co, helps us define what it takes to be a great business leader – and discusses why CAs already have essential leadership qualities.

In my experience there are five attributes that CAs have that position them brilliantly to become great business leaders, and I advise people coming up the accountancy route to make the best of these strengths as they develop their careers.

1. Breadth of experience

CAs starting out in accountancy firms, as I did, have the chance to work with a wide range of different people in different organisations. By understanding a company’s accounts and working with their staff you naturally learn the financial dynamics of that industry. I encourage people to go beyond that, and to find out from their clients what their organisation does really well, and how have they made this happen. 

By understanding the facts behind the numbers across different companies and in different industries you will start to form your own views on how to drive business success.

2. Define your leadership style

Many CAs also often have the opportunity to witness and learn different leadership styles. From early in your career you typically are exposed to very senior people within your own or your client’s organisations, and you can see how different individuals choose to lead. By being able to witness different behaviours, habits and personalities CAs can determine what elements of their own leadership style they want to accentuate, and how they can best inspire, direct and motivate people around them.

Working with senior people also helps you learn a range of critical leadership skills for example, being able to think quickly and clearly and articulate complex messages simply and concisely. Many senior individuals are very happy to support and coach those that ask for guidance, so I would encourage people at all career levels to seek this input to enhance their development.

If you’re a CA looking to boost your innovative thinking and accelerate your career growth, you can find out more about the ICAS Masterminds Executive Coaching Programme, designed for business leaders.

3. Exceed expectations

It goes without saying that those with CA qualifications have proven analytical capabilities. It is important to look at ways that these skills can be utilised beyond the straight financial numbers and apply them to more ‘upstream’ data that leaders typically use to manage the business. Helping those who are accountable for acquiring new clients, developing new products or managing workforces, for example, understand both the key messages and the nuances contained within their data, will both make you an indispensable colleague while also enabling you to become familiar with the drivers of your company’s performance.

4. Be an authentic leader

As well as making sure you are fully utilising your skill set and learning from those around you, there is an important cultural angle to making the move into business leadership. As someone operating in an accountancy practice or an internal finance function it is vital that you view yourself as a business problem solver. To be truly effective you need to do more than report on the numbers, you need to have ideas on how to influence them, and be prepared to take the initiative and turn these ideas into action, which can be far more fulfilling than just spectating the business performance.

5. Remember - you have the ability to inspire

Finally, there is an instant credibility that ‘being a CA’ bestows, so people should take real confidence from having the qualification behind them. It is hard earned, and extremely well respected, and as a consequence makes CAs some of the most sought after professionals in business.

About the author

Graeme Hartop, the CEO of Hampden & Co, is a qualified Chartered Accountant and Chartered Banker. He started his career at the accountancy firm Arthur Young as an auditor. From there he spent six years at Adam & Co, where he held various senior roles in finance. In 1994 he moved to Scottish Widow’s Bank, initially as the Finance and Operations Director, and was appointed Managing Director in 2003. He joined Hampden & Co as CEO in 2013, attracted to the concept of a bank that was looking to provide clients with expert, professional banking services. The bank opened to clients in the summer of 2015, and has been growing rapidly ever since.

To find out more, visit Hampden & Co or contact Murdo McHardy on 0131 297 0121 or by email.

About the company

Hampden & Co is an independent private bank, established by a team of experienced bankers who understand that many successful professionals value a very personal banking service. The bank offers a discreet, high-quality service based on developing a detailed understanding of their clients through close personal relationships that are supported with modern banking technology.


  • Leadership and management

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