Top 35 CAs Under 35 2017
We are delighted to announce the top 35 CAs under 35.
These are the most promising rising stars of our profession. The CAs who are passionate about making the world a better place and who are leading and inspiring others. The CAs who are standing out from the crowd.
Each nominee was considered for one of four competition categories:
For CAs who can demonstrate a knack for entrepreneurial initiative and have used their skills to help shape original ideas into a successful reality.
- Innovation & Technology:
For CAs who are known for implementing dramatic change and thrive in an environment of new innovative processes and technologies.
- Leadership & Influence:
For CAs who motivate and inspire those around them while driving their organisations toward diversity, inclusivity and success.
- Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility:
For CAs that are dedicated to making a positive impact in both business and wider society with deference to sustainability and corporate responsibility.
From the 35, four category winners will be announced at this year's Young Leaders Summit & One Young CA Awards in London on 14 September. One of the category winners will then be crowned One Young CA 2017.
Click below to expand and explore the top 35 CAs under 35 2017.
Graeme Gibson CA, 34
Head of Finance Projects, Edinburgh Airport, Edinburgh
Graeme graduated from the University of Oxford in 2003 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics. In 2005 he started his training with Deloitte while working in in audit, and qualified in 2009. He is now the Head of Finance Projects at Edinburgh Airport and has made a significant impact on the business in the two years he’s been in the role.
“I am currently Head of Finance Projects at Edinburgh Airport where my team's remit includes strategic and long-term financial planning, debt financing, private equity shareholder management, capital planning and appraisal, treasury & financial risk management, property development, insurance, risk, and pensions.
While Edinburgh Airport is fast growing and entrepreneurial and with sophisticated and disciplined private equity investors, the finance team is relatively modest. As a result, I have a broad-ranging role and significant exposure to our shareholders, advisors, banks and long-term institutional investors. The role requires agility, competence and confidence.
Prior to joining Edinburgh Airport I was the Group Treasurer at Manchester Airports Group where I managed the treasury function across a portfolio of four international airports. The highlight of this role was leading the process to establish MAG in the listed debt capital markets, obtain investment grade credit ratings and develop new relationships with a number of long-term bond investors.
I started my career with Deloitte in Edinburgh in 2005. I initially trained as an auditor in financial services while studying for my CA qualification before moving into Treasury Consulting to build the advisory business in Scotland.
My career path has evolved rather than been subject to any design. I've always looked for opportunities where I will be challenged - whether that be via issues, environments or people.
I enjoy working in fast moving businesses and with people who are capable and driven. It is this appetite and enthusiasm that led me to a traineeship with a 'Big 4' advisory firm and then onto ambitious infrastructure businesses working hard to commercialise their activities and maximise shareholder value.
Longer-term my aspiration is to be a Chief Financial Officer or Finance Director in Scotland. I am conscious there is much I need to learn but my broad experiences - across corporate finance, treasury, financial planning & analysis, financial control and process / internal control - put me on the right track”.
Andrew Hope CA, 30
Associate, Quest Corporate, Edinburgh
Andrew began his career in 2010 when he entered the graduate scheme at Deloitte in Edinburgh, joining the corporate audit team. During his four years at Deloitte where he achieved the CA qualification, he developed a sound understanding of finance and business through his roles with clients such as Johnston Press, BSkyB and a handful of small owner managed businesses. He was also lucky enough to travel, being seconded to New Zealand. He currently works with Quest Corporate and is also Finance Director for Curo Compensation.
“Quest is a small corporate finance advisor in Edinburgh with a focus on fundraising and aiding exit events, mostly for high growth technology companies. Quest offered me an opportunity that was not achievable with Deloitte at that time – the ability to continue working with smaller businesses, providing advice throughout and ultimately on completion of corporate events. It also offered me opportunities to work inside these businesses on an interim basis.
My role with has expanded beyond simply being a corporate advisor. I actively participate in the management of companies (on an interim basis) as Finance Director, with my work aligned with the shareholders on achieving corporate events.
Previous to this I worked with pureLiFi, the Edinburgh University spin out who have wireless communications technology by providing Wi-Fi through light. On completing a significant investment for the company in 2014, I was then asked to go into the business as part time FD in order to implement a finance function, governance and steer the company through to its next investment.
I actively managed the business as part of the management team while maintaining a corporate advisor role, culminating in July 2015 when the business brought in over £6m of new equity investment from Temasek (the Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund) and Scottish Angel Investors. More recently taken on the FD role with Curo Compensation, an Edinburgh and London based software company who provide best-in-class annual review and HR software to enterprise clients worldwide.
The business required a new FD at the turn of the year and my role has been to get under the skin of the business, implement and manage a new working relationship with an outsourced finance function and support the business through an equity investment process.
My involvement will continue post completion of this new investment where my focus is on supporting the business achieve its growth strategy. Both roles have been similar in some aspects. Both required the ability to steer the company through transactions and provide sound financial governance, allowing the business to achieve its strategic aims.
However both roles are poles apart as the companies being at different stages of their life cycle. pureLiFi was a very early stage university spin out raising its first tranches of private equity and focused on technology development. Curo, on the other hand, is a well-established and revenue generating business.
I chose corporate finance as my career path as it allows me to work with some of the best entrepreneurs and exciting high growth companies in Scotland. The opportunities beyond this are endless. The fact I currently get to work inside these businesses, face new challenges on a daily basis and have a positive impact is extremely rewarding.
The CA qualification has been fundamental in allowing me to achieve my career to date. The CA qualification and the training ground from Deloitte has given me a solid financial understanding which now allows me to advise and work with these exciting high growth companies. I now look to build on these foundations and continue to pursue new opportunities as my career develops”.
Chioma Idigo CA, 31
Director, Padook Designs, Lagos, Nigeria
Chioma trained as a CA with PKF and was part of the audit practice where she worked on some high profile public sector clients. After qualifying as a CA, she moved to PwC Lagos where she worked in the accounting consulting team which provides complex accounting support to listed and multinational companies in Africa. In 2016, Chioma launched Padook Designs, a Nigerian Furniture brand that highlights the richness and vibrancy of Nigeria’s culture.
“I am young. I am a CA and I am the co-founder of Padook Designs, a brand that highlights the uniqueness, beauty and quality of Nigerian made furniture.
I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in 2015 and was looking for a way to shine a spotlight on the uniqueness and beauty of Africa. I joined forces with two of my co-founders and came up with Padook Designs, a Nigerian furniture brand that highlights the diversity of the Continent’s art and culture, while building a sustainable and high quality supply chain by training and working with local artisans through academies.
After moving back to Lagos in 2010, I struggled to find good quality, locally made furniture that reflected the richness and vibrancy of Nigerian culture. Additionally, market surveys revealed that poor quality or a lack of consistency in production quality greatly reduced the ability of artisans to charge appropriately for their items. This drove me to start Padook Designs.
Building a business from scratch has been challenging but we are committed to rolling the academies out across Lagos, Nigeria and eventually the rest of Africa.
The most challenging aspect has been raising funding to grow the business in a sustainable way. We are currently in the final stages of negotiating grants from the Lagos State Government and from a number of selected NGOs but the economic recession in Nigeria has made getting funding more challenging.
Despite these challenges, we are extremely pleased with our success in helping six artisans through our academy. We are helping people develop skills to grow their livelihood and we have tapped into a market segment of people in Nigeria who want African inspired and locally produced furniture and art.
One key target for the rest of the year is rolling out the academies to a further two cities in Nigeria. We eventually want to bring the talent of the local African carpenter, painter, weaver and carver to the doorstep of the domestic and international customer.
I am very proud to be a CA and the lessons I learned all those years ago when I qualified, have had an impact on my career as an auditor, consultant and now a business owner. As a founder of a multi-faceted business that is building a unique Nigerian brand, I have been able to lean on the resources provided by ICAS and learn from all the successful CAs I read about in the CA magazine and online. I want to draw attention to the fact that the qualification is universal and translates easily across the globe”.
Suzy Kerton CA, 29
MBA student & Founder, Anything International Limited, London
Suzy is currently a MBA student at Imperial College Business School and she runs her own accounting practice. Suzy previously worked at the Cabinet Office and was CFO of a cloud accounting software company. She decided to do her MBA to improve her soft skills, being leadership and managerial skills, as her goal is to become a board director in the next 5 years. She is very passionate about gender equality and the MBA has presented opportunities for her to influence behaviour and start initiatives that help gender equality at Imperial, which she hopes to replicate in her next step after the MBA.
“I joined the Young Leaders Board following the 2016 One Young CA competition and I will complete the first rotation as Chair of the Young Leaders Board.
Further, since the competition last year I have grown my accountancy practice to service 15 small business clients while completing my MBA at Imperial College.
At Imperial I have taken on several leadership both being appointed to positions and also using my own influence to create leadership positions. I was appointed Social Leader of the Full Time MBA, Student Ambassador and Events Director for the Entrepreneurship Club.
Further, during my time at Imperial I have led the movement to improve gender equality in the business school. I created a group called the Allies to encourage men and women to work together for gender equality. As leader of the Allies, I have influenced the MBA so that the programme now includes workshops on unconscious bias and maternity/paternity leave.
Further, I attended the ICAS women in leadership breakfast as featured in the CA magazine to discuss women in the workplace with senior female leaders and I have also produced content for icas.com on the topic of gender equality.
At Imperial, I have been able to influence senior management to review their lecture content policy to ensure that it is inclusive and representative of both male and female students. At Imperial, I was also selected to complete an exchange at ESAN Business School in Lima, Peru, which I will be attending in July.
The CA qualification has totally shaped my career and given me so many opportunities including going on international secondment to Argentina”.
Kimberley Oliver CA, 29
Director, Xenith Financial Consulting Limited, Aberdeen
At the age of 22, Kimberley qualified as a CA achieving first time passes in all the examinations including a commendation in the Test of Professional Expertise exam whilst working at PwC. She was subsequently promoted to Assurance Manager at the age of 23, representing one of the youngest promotions within the firm. Kimberley set up her own business, Xenith Financial Consulting Limited in 2016. At the end of its first year, Xenith achieved a six-figure turnover and has successfully completed work for a variety of clients from small growing businesses to listed billion-pound turnover companies.
“In 2013, I became Group Financial Controller for Nautronix Group Limited, a high growth, global SME. Responsible for the global finance function, I was an integral part of the management team prior to being involved in the successful sale of the Group. By 2015, I had advanced to become the Group Finance Director of a global recruitment group before setting up my own business, Xenith Financial Consulting Limited in May 2016.
Xenith Financial was launched in Aberdeen during the midst of the longest and most severe oil and gas downturn in generations representing a huge personal and professional risk by leaving a lucrative Finance Director role to create my own legacy. Despite the turmoil in the sector, I identified a gap in the market for quality, flexible but ultimately affordable senior finance support by using my vast knowledge of the sector and awareness of business needs to create my own company. Although I trained as an accountant with a “Big-4” accounting firm, I have a passion for supporting smaller enterprises, working closely with management teams and making a significant difference to their organisations.
Xenith Financial allows SMEs to access high quality finance support on a fully flexible basis to meet their business needs rather than pay for a full-time staff member. We offer tailored services to each client that can be mobilised quickly and deliver immediate results at an affordable price. The company principles of “simplicity, practicality and efficiency” were established early and I have focused on creating a track record of delivering on these.
During the first three months, the business delivered several important engagements to a range of clients, from business forecasts for a growing small business to project assistance for a FTSE 250 company, and we quickly developed a strong revenue stream, solid client base and a pipeline of work into 2017 despite the economic challenges faced by businesses in Aberdeen and competition from established consulting companies.
In October 2016, only five months since the business was established, the first full-time staff member was employed. At the end of its first year, Xenith achieved a six-figure turnover and has successfully completed work for a variety of clients from small growing businesses to listed billion-pound turnover companies.
The CA qualification has made a significant difference to my success. There is already an established level of credibility and expertise before you meet a potential new client as it proves your value as a business advisor before you walk in the door. The breadth of experience you obtain with the CA qualification has helped throughout all of my client assignments, whether it is providing technical accounting guidance, building a forecasting model or sourcing new finance. The CA qualification helped me to obtain my previous roles, without which I would not have had the confidence or the experience to set up Xenith Financial. I am proud to represent the CA qualification, which is why my opening introductory line is always “I am a CA”.
The CA qualification has provided me with a solid foundation of knowledge in all areas of business and has developed me as a valued and trusted business advisor not just as a traditional accountant. The CA qualification provides credibility and proof of my value and expertise before I meet any potential client. The qualification has enabled me to obtain all of my previous staff roles, without which I would not have developed the confidence or experience to set up Xenith Financial”.
Raj Patel CA, 33
Managing Director, A.R.P. Capital Partners, London
Raj graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Economics in 2005 and began his career training to become a CA with EY in London. In 2009, he moved to Goldman Sachs before partnering with a former colleague to co-found A.R.P. Capital Partners, a UK-investment holding company focused on the sub-£25m revenue end of the UK SME market
“I qualified as a CA in EY’s M&A Lead Advisory Group. Soon after, I moved to Goldman Sachs (London), as an Equity Research Analyst covering the European Aerospace and Defence sector, where I also obtained the CFA charter. In 2011/2012, put together a business plan which would allow me to leverage the skills and experience gained up until that point and springboard into senior leadership roles in the UK SME space.
I had always wanted to utilise my skills in unique ways such that I could not only make a tangible difference to the direction of small-medium sized business and the people within them, but also satisfy my personal desire to craft a unique entrepreneurial path for myself and fast-track myself to an Executive/CEO position. Whilst my background and experience were plentiful in the corporate and investment banking world, they were in relatively short supply in smaller SME businesses, and I believed that my efforts could make a real difference in that space.
With that in mind, I partnered with a former Cambridge colleague, and in 2013, co-founded A.R.P. Capital Partners, an investment holding company supported by a broad range of equity partners (more than 20+ investors including private equity, family offices, HNW individuals and high-profile CEOs/Entrepreneurs from the US, Europe and Africa). Via A.R.P. Capital Partners, in 2015, I led a leveraged management buy-in into a £10m turnover company in the heating and renewable energy sector employing over 120 people at the time of acquisition. I assumed the role of Co-CEO of that business (Glevum Heating) despite having had no prior experience in senior executive/board level positions.
I also remain Co-MD of A.R.P. Capital Partners. I therefore have a dual role of operating a company as CEO and managing and deploying further capital for investors via the investment holding parent vehicle founded in 2013.
In the roughly two years since the acquisition of Glevum, I have overseen a large-scale management and operational re-structure of the business, against the backdrop of a difficult market and macro economic environment. This has required careful management of a complex group of stakeholders (equity investors, senior lender, non-executive board and operational management and staff). This has been particularly challenging (and rewarding) given that I am a first-time CEO with no prior industry experience, and I am proud of the progress made within a relatively short period of time."
Devika Srimal Bapna CA, 30
Founder & CEO KANABIS, New-Delhi
Devika started her career at EY, London in Financial Services and simultaneously qualified as a CA with ICAS. She is a graduate from the University of Warwick, and holds an MBA from Duke University, USA. In 2015, she launched KANABIS, a brand of fashionable, high quality and Peta approved vegan footwear for women. Devika is also a teacher at Young Entrepreneurs Academy, Delhi.
“I always had an entrepreneurial itch since I was little and found my calling when I moved back to Delhi and identified a gap in the footwear industry. After a brief stint at Deloitte in corporate finance, I started KANABIS- a brand for fashionable, high quality and Peta approved vegan footwear for women.
As an animal lover and PETA volunteer, I gave up leather few years ago and had a tough time finding good non-leather shoes that were stylish, good quality and affordable. I noticed the unstructured footwear industry in India- we either have the non-Indian players that are expensive and mostly do leather shoes or the unorganized/unbranded segment where quality, price, make etc. is questionable.
It was almost a light-bulb moment when I thought ‘what the heck, I should start my own brand!’ And KANABIS was born.
All our products are made of high quality canvas, fabric and other leather substitutes keeping compassion for animals as a core value of the business. The designs are exclusive and tastefully crafted with a careful mix of fabrics for the right look and comfort. We keep a close eye on the current and upcoming trends in fashion. Each shoe also has a quirky name that tells a story about it.
KANABIS is a play on the word Cannabis (aka marijuana!) since we use a lot of canvas instead of leather in our shoes and canvas was historically made from hemp that came from cannabis.
We are available offline at exhibitions and multi brand stores and online at www.kanabis.in and all leading marketplaces in India.
In two years, we have been featured by Elle India magazine, NDTV news channel, Your Story and several other blogs and fashion media.
Our vision is to grow KANABIS into a strong, sustainable, global brand”.
Leadership & Influence Category
James Blackburn CA, 34
Head of Systems and Control, Asia Pacific, Savills, Hong Kong
James Blackburn qualified as a CA in 2008 while working for PwC in London. After qualifying he moved to Risk Assurance, specialising in controls redesign work for system implementations. He built specific expertise in working across borders, spending extended periods on system implementations for companies operating in Ghana and Barbados. After returning to the UK, he built a diverse team providing advisory services for management information systems implementations. He then moved to Hong Kong, working for Savills Asia Pacific as their Head of Systems and Control. James is passionate about transforming finance processes and also promoting diversity and inclusiveness.
“Experience in audit work on FTSE 100 audits helped me to recognise and build my skills in analysing and understanding business processes and controls, and influencing stakeholders to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes when designing new, effective, efficient processes and implementing them.
This work supported a move to Risk Assurance where I specialised in controls redesign work for system implementations. I built specific expertise in working across borders, spending extended periods on system implementations for companies operating in Ghana and Barbados. This work gave me experience in process-focused IT implementation solutions, and I recognised that data and IT systems, using Cloud technology and increasingly automated connectivity, will define best practices in finance processes for enterprise in the next 20 years.
Aside from client facing work I actively participated in PwC London’s Diversity Action Group as Disability Officer and led an initiative to enable more flexible location working for junior staff, particularly parents and caregivers. I find it hugely rewarding to help make our profession more accessible and inclusive, and enjoyed working on this very much. I also find career coaching with junior staff to be very worthwhile and have always worked to support junior staff in their growth, development and promotion. I was delighted to have my efforts recognised when I was awarded People Manager of the Year by PwC London Top Tier Assurance in 2014.
Returning to the UK I built a diverse team (Most Inclusive Team 2015) providing advisory services for management information systems implementations, and after running this for 3 years handed the reins to the manager I had coached in running the team, and pursued my long term goal of applying these skills in industry, to help a business grow and move forward. An opportunity came to do this in Hong Kong, working for Savills Asia Pacific as their Head of Systems and Control. I am overseeing finance modernisation across 15 territories and to this end have implemented a Cloud-based accounting package, interactive dashboarding for management information and an electronic workflow approval system which have enabled us to reduce reliance on paper, bring cost savings, control the business better and process routine items faster, while building a flexible and scalable finance function to support our growth in the region. I find it hugely rewarding to bring change and improvement to businesses and my training as a CA has made this possible."
Bradley Delamare CA, 33
CEO, Tank Steam Labs, Sydney
Bradley Delamare is the CEO for Tank Stream Labs. He is responsible for leading all aspects of Tank Stream Labs business including operations, corporate partnerships, attracting talented entrepreneurs and innovative start-up businesses to join and operate from the Tank Stream Labs community. He is also responsible for monitoring entrepreneurs, facilitating programs and events.
“Prior to Tank Stream Labs, I spent more than 10 years at EY working within the technology division across Australia and United Kingdom. My career history covers a diverse range of experiences including Accounting, audit, Transaction Services, Business Development and entrepreneurship.
I’ve always had a passion for technology, start-ups and entrepreneurship. The career path through EY has been a successful journey working with technology and early stage businesses when based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. An opportunity arose to move to Sydney, Australia with EY to continue working in the technology sector. From working with in this sector and closer with start-ups, another opportunity arose to work with start-ups on a day to day basis through Tank Stream Labs.
Tank Stream Labs is now Australia's largest technology focused hub/co-working space. It is recognised in the Australian industry as an innovation leader. We help some of the most innovative early stage technology companies in Australia scale. As part of our hub, we have close to 100 innovative early stage companies that are disrupting all industries. Tank Stream Labs is currently based in Sydney, Australia but there are confirmed plans to expand the operations into other cities within Australia. Due to the brand associated with technology and start-ups, it is important that the business helps all Australian start-ups, not just those residing in Sydney.
Since becoming CEO of TSL, I have significantly expanded the operations of the business and grown the financial performance (over 50% growth in revenue in last 12 months). This has included all types of Australian firsts for a technology hub/co-working space including:
* partnerships with domestic (located in other Australian cities) and international technology hubs. Tank Stream Labs currently has partnerships with tech hubs in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Germany and soon to be UK, Sweden, Israel and US.
* partnerships with tech specific industries associations i.e. fintech, insurtech, regtech etc
* technology program aimed to help female entrepreneurs with a non-tech background
My extensive network in the business community has helped me build a strong community of large international corporates that are partners of Tank Stream Labs. These include the likes of EY, IBM, VISA, Talent International, Etihad Airways. All of these corporates provide services and assistance to help all our companies scale globally. Without the support of corporate partners, it makes the process of scaling for businesses even more difficult to achieve.
I have also built Tank Stream Labs to be an events leader in the technology and start up sector. The business hosts between 30 to 50 events a month. All events are aimed to help start-ups whether this is through education, networking, scaling or sales. Events are fundamental to early stage businesses. Tank Stream Labs due to their brand are fortunate to host events with key speakers including business leaders, successful entrepreneurs and even Australian Government officials.
I’m a mentor in the Australian innovation and technology sector and have assisted many businesses with issues and with scaling.
The CA qualification has been fundamental to my career progression to date. It has allowed me to work within EY for 10 years moving between countries and departments. The qualification has given me a structured grounding and an understanding of finance that is fundamental for running a business”.
Jonny Jacobs CA, 34
Head of Supply Chain Finance, UK & Ireland, pladis (formally United Biscuits), London
Jonny leads Supply Chain Finance for pladis UK & Ireland, the global biscuit and confectionery company which brings together the iconic brands of McVitie's, Jacob's, go ahead!, Ulker and Godiva. After graduating with an Accountancy degree, Jonny trained as a CA with KPMG. Following five years in professional practice, Jonny stepped into Industry joining Heineken in its Pub business. Following this, Jonny worked with the international logistics business John Menzies plc on Corporate Strategy and Investor Relations. In 2011, Jonny joined United Biscuits (now part of pladis) guiding the business through major change programs including the company sale to the Turkish conglomerate Yildiz Holding, culture change initiatives and most recently the formation of pladis in June 2016. Other than his core expertise in Finance, Jonny has experience and a keen interest in strategy, organisation design and people development. He joined Aspire (a UK spinal cord injury charity) in 2016 as Treasurer and Trustee.
“In my current role for pladis, I'm proud to lead a fantastic team of 35 financial professionals across Supply Chain Finance in the UK and our Shared Service Centre in India. This includes managing end-to-end Supply Chain Finance across seven Manufacturing sites, the logistics hub, internal and external warehousing, and the Sales and Operations Planning function. My role provides leadership across a range of areas including; planning, reporting, control, strategy, decision support, investment and M&A. I am a member of both the Finance and Supply Chain Executive Committees, providing both function, organisation and business direction. Prior to moving into Supply Chain, I supported pladis on the commercial side of the business. This involved business partnering with the Sales team to ensure we maximised our joint business plans with the UK’s top grocery accounts.
Before pladis, I was Finance Manager at John Menzies plc where I worked closely with the Group CFO. I supported the CFO and the Executive Committee over a broad range of areas including Investor Relations, corporate strategy, statutory & management reporting and planning.
Why did I chose this path? I have a close affinity with consumer branded goods, which came about following my first summer job with Diageo. I just loved the smell of the distillery and was fascinated by the way that simple raw ingredients could produce such iconic drinks. During another summer role at Grant Thornton, I spent time auditing a number of manufacturing sites and it was clear to me that I had a passion and natural curiosity for how products were made and sold. This lead me into the consumer markets division of KPMG where I spent three years auditing a range of food and drink businesses. I did experience other areas, including M&A, services and the public sector, however the lure of consumer goods proved very strong. That led me to join Heineken in a Commercial Finance role that met both my ambition for being at the heart of FMCG and also business partnering. Following that role, an opportunity arose to work with the Group CFO at John Menzies. That role gave me truly fantastic experience operating at the heart of a plc and developing my stakeholder management skills. After two highly formative years at John Menzies, London beckoned and the attraction of the UK’s biggest snacking brands was too good to refuse.
The CA has been the linchpin for my career to date, which I am very grateful for. The training I received was second to none and has supported not only my professional development, but has also shaped me personally. It provided an incredibly solid grounding in core accounting, financial, business and ethical concepts and has given me the tools required for each role. As the Institute has a huge amount of credibility in the marketplace, the qualification has provided an essential stamp of quality for all of my roles. Since qualifying as a CA I've been fortunate enough to work at the heart of some incredible businesses, with very talented people, as well as using my organisational experience to support a very worthy charity - all before my 35th birthday!”.
Catherine Jess-Gibson CA, 32
Finance Business Partner for Economic Development, Department for International Development (DFID), Glasgow
Having enjoyed maths at school, Catherine felt accountancy was a natural progression so undertook a degree in Business and Accounting at the University of Edinburgh. She excelled at her studies and received a number of awards. After qualifying as a CA with KPMG in Edinburgh, she undertook an international secondment with KPMG Cayman Islands, which exposed her to new, complex industries. After three years, she returned to the UK and joined the Department for International Development (DFID) as a Senior Financial Accountant. In 2016 she was promoted to Finance Business Partner for Economic Development, a section of DFID which focuses on advancing economic development in the poorest countries and producing the life-changing progress which comes from growth that transforms economies.
“On obtaining my CA qualification I took the opportunity of an international secondment with KPMG Cayman Islands. Despite having no financial services experience, I applied the knowledge obtained during my CA qualification to audit complex entities within the captive insurance and banking sectors and was successful in obtaining promotion to assistant manager and then manager within a year.
I was asked to design a training programme for new joiners to the Insurance practice and to implement this programme in both the Cayman Islands and the outsource partner office in Delhi. In addition to being a member of the Community committee I also mentored local Caymanians within my department through their career development, focusing on obtaining their CPA qualifications.
After 3 years, I returned to the UK in 2014. I departed from my professional services background and undertook the Senior Financial Accountant role with the Department for International Development (DFID). This role enabled me to be part of the UK’s effort to eliminate extreme poverty.
Despite having not worked in the public sector previously, I immediately led the financial accounting team in the production of the 2014-15 DFID Annual Report & Accounts and successful completion of the audit by the National Audit Office, both within a reduced timeline. My role involved liaising with Ministers and Senior Civil Servants, resulting in the presentation of the Annual Report & Accounts to the Permanent Secretary for signing.
In 2015 I was asked to take on the role of Senior Programme Accounting Adviser, leading on the financial management of DFID’s new investment portfolio along with the Private Sector Department. On identifying a knowledge gap in relation to alternative investments across HM Government I set up a knowledge network, leading meetings for civil servants from several Departments to share best practice and increase technical awareness. I undertook this new adviser role while still retaining leadership of the production of the 2015-16 DFID Annual Accounts and completion of the audit process.
While at DFID I have had the opportunity to get involved in a number of issues that I feel passionately towards. I relished being involved in the creation of the Women’s Network and subsequently sitting on the Committee which has provided me the opportunity to work to strengthen gender equality throughout the Civil Service. I feel strongly about helping others advance their careers and have used my CA experience to mentor junior colleagues through achieving their qualifications as well as becoming a mentor on the ICAS Foundation programme. During 2016 I was nominated by DFID senior leadership for a place on the Civil Service Future Leaders Programme and this has inspired me to seek further opportunities to excel in DFID including undertaking a short term secondment as a Private Secretary to the current DFID Secretary of State, Priti Patel.
In November 2016 I was successful in obtaining promotion to Finance Business Partner for Economic Development, a section of DFID which focuses on advancing economic development in the poorest countries and producing the life-changing progress which comes from growth that transforms economies. In this role I am responsible for leading a finance team to support the Director General for Economic Development in optimising the performance and impact of programme teams whilst ensuring value for money and robust financial management are embedded within strategic decision making. Whilst a departure from my financial accounting background, this role challenges me to use my knowledge and experience to provide strategic advice that considers the political as well as financial implications of decisions”.
Michael McKenna CA, 33
Head of Finance - Entertainment, Music and Events, BBC, London
Michael trained to become a CA with EY in Aberdeen and after qualifying he joined the EY M&A Lead Advisory team in London. In 2011, he decided to leave practice to join the BBC’s Corporate Finance Team. Michael played an integral role in creating BBC Studios, anewly launched commercial production company of the BBC. He is currently Head of Finance of the Entertainment, Music and Events division of this new company.
"I have always been interested in media, and so a career somewhere in the business of TV and film production had always been something I aspired to. I never would have anticipated how much having a CA qualification has opened doors for me into this industry though.
When I set out on my career I knew I wanted to find a way into media, but I also wanted a strong skill and professional qualification under my belt - which would maximise the flexibility and recognition required to be able to move around companies and locations. So after graduating in Business and Management, I made my initial foray working as an Accounts Assistant at an owner managed CA firm, taking bundles of receipts from local sole traders and turning them into a set of accounts. Immediately I found this a rewarding job, both people facing and using my skills, so I knew I wanted to explore further.
It was here I first properly learnt about the value of the CA qualification, and I decided to pursue and push myself to gain a place with a Big 4 firm. I joined EY 2006, where I trained in Aberdeen but also worked out of the Glasgow and Edinburgh offices. I was promoted to Assistant Manager and throughout my time in Scotland met some really amazing people (enjoying all the audit room banter along the way). It was here I had first-hand experience of leading audit teams and taking on development of staff, which I found incredibly rewarding - seeing first-hand the positive impact that you can have on someone’s life and career when you are in a managerial position.
This Audit underpinning has been incredibly valuable ever since, but it was Corporate Finance that I enjoyed the most through studying for ICAS. I knew two things, that Corporate Finance/M&A and the Media business are both hugely centred around London, so it made perfect sense for me to join the EY M&A Lead Advisory team in London. After gaining valuable deal making experience in this team I eventually took the plunge and left practice to enter a role squarely in the media industry - with the BBC Corporate Finance team in 2011.
I started off owning the Pan-BBC funding model, which led me into ownership of the overall BBC financial plan through times of huge change at the organisation. I was promoted to Corporate Finance Partner, and eventually in 2014 was given responsibility for managing the development of all the Analysts in the team, where I tried hard to ensure they gained development opportunities and reach their potential.
The convergence of all my interests and professional skills came to a head in 2014, when the BBC made the strategic decision to carve out the majority of in-house TV production business into a standalone commercial subsidiary - which would make TV programmes for other broadcasters.
I was approached to take on the role of Finance Lead for the project to build the business case and financial plan, carry it through regulatory approval and influence the process changes, governance, operating model design, technological requirements and then launch and help to implement the new company. Over 2 years I led the way for finance to deliver, as planned, regulatory approval for BBC Studios and doing my part to ensure all the building blocks were place to launch a new commercial subsidiary in April 2017. This drew on all my skills as a professional accountant, my corporate finance experience, a strategic mindset and a being strong people manager in order to lead my team through a complex change and into new ground for the BBC. I managed most of the project remotely from Scotland having moved back to Glasgow temporarily for 18 months - which was a real eye-opener as to what can now be achieved using new technology like Lync and Telepresence.
Now, having successfully launched BBC Studios, my current role is leading the finance department of the Entertainment, Music and Events division of the commercial company. As a member of the divisional management team this includes greenlighting production budgets of many household names, including Strictly Come Dancing, Top Gear, A Question of Sport, Dragons Den and many others (more here https://www.bbcstudios.com/teams/entertainment-music-events/). I enjoy my current job, which continues to be very challenging as we move into a commercial subsidiary, where finance is front and centre in the change.
Overall I am very proud to have played an integral part in creating BBC Studios, and would never had the opportunity to do so were it not for my CA qualification. I’m now looking forward to its future success."
Graeme Morrison CA, 34
Strategy & Corporate Development, RBS, Edinburgh
After a successful career as a professional rugby player representing the Glasgow Warriors a record 176 times and gaining 35 caps for Scotland, including at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011, Graeme’s career took a different turn following his retirement from rugby. In 2014, he joined RBS and began training to become a CA, qualifying in March 2017. Graeme has transferred his professional experiences in team management and top-level sport, to several teams at RBS, where he is currently in Corporate Development.
“I was a Professional Rugby Player from 2003 to 2013, representing the Glasgow Warriors a record 176 times and also playing for Scotland on 35 occasions, including at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011. Throughout this time I also captained the Warriors on a number of occasions and was present in the Scotland Team's leadership groups. My career was unfortunately cut short through injury and I was forced to retire prematurely from the sport.
In the lead up to my retirement, I met with several CAs both in the UK and in Hong Kong, who explained that there were many similarities between sport and business; Leadership, Teamwork and decision making under pressure, to name a few. They also gave me insight into their careers, which made it clear that being a CA had given them great opportunities to having successful and fulfilling roles. This was the basis for my decision to pursue a new career as a CA.
I started with ICAS in September 2013 and RBS in January 2014, and was admitted as a member into ICAS in March 2017. I currently work in the Corporate Development team at RBS, having spent my training contract rotating through several of the Finance functions such as; Financial Control, Decision Support and Group Projects.
Having only recently obtained the CA qualification, I have yet to benefit from the support that I am sure it will provide. However, on the journey to get here I have learned so much through both the course materials and having had the opportunity to work in several areas of the bank. In addition, I believe that the discipline, perseverance and work ethic required to progress through the exams will definitely stand me in good stead for the future. The achievement of being admitted as a CA has given me confidence to succeed in a completely different environment to rugby.
My previous career has enabled me to engage with many colleagues at the bank, to share my experiences of how a strong culture in an organisation can lead to success and being a CA has helped me to better demonstrate how skills can be transferred from sport to business”.
Claire Robertson CA, 27
Director, BDO LLP, Glasgow
After graduating with a degree in law from the university of Aberdeen, Claire trained as a CA with Deloitte, within the Enterprise Risk Services team, working on mainly internal audit clients and consultancy engagements. She progressed quickly to Manager before moving to BDO in 2013. She was promoted to Director in 2014, heading up the Scotland Internal Audit function and in this time she has tripled the department headcount and significantly grown sales by 500%.
“At BDO I established a Risk and Advisory Services Practice in Scotland and was quickly promoted to Director. I have developed a team (mainly comprised of fellow CAs) which now advises a broad portfolio of clients on a variety of internal controls, risk and corporate governance matters including clients within the public sector, financial services, and the broader commercial sector. I am really passionate about business development and about making a difference to the clients we advise and providing exceptional client service, and I really enjoy the variety and continuing challenge that growing and developing a strong team and delivering challenging projects entails.
Outside of work, I participate in triathlons and also volunteer to enhance opportunities for others to participate in sport. I also have a young family, who I love to spend time with, preferably being active outdoors.
I was keen to obtain a professional qualification that would equip me well to advise on the challenges faced by a diverse and dynamic client base. The CA qualification helped me not only develop a financial skillset but also sound business acumen, which has served me well in the broader advisory role I undertake. It is a really solid foundation, providing a rounded business education, and is one which our clients recognise and respect. I always advise our new graduates to undertake a CA qualification, because as well as a sound education you receive a qualification that is globally recognised and able to open doors wherever your career might take you."
Anisha Seth CA, 27
Tax Advisor, EMEIA Financial Services (London), EY, London
Anisha is currently a Tax Advisor at EY in London in Banking after joining the graduate scheme in 2013. As a Law graduate from University College London, she decided to change the ‘natural and obvious’ path to practise Law and in fact was interested in tax accountancy. She is extremely interested in social and community initiatives and has chaired the EY Sikh Network for the last two years, she sits on the steering committee for Vaisakhi in London held by the Mayor of London as a representative of EY, and is involved in a number of social community organisations. She has a passion for gender parity, and has led programmes with academic institutions such as Oxford University exploring violence against South Asian women and also the importance of cultural identity.
“I wanted to achieve something valuable at work, which in my mind was a qualification that can be utilised in many ways. In my case the ICAS qualification provides skills that are wider than Law, and can be utilised in a number of career paths and across multiple industries.
Further I wanted to be part of a large corporation, as I come from a BME background and am the first generation to go to university in my family. I was very motivated to have a career that appeared professional, but also one that would inspire others from my background to achieve. Both being a woman and from a South Asian background you do not see many role models from that background in leadership positions at larger corporations and this is something that I have set out to achieve.
Alongside my career I am extremely interested in social and community initiatives and I have found that working at EY this was definitely encouraged and supported. Whilst being one of the highest performing graduates in Tax in my year, my team have known about the extra-curricular activities that I have been managing in addition to my day job.
I have been key in building lasting relationships to win further work from clients and being asked to return in a more senior role because the client wanted to continue working with me. It was highlighted in my feedback that my people skills again exceeded those of my peers and I am able to build strong relationships within the whole team.
Further, I have been chairing the EY Sikh Network for the past 2 years. The network consist of c3000 people. I am the most junior leader of a Network at EY and the EY Sikh Network is considered one of the most active Network’s at EY. Also I was the first female lead of this Network. In addition, in my role as Chair, I regularly consult with EY's D&I leadership to drive its strategy and initiatives. On numerous occasions I have managed to gain buy-in and support from leadership on a number of initiatives taken by the Network. Therefore I have created lasting relationships with the Leadership team in EY.
I currently sit on the steering committee for Vaisakhi in London held by the Mayor of London as a representative of EY. I have recently worked with the Mayor of London to coordinate cultural events visited by over 20,000 people due to her leadership in the D&I space in EY I have been at the forefront of organising graduate insight days to talk to students from BME backgrounds, to engage with the youth and encourage recruitment in to professional services. This has led to more than 20 students accepting offers to EY from these events.
Further I am an active volunteer with many social community organisations. Firstly I have been a volunteer since it’s commencement with the Jaskomal Foundation, to encourage more South Asians on to the stem cell donor list. I have supported the Pink Ladoo campaign in 2016 which went viral, encouraging South Asian families to celebrate the birth of a girl child equal to that of a son. I also assisted the organisation Happy to Help with their annual donation of Christmas presents to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
I have a passion for gender parity and have used pioneered many gender parity initiatives at EY through the EY Sikh Network and beyond. I have led programmes with academic institutions such as Oxford University exploring violence against South Asian women and also the importance of cultural identity.
I mentor a number of senior male colleagues in EY and client firms around specific gender issues within the South Asian context and community which is hugely beneficial for men to understand issues faced by BME women and to subsequently champion some of these causes.
I was also asked to be part of the EY careers campaign for gender parity, again the most junior person asked. It was actually my campaign question/comment that became one of EY Careers most engaged tweets in FY16. For my commitment to EY’s values I was nominated for an EMEIA wide internal award ‘Better Begins with you’ and I was the only individual shortlisted (out of 4) in the Communities category alongside extremely well known firm wide charities and initiatives. I received a lot of recognition within the EY leadership for this.
Additionally I received an award for International Women’s Day from EY leadership for Future Leader, for my commitment to the field of accounting and the wider community. These are the true values of being a CA.”
Leanne Sweet CA, 27
Financial Controlling Manager, Danone, Trowbridge
Leanne decided to follow a career in Finance from an early age, and alongside her a degree in accounting and finance at the University of Bath, she volunteered to teach English in China to students in poor economic areas and assisting at an after-school club for primary school children who struggled with mathematics. She trained to become a CA with EY in Bristol, and then moved to Imperial Brands as a Group Audit Manager. In her current role as Financial Controlling Manager at Danone, she is responsible for the financial reporting for three business units and overseeing another two business units.
“I studied Accounting & Finance at University of Bath, where I received the First Year Undergraduate of the Year award for my academic achievements alongside my volunteering. I volunteered to teach English in China to students in poor economic areas and spent two years assisting at an after-school club for primary school children who struggled with mathematics.
In 2011 I started at EY in the audit department where I was responsible for the key clients in the Bristol office including EE and Western Power Distribution. I also volunteered to manage graduate and school leaver recruitment for the South West, helping students to develop a passion for a career in Finance and give them guidance on interviews and completing applications.
On the day I qualified as a CA, I joined Imperial Brands as a Group Audit Manager and was the youngest member of the audit team. My role involved travelling to various countries to perform an internal audit and oversee a team of two/three individuals. The review included the traditional elements of an audit; however I also added value to Senior Management through providing recommendation to address individual risks and influencing Management to implement changes. I was particularly involved in audits where there was a high risk of fraud (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Dominican Republic). This involved providing recommendations in a difficult environment where traditional methods would not be effective. It resulted in a strengthening of the control environment in these locations and reduction in the fraud experienced. I coached my team members on the necessary audit and soft skills, particularly around communicating in different countries.
I led several key projects to re-invent the Audit function, including meeting with the CFO and CEO to discuss finance’s role in the wider organisation.
Prior to leaving Imperial Brand, I managed a project to create a formal control framework across all functions, as this did not exist. I led several key audits for the Group, including a review of their start up in Tokyo, providing recommendations to improve sales.
In 2016, I joined Danone, a business with strong ethics, as a Financial Controlling Manager. My key responsibilities include leading the financial reporting for the Dairies UK&I business units. In addition I oversee the reporting for the Waters business unit. In the short term I am also responsible for the Baby UK&I divisions, therefore managing £800m turnover and 75% of the sales entities for Danone in UK&I.
I am also the youngest member of the finance team at a senior management grade. The finance team in Danone has recently undergone a restructure and therefore I am responsible for leading several key projects across all departments to establish new ways of working. I oversee the wider finance teams, ensuring they have the necessary knowledge and understand the wider finance agenda. I undertake key decisions on the financial reporting and coach a direct report.
The CA qualification has supported me to follow my passion for a career in Finance. It provided me with the necessary knowledge to complete my roles and allowed me to coach other team members. It has given me access to workshops and seminars to keep my knowledge up to date and meet other finance professionals to develop a strong network. I have been able to follow other CA professional’s stories, which have inspired me on the career path I would like to follow and how to achieve this”.
John Waterson CA, 34
Director, KPMG LLP, Glasgow
John qualified as a CA with ICAS in 2007, having started with KPMG in Glasgow in 2004. Prior to this, he qualified with an Honours degree in accountancy at 20, and subsequently took a year out to teach English as a foreign language in China. Whilst working with KPMG he has completed international secondments in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Bank of South Pacific. He is currently a Director in the Financial Services Practice.
“Over twelve and a half years later, I am still with KPMG, having travelled and worked in many different roles and three different international secondments. Throughout my entire career I have strived to lead, mentor and act as role model.
In my current role as a Director in the Financial Services Practice at KPMG in Scotland, I lead and sign the audit opinions of a number of clients, from a FTSE 100 listed entity through to smaller private equity vehicles, and many others in between! I have a unique position to empower, develop and challenge the next generation of ICAS graduates, and I take this very seriously.
Having graduated in 2007 following three years in Financial Services Audit in Scotland, I undertook my first international secondment to Brisbane for six months.
This was followed in 2010 with a long term, three-year secondment to Melbourne. My time in Australia also included a spell on secondment to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to the Bank of South Pacific a memorable experience over 12 weeks!
Across all my international secondments, with the different people, reporting frameworks, client cultures and operating styles, I loved the task of overcoming new challenges and building my experience. This varied from mentoring local staff in Port Moresby to writing accounting advice for various clients in Melbourne.
Working overseas, being promoted and receiving excellent feedback from the leadership of the KPMG Australian firm informed my desire to come back to the UK and work in a leadership / people oriented role. On return from international secondment in 2013, I have worked across a number of different service lines in both Internal and External Audit, as well as serving (2013/14) as people leader, leading a diverse team of 40 staff on all operational, people & talent, compliance and finance matters. Open, honest communication has always been a key part of this.
In my current role, I also mentor both client and KPMG management in a variety of topics from business development and technical accounting to general career advice.
With respect to training, coaching and the development of talent within the firm, I have written and delivered a variety of bespoke training and presented at numerous seminars. For example, I co-wrote and delivered training to clients and internal management nationally to help bridge a skills gap with respect to the quality of report writing. This received excellent feedback and is being run on an annual basis with me remaining as course director. Financial Services talent event I planned and delivered a flagship talent event for FS Audit UK (80-100 people), noting the importance that such talent events have had on my career as a nominated emerging leader at KPMG.
Simply put, there is no way I would have the career and success I have thus far enjoyed without my CA qualification. The CA qualification has empowered me with the confidence, knowledge and technical ability to grasp and exploit many opportunities all over the world. It has led me to an extensive network of contacts globally which I can leverage when required.
The network I have established has been a significant foundation in my career success. I am now well established in the FS industry in Scotland. A large part of this has been through building relationships that last with ICAS members e.g. Lord Smith of Kelvin at the UK Green Investment Bank plc, where I spent a year on secondment.
I also sit on the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS) Corporate and Financial Reporting Panel which provides access to senior figures in Scottish business and also affords real insights to clients. For example ICAS’ interpretation on Fair, Balanced and Understandable and the evolution of corporate reporting.
The CA qualification has also afforded many business development activities, as a result of dramatically increased audit tendering. This has allowed me to mentor and coach many of our junior staff in a commercial manner, separate to the day to day world of audit delivery. My involvement in significant business development successes e.g. Standard Life external audit, various listed investment trusts is once again founded in the basic values and principles I learned in acquiring my CA”
Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility
Chris Blues CA, 29
International Director, The Ākina Foundation, Wellington, New Zealand
After graduating with a degree in Geography from the University of Bristol, Chris trained to become a CA with EY in London, working in consulting and finance. He was invited to join the On-Purpose programme, a highly competitive one year leadership and development programme. As part of this programme, Chris undertook two placements; the first with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the second with an ed-tech social enterprise called FutureLearn. In 2016, he left the UK and is currently International Director at The Ākina Foundation, New Zealand’s leading social entrepreneurship and enterprise development organisation.
“I believe business has the power to change the world for the better. I believe the economy is evolving it is no longer just about the bottom line. Having a positive social impact is no longer a road block to a profitable and successful organisation.
My journey to date has included flying with the RAF, working with EY, building social enterprise in Uganda, becoming a Fellow of the On-Purpose programme democratising access to education with FutureLearn and designing social impact frameworks of the one of the UK’s largest foundations, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
Before working in the social enterprise sector I worked in consulting and finance with EY. Initially as a tax advisor and then working on a more diverse range of projects from auditing, financial reporting analysis, process and controls analysis and anti-money laundering investigations. Being invited to join the On-Purpose programme was a key transitional period for me. On-Purpose is a highly competitive one year leadership and development programme. Placing people from the corporate sector on two six month placements to gain skills, experience and connections to become the next generation of Social Enterprise leaders.
My initial placement was with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. They tasked me with designing and implementing their impact measurement framework i.e. articulating the positive social impact Esmée has through their grants / investments and finding a way of measuring that impact. My second placement, which turned into a full-time role was as Business Development and Strategic Partnerships Manager for an ed-tech social enterprise called FutureLearn. Essentially I was tasked with forming sustainable revenue streams for FutureLearn, allowing FutureLearn to continue providing free online learning around the world. In March 2016 I decided to leave the UK.
Serendipitously, the Ākina Foundation in NZ had a role available for someone with experience in big business, social enterprise and international development. Ākina enable social enterprises and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals at all stages of venture development, generating sustainable and measurable benefits. We enable social enterprises to access seed funding, investment capital and also access / participate in markets for trading. We help design, and catalyse, enabling support systems for innovation and productive social enterprise sectors.
Initially I lead the administration of a NZ aid impact investment fund. This had led to a wider mandate to build Ākina’s footprint internationally and support the growth of social enterprise as a medium to achieve social impact, aligning to the sustainable development goals. Why have I chosen this path? I get my energy meeting incredible people, sharing ideas and finding ways of turning those ideas into reality. Always having a bias towards action. I wish to play my part in changing the world in a positive way. I acknowledge there are many ways of doing this. I have decided to focus on business and social enterprise as being an effective tool for large scale change.
I am also working with other international government agencies and NGO’s such as Oxfam and the British Council. The aim is to scale through partnerships and pioneer and facilitate a social impact investment market in the Asia-Pacific region.
Although social enterprise is predominately about finding financial models to drive social change. I feel it is part of a wider movement, an aspiration, to truly articulate our values in society. It’s about incentivising the conditions for innovation and simultaneously showcasing how enterprise represents a practical and scalable means to drive positive social change."
Meg Burns CA, 29
Financial Strategy & Projects Lead, Dept. for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, London
After graduating with a degree in maths from the University of Edinburgh, Meg trained to become a CA with PwC in their Government & Public Sector Assurance department, in both Edinburgh and London. After providing assurance and consultancy services to some of the largest, most iconic, charities in the UK such as the British Heart Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, she decided she wanted to make more of an impact within the third sector, and joined Macmillan Cancer Support as a financial advisor. Having recently moved to HMG’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Meg supports Ministers to shape the future of the departments spending in support of Government priorities.
“I believe the impact you make doesn't always have to be on a grand scale but can be one which is sustained, appearing as a common and consistent thread throughout all aspects of your career and personal life. I've always had a desire to do something in my career that helps others and makes a positive impact and it's with my CA that I've been able to, and will continue to, achieve this aim.
Whilst at school I had always wanted a career that would have a positive impact in some way and an obvious area was the third sector but I wasn't sure entirely what skills I could bring at that time. It wasn't until I was finishing my degree that I started to consider how I could do this. And so, I decided to train towards a CA - a qualification that would give me a strong understanding in business, a clear indication of my skill set and help demonstrate my value to the wider world. I chose PwC specifically because they had a Government & Public Sector department which exposed me to an array of clients in the areas I was interested in.
I started my career at PwC providing assurance and consultancy services to some of the largest, most iconic, charities in the UK (BHF, Macmillan, Plan UK, Duke of Edinburgh's Award) as well as assisting private companies with a philanthropic slant such as Standard Chartered and Shell. Not content only scratching the surface of charities, I made the move into the sector to make more of an impact, working as a finance adviser at Macmillan advising their Executive Team.
I gained significant experience as a trusted finance adviser for one of Britain’s largest charities, Macmillan Cancer Support, where I supported its largest Directorate to deploy effective decision making at an executive level and drive performance across Fundraising, Marketing and Comms. I was responsible for advising the Executive Director and his senior management team across the Directorate which included providing financial support to all strategic projects by way of analysis, expert advice and robust challenge and managing the FMC directorate’s annual framework and budgeting process from planning to completion involving the coordination of more than 30 detailed budgets.
I recently starting providing pro bono advice to Refugee Rights Data Project on their accounting records, controls they should have in place and compliance and governance procedures. The charity collects data and insight on the humanitarian crisis, filling in gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in Europe. They use this for advocacy and lobbying purposes and have been successful in engaging with MPs despite being a new and small charity.
In my personal life I mentor a 15 year old girl as part of the Girls' Network, a charity whose mission is to inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities. Through the charity I've also had the opportunity to be involved in careers events and talk to girls about my career to date, often discussing the opportunities my CA has brought me (in fact my mentee is thinking that a CA qualification could open many doors for her!).
I'm also big on Diversity and Inclusion - I was on PwC's GLEE (Gay, Lesbian and everyone else) Committee and whilst at Macmillan helped to get them into the top 10 charities of Stonewall's WEI for the first time”.
Laura Hamp CA, 31
Finance Director, Sparrowhawk Leisure Limited, Ipswich
After graduating from the University of Kent with a degree in actuarial science, Laura trained to become a CA with PKF in Ipswich. She spent three years as Financial Accountant for the Kingley Healthcare Group and four years as Head of Finance at Ipswich Building Society. Laura is now Finance Director of Sparrowhawk Leisure Limited, an outdoor pursuit company set up by herself and her husband. She volunteers in her spare time as a member of the Suffolk Sport Board and the treasurer of a local pre-school.
“I love that I can use my CA skills to help develop businesses which give something back to the community in which we live. Four years ago, my husband and I set up a company providing outdoor activities. We mainly provide activities to schools and youth organisations encouraging outdoor education.
Last year we chose to split the business into two, one profit making company to focus on corporate events and one community interest company, where we can aim to expand our provision at a cost that is affordable to all. The health and educational benefits of learning outside the classroom are well documented and it is an area I am extremely passionate about.
We have just signed the lease for 2.5 acres of woodland which we will turn into an outdoor education centre specifically built to be accessible to all. The sessions we provide to both physically and mentally disabled individuals are the most rewarding work I have ever done, and to have a centre which allows them the same opportunities as everyone else will be more that I could have dreamt of achieving a few years ago.
I have recently begun working full time for Sparrowhawk Leisure but previously spent four years as Head of Finance at Ipswich Building Society. I managed the finance team ensuring we complied with regulation and remain prudentially sound organisation for our members. I worked with the Board and executive to set a strategy which will worked for our members, the local community and our other stakeholders, such as our staff.
Working in the mutual sector gives my work a sense of meaning and provides a clear focus for all we do. Ipswich Building Society pride themselves on offering products to those ‘mortgage misfits’ who otherwise may not be able obtain a mortgage. We offer a safe place for members to save and we work closely with the local community. I was part of the Senior Management Team who implemented an ‘all in’ a member proposition which offers member events. These events ensure our resources are used in the local community supporting local business. Events are sometimes just for fun (such as a brewery tour) but some have a more serious aim, such as dementia awareness, sign language classes or litter picking.
My job allows me time to volunteer and as such I am able to be the treasurer of a local pre-school. I am now, in my free time, also a Member of the Suffolk Sport Board. I love being involved in such a great organisation. We promote physical activity by funding a number of initiatives to get people more active improving their health and well-being. Results achieved by Suffolk Sport in the last year are phenomenal, providing support to 706 coaches, encouraging 283 new participants into regular satellite clubs and 289 people from rural communities into sport. We work with schools facilitating over 1,000 competitions last year and encouraging nearly 300 inactive people into regular sustained sport. We also work to encourage more females into physical activity. This year we are focusing on health and wellbeing, working with people who have long term health problems such a diabetes and finding activities that they can enjoy.
I am an extremely driven person and I will always look to improve things around me.
I hope that my positive energy and drive is infectious inspiring others to make a difference”.
Katherine Holdstock CA, 28
Student Recruitment Advisor, EY, London
While training to become a CA with EY in London, Katherine quickly realised the value that coaching and mentoring can add to personal and professional development. She became involved in a number of activities such as the Greenwich Mentoring Scheme and after qualifying as a CA, moved into the EY student recruitment team as an Early ID Advisor. This role fulfils Katherine’s desire to help others start their career in business through the CA route. She is passionate about making a difference and believes everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed.
“Mentoring has been a large part of my life since graduating university in 2010; I have volunteered on the Gap Year Scholarship Programme with the Royal Geographical Society (2011-2015) and also provide mentoring at EY through the Greenwich University Business School Mentoring Scheme (2012- present). Having mentored on the scheme since its inception, in 2015 I volunteered to coordinate the scheme and have been pivotal in its expansion within EY’s Financial Services departments. Through my dedication, I have teamed and networked to increase publicity of the scheme within EY with the number of mentors increasing from 37 in 2015 to over 110 this year. This success was recognised by Greenwich University who featured EY in the programme celebration brochure in 2016. Personally, I was asked to connect with another Big 4 to assist them in the growth of their participation with Greenwich.
So far in 2017 I have continued building access opportunities in my relationship with Greenwich: supporting the establishment of a similar scheme with EY’s Cyber Security team and also offering guidance to an investment bank looking to set up their own scheme with the university. This is on top of my day job at EY, committing extra hours to grow the mentoring schemes at the university, on a wider scale than simply within my EY network.
Why? Because I am proud of the skills I have developed and the experiences I have had as a CA. I love to help others develop and grow and share these experiences with them. So much so that in 2016 I made a career shift, leaving audit to work within the EY Student Recruitment team. Taking a step back from accounting was a difficult decision but the best one. Within my new role I have taken on additional responsibilities such as looking after the City Talent Initiative interns (a programme run by the Social Mobility Foundation) and, this year, stepping up to be my team's Disability champion. As champion, I have already organised and hosted a mock Assessment Centre for deaf candidates in conjunction with Deaf Unity for which I was recognised internally as going ‘above and beyond’ to make the day a success.
My giving and caring nature and dedication to helping others is not limited to the business world. Outside of work I am a member of GoodGym Camden, where I attend weekly volunteering runs to help projects in the local community. I took up running in 2016, raising money for Cancer Research and I will be running my 3rd half marathon in 2017 for Mind.
The CA qualification has been the springboard to my success. While the technical aspects of the qualification gave me the perfect business grounding it is the soft skills that have supported me most. For example, the exams took a great deal of perseverance which is a skill that I find useful in my current role as, to use a metaphor, I have to keep many plates spinning at once.
In addition, being a CA supports my personal brand. The reputation and credibility of the CA has enhanced my standing within the team, and with internal and external stakeholders. Even within my close team, the difference of the qualification stands out: being able to think commercially about return on investment, as well a providing a first-class learning and coaching experience for our interns. Having studied for the qualification means that I can speak to our interns who are undertaking ICAS themselves with an increased level of empathy which leads to better coaching.
In the future, I see my CA as being very beneficial. There are lots of changes being made to our student programmes with the Apprenticeship Levy and EY will be becoming a training provider. This is something that I am very keen to get involved with in more of a learning and development capacity, for which my CA will serve me very well”.
Natalie Jackson CA, 33
Associate, QMPF LLP, Edinburgh
Natalie graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2009 with a degree in Mathematics and Chemistry. Whilst at university, Natalie completed a 6-week summer internship at EY and following this, she was offered a full-time position at EY starting in 2010, where she completed her CA training. Natalie has spent extended periods of time living and working in Africa. She currently works at QMPF LLP in Edinburgh. Natalie has an interest in sustainable finance as well as international development and has strived to align these areas to create change in her professional and personal life.
“I chose my career path to follow my interest in how finance can be used to benefit society and deliver sustainable financial, social and environmental returns.”
Whilst at university I completed a 6-week summer internship at EY. Following this I was offered a full-time role within the organisation. I deferred my start as I was keen to explore first-hand how business could be used as to alleviate poverty. I volunteered in a rural village community in Swaziland with a vision to be self-sustaining by 2020, using the profits from local businesses to support an orphan population (http://www.bulembu.org/). I worked with the local accountant and saw first-hand how successful businesses could provide a brighter future for orphan children. I am returning to Swaziland later this year and look forward to seeing how the community is progressing towards self-sufficiency.
I started my CA training with EY in September 2010 and worked in the corporate finance team in Edinburgh. During my time at EY I worked on several different remits including an independent review of a healthcare centre and the formal restructuring of a business in the construction industry. Through EY, I was accepted to participate in the EY Enterprise Growth Services programme which places staff in social impact businesses in the global south.
In September 2013, I moved to Uganda and started working for the impact investing arm of a Swedish Private Equity house assessing veterinary businesses that they had invested in. The overarching aim of the veterinary businesses was to treat cattle for African Sleeping Sickness and sustainably improve local healthcare outcomes in the country). During this remit, I worked with the Ugandan government on their policies to combat sleeping sickness, this taught me the importance of public and private sector collaboration in delivering social impact projects. Following my return from Uganda, I wanted to align my personal values with my professional life.
In November 2014, I secured a role at QMPF LLP, my current employer. QMPF is a bespoke corporate finance firm specialising in education, infrastructure and renewable energy projects. In this role, I work with public and private sector clients and advise on funding options available. I work with a wide variety of organisations including the Scottish Government, UK universities, the European Investment Bank, commercial lenders and ethical banks. I have worked on various projects including obtaining grant funding to enable a Scottish district heating scheme and helping a university secure funds for campus development.
Outside of work, I maintain a passion for international development and Africa. I have completed online courses such as the World Bank’s ‘Financing for Development’ and a ‘Global Development Challenges’ course through the University of Edinburgh. For the latter, I wrote an essay about the role of impact investing in achieving the SDGs.
I am interested in innovation in finance and have completed a piece of research for an advocacy based organisation called RESULTS (http://results.org/) investigating whether Trust Funds are a sustainable mechanism for financing immunization programmes in the global south, this research will be used to inform future lobbying focus for RESULTS.
I volunteer as an editor for Kiva (https://www.kiva.org/), an online crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs in the global south.
I was recently accepted as a volunteer for the ‘Grow Movement’ (http://growmovement.org/), a non-profit organisation which pairs business professionals with entrepreneurs in Africa to provide advice. I will start this role in August.
I am committed to ICAS and sit on the ICAS Members Engagement Board and I am an ICAS mentor. I have also written an article for CA online content entitled ‘Why it pays to invest sustainably’ (https://www.icas.com/ca-today-news/why-it-pays-to-invest-sustainably)".
Sarah Johnson CA, 33
Senior Manager, EY, New York
After graduating with a degree in international management from Newcastle University, Sarah trained to become a CA with EY. Throughout her career at EY, she has focused on using her CA skills to give back, specifically outside the corporate world. She spent three months volunteering in India and undertook a secondment with EY’s Enterprise Growth Services (EGS) initiative, a social enterprise within EY providing services at reduced rates to entrepreneurs in emerging markets. More recently, Sarah spent three months working with Acumen, a non-profit and leading impact investor, through the EY Community Impact program.
“I am currently working as a Senior Manager with EY in the New York office in the USA having previously worked for EY in both the Abu Dhabi office in the UAE and the Newcastle office in the UK, spanning a total career of 11 years with the firm. I was drawn to becoming a Chartered Accountant due to the ability to work internationally and make a difference in communities all around the world.
Throughout my career with EY, I have sought to capitalise on the contribution that large organisations and businesses make to solving complex, global problems like world poverty. I passionately believe that Chartered Accountants can put their financial skills to use beyond Audit Committee meetings and excel workbooks and really make a difference to society and those less fortunate than ourselves. I have set a trailblazing example to other CAs wishing to give back and apply their skills outside the corporate world.
I spent three months as a volunteer accountant with Sharana, an NGO based in Pondicherry, India, facilitated by Accounting for International Development (AfID) - an organisation which seeks to match qualified accountants with non-profits globally who lack access and funding for accounting and finance expertise. I helped improve the revenue generating operations of the organisation to contribute valuable funds to social development programs for disadvantaged children. I used my accounting skills to design a simple product costing and inventory management system; coaching Sharana’s staff to use these tools to ensure products were being sold at a margin and reduce missing inventory was incredibly rewarding.
I undertook a secondment with EY’s Enterprise Growth Services (EGS) initiative - a social enterprise within EY providing services at reduced rates to entrepreneurs in emerging markets - and spent 6 months with CAT Logistics (a small transit and logistics company operating in 7 countries across West Africa) to help improve the company’s financial performance in order to sustain/create jobs. I led workshops on the role of a group finance function, budgeting and consolidation, and helped one of the office drivers launch his own project - a bar in his village! On my return to EY I successfully launched EGS within EY in the Middle East so that other employees could also benefit from this invaluable program.
I spent three months working with Acumen, a non-profit and leading impact investor, through the EY Community Impact program which allows EY employees to support a non-profit of their choice. I helped set up a new commercial fund focused on providing access to off-grid energy for the poor in East Africa, leveraged my network to provide recommendations for fund administrators, helped draft the Q3 investor reporting, and put my audit skills to use on the other side of the table with the fund’s auditors! I also organised a recent debate in the EY New York office on whether impact investors need to compromise on financial returns to achieve social returns. With panellists from Morgan Stanley, Bain Capital, the MacArthur Foundation and Acumen, over 100 attendees on the night and over 3,000 views on Facebook the debate was a great opportunity to raise the profile of impact investing.
These examples demonstrate my efforts to leverage my skills and the power and ability of a global firm to contribute to meaningful change and positive impact. I hope that my passion for purposeful work and solving global problems inspires other CAs to use their skills to make a lasting contribution to society!
Having an internationally recognised qualification such as the CA has really opened doors to allow me to travel and work around the world and I have certainly taken advantage of that over the course of my career!”.
Helen Marshall CA, 33
Financial Controller, Falcon Coffees, Lewes
After graduating with a degree in Physics, Helen trained to become a CA within EY’s audit team in London. Since the age of 18, Helen has volunteered both abroad and oversees, focusing on education and mentorship. After leaving EY in 2014, she spent nine months working in Rwanda, using her CA skills and experience to work with small businesses. Whilst in Rwanda she discovered the fascinating world of coffee. After returning to the UK, she joined Falcon Coffees, a UK-based green coffee trader, where she is currently Financial Controller and in transition to CFO. This role supports Helen’s ambition to bring about change through socially responsible business conduct.
“I started my career with EY in their London audit team in 2008, gaining my CA qualification in 2010.
Since 18, I have volunteered both overseas and in the UK, focusing on education and mentorship. In my 6 years with EY I was involved in various CSR initiatives including Smart Futures, a programme giving work experience to inner city students; externally I was treasurer of charity Peckham Shed for 4 years. While CSR was rewarding, I was looking for a way in which I could bring social impact into my day job’.
I left EY in September 2014 and spent 9 months working in Rwanda, using my CA skills and experience to work with small businesses. I volunteered with African Entrepreneur Collective, supporting entrepreneurs through financial advice and training as well as providing capital loans. My CA knowledge came in especially useful discussing business plans and explaining cash flow management to people with no financial training, helping them realise their passion to see their business grow. I also worked with a local accountancy company providing high quality accounting services for foreign investors.
Whilst in Rwanda I discovered the fascinating world of coffee through providing financial consulting for a small coffee company. I had finally found an industry where it was possible to run a profitable business and to have social impact, with the potential to affect 30 million farmers across the world’s poorest countries.
Through the coffee contacts I made in Rwanda I joined Falcon Coffees, a UK-based green coffee trader, in September 2015. I am currently Financial Controller and am in transition to CFO. On top of my day-to-day responsibilities I am using my CA skills to measure and evaluate our social impact in a robust and transparent way. The company is committed on paper to making a social impact; I am determined to demonstrate this and monitor performance, so have initiated a project to identify our specific financial and non-financial metrics. This requires not only logical and analytical thinking but creativity and innovation.
I am leading the development of a full traceability platform to identify where the coffee comes from to farmer level, and what they are paid. Through this platform we aim to change the way that agricultural commodities are sourced and traded from competitive to collaborative, pioneering new best practices and standards.
I also initiated our application to become a B Corporation and completed the assessment. We are now implementing the suggested improvements across the business.
As a CA I am a trusted advisor, relied upon to instil professionalism and credibility into a company. My passion is to bring about change through socially responsible business conduct. I believe that all businesses have the power and the moral responsibility to bring about social change.
The CA qualification has been integral to my career to date, not only due to the valuable financial training, but developing my commercial mindset. I have learned analytical, logical thinking skills which can be applied to any business”.
Tom Parkinson CA, 32
CFO, SteamaCo, Manchester
Tom graduated with a maths degree from the University of Durham and qualified as a CA with EY in 2009, within its financial services practice. Following qualification, he moved into banking and helped green companies grow. At only 31, he became CFO of a start-up focused on tackling the twin challenges of climate change and extreme poverty. SteamaCo’s target is to connect 1m households and businesses across Africa and India to modern energy services by 2021, enabling them to enter the economy and share in global prosperity. All with clean energy.
“In the early years of my career, my focus was on building up my financial ‘toolkit’, essentially taking roles that covered the basics and enabled me to gain necessary industry experience. The key aim of this was to give me the skills to become the lead financial person in an organisation. Once I felt confident that I had learned the building blocks of my trade and gathered sufficient professional resilience, I set about finding a role where I could make an impact.
Sustainability and social responsibility have been close to my heart from an early age. My parents instilled in me values of compassion, empathy and responsibility. Appreciating the benefit of your position and using your time to help others was something they both provided many tangible examples of.
Coupled with this, my formative years were spent in the Cheshire countryside involved in the scout movement, which focuses heavily on sustainability, volunteering and conservation. I have carried these values throughout my life; volunteering my time as treasurer of a local scout group, helping young people make career choices, providing free maths tuition, undertaking conservation projects in the developing world.
After spending several years working in banking, I felt that there were more pressing challenges in the world that needed suitably qualified people to help with, using business as the key catalyst to enable that change.
Across the developing world, 1.3bn people lack access to modern energy services. Their current options are limited to kerosene, diesel and biomass. These are expensive, carbon intensive and hazardous to health. Following cost reductions in renewables there are now other choices. The optimal solution is solar mini-grids which represent a clean, sustainable and inexpensive source of energy. However, to enable this industry and bring millions out of economic isolation, requires new technologies.
I joined SteamaCo in early 2016, helping the company grow significantly. SteamaCo makes selling energy through solar mini-grids manageable. Its networked smart meter and billing solution reduces utility operating costs and improves revenue collection through automatic monitoring, control and revenue collection. This smart technology is 4x cheaper than comparable products and works where you can’t even make a phone call.
During my tenure the company has doubled revenues, signed major blue-chip contracts and tripled end-user numbers. I have maximised the start-up's financial resources through fundraising, responsible cash management and improvements to the control environment. I have raised over £0.8m in alternative funding, including research grants, R&D tax credits and prizes, equivalent to the seed funding the company raised in 2016. This has significantly prolonged the company’s cash runway and enabled us to develop the latest iteration of the product.
Now I am leading the company’s Series-A round, looking to dramatically increase the company’s financial resources and ultimately the impact the company can have. Collaborating with key stakeholders in the business, I have produced a responsible business plan taking the company to self-sustaining profitability in 2019.
I believe that I have a responsibility to use my skills and position for the greater good. Through SteamaCo, I am helping to both increase energy access and combat climate change. The former is an issue of fundamental fairness and economic inclusivity, the latter is a looming disaster. Business will lead the drive in solving these problems and I believe I am at the forefront of that challenge”.
Emma Snow CA, 29
Assistant Director, Operational Transaction Services, EY, London
In her role in EY, Emma works within the Operational Transation Services (OTS) team in London, working across the deal lifecycle and specialising in separations of companies. Emma dedicates time to coaching, mentoring and sharing knowledge with her team. Emma has taken part in a number of Enterprise Growth Services secondments, taking her on a three-month secondment to Ghana in 2014 and for a further two months to Bethlehem, Palestine in early 2017. Outside of work, Emma has a keen interest in cycling and is currently training to do a 100 mile cycle later this year.
"I wasn’t sure what I wanted from my career when I joined EY. I started as a graduate in 2009 after very much enjoying the summer internship program, and simultaneously completed my CA qualification with ICAS. I knew this would develop my core skill set: analytical thinking, report writing and stakeholder management.
I subsequently found that I thrive in a fast-paced environment, so being part of Operational Transaction Services really suits me. I love that every project is different and I learn something new each and every time. In recent years, I have focused on advising clients in planning and providing advice on complex carve-outs, integrations and performance improvements. It blends financial rigour to support deal valuation, with the pragmatism of helping clients plan and deliver a smooth transfer of ownership, with no disruption to business as usual.
I relish the opportunity to support organisations going through periods of change and transition, and work closely with clients to address business challenges. I’ve supported over 30 transactions and I still get a thrill from a successful closing. Our work is complex, time-critical and core to business strategy. To see a client negotiate a deal well using our advice to support them is hugely fulfilling.
At EY, I’m supported and wholly encouraged to build a better working world in a way that fits with my own values. I have been lucky enough to do this in a number of different way over the past eight years.
Firstly, my client base includes a number of non-profit organisations, including professional bodies and government agencies, where my work has supported improvements to efficiency. This has been very fulfilling as I have been able to apply my skills and experience from the private sector to the non-profit sector to ensure best value for money and drive visible improvements in ways of working.
Secondly, I have been encouraged to support EY in its drive and commitment to developing our people. This has included leading an initiative to understand and act on the drivers for lower female recruitment that we would like, mentoring those on the EY Smart Futures programme and taking on the super-counsellor role for our analyst grade within OTS.
Thirdly, I’ve seized the opportunity to do two skills-based secondments with charitable organisations. In Ghana in 2014, I planned and launched a new software platform to connect local SMEs for Invest in Africa, for which I was commended by the Management Consultancy Awards. More recently, in Palestine earlier this year, I developed a strategic plan to support the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans in continuing to grow and obtain investment funding. These experiences were nothing short of exceptional and I feel very privileged to have these opportunities.
Finally, I have been a Strategic Advisor for a wonderful and inspiring charity called Carers Network, which supports unpaid carers in Central London for 18 months, and have recently taken on a Trustee role. This will enable me to continue to use my skills and experience to have social impact in my local community on a longer-term basis.
Taking the longer-term view, my key career goal is to be a leader in an organisation where I feel I can make a difference, am regularly challenged and enjoy the work. That I have been able to combine my corporate career with social impact, is my proudest achievement in my career to date. I have been promoted three times at EY, each time at the earliest opportunity, and my incessant commitment to wanting to make a difference to the broader community has never been seen as anything other than a positive. I hope that my story provides in some small way the encouragement to young people that a career in finance can be whatever you make of it due to the vast and wide-ranging opportunities it provides."
Rebecca Steele CA, 29
Finance Manager, Expedia, London
Rebecca started her career training to be a CA at EY in London working in Restructuring. After spending four years working with a variety of businesses and largely helping banks and large shareholders see a good return on their money, she wanted to get more involved in helping people rather than organisations. She has since worked with Shelter, and founded a charity to help re-build a hospital in Sierra Leone. Rebecca has reduced her paid employment to four days a week and volunteers one day a week for Citizens Advice Stevenage. In her current role as Finance Manager at Expedia Inc, she is responsible for quarterly forecasting and the strategic planning for growth of new markets.
“Last year I decided that whilst I loved the challenge and competitive environment of working at a large multinational company I wasn’t completely happy with the positive impact I was having on the wider society.
I wanted to start sharing my expertise with other people – as my strengths lie in organisation, working with numbers and budgeting; giving debt advice seemed like the perfect fit. I am passionate about trying to change peoples’ views towards money and credit, because so many people these days are dealing with poverty, the impact of changes in benefits, as well as simply living outside of their means.
I have reduced my paid employment to 4 days a week and been volunteering one day a week for Citizens Advice Stevenage since August 2016, specifically giving debt advice to local residents as part of a Comic Relief funded project. Stevenage has one of the highest levels of personal debt in the country; therefore this project is crucial to help empower individuals to take control of their debt problems and help them build a sustainable plan for the future. The role includes face to face appointments with clients and then tailored help based on their individual needs and capabilities. The issues clients have range from parking fines and benefits checks, to full Bankruptcy proceedings; with every stage in-between.
The support I provide also varies depending on clients’ needs and can range from negotiating with creditors directly where the clients are vulnerable or lack confidence, to empowering clients to do this themselves by giving them the tools and encouragement to try. After we have worked through clients immediate debt problems and agreed a solution, we also work with clients after their debts have been managed to ensure that they continue to use the skills and advice given in order to stay out of debt and manage their money going forward. This is crucial to ensure a sustainable and long term impact rather than just a quick fix.
Advice work can involve a huge array of issues from client engagement, non-attendance, language barriers, attitudes towards money and credit, perceptions of bias within the system and ability to help themselves. However working with these clients is extremely rewarding and all clients I have dealt with have been extremely grateful for the smallest amount of help. As well as the practical help I have been able to give clients, working with a broad spectrum of clients has constantly changed and challenged my perspective, and no client situation is ever the same as a previous case. I look forward to continuing to learn from them. Using my skills to practically help individuals has been extremely rewarding and hopefully will have a lasting positive impact on society.
I currently work at Expedia Inc 4 days a week as a Finance Manager in the EMEA FP&A team. This involves full management of the P&L, quarterly forecasting and strategic planning for growth of new markets.
My CA qualification has been invaluable to my career so far, in both the technically expertise that I gained and the on the job work experience that was part of qualifying. Whilst staying in Professional Services was not a career that I was interested in it was a great way to learn in a very fast paced and diverse environment and gave me a huge amount of skills in terms of communication and negotiation. Since qualification I have attended numerous courses run by both CIMA and ICAEW which have also helped challenge and shape how I work today. I always enjoy learning new things and therefore as well as developing my skills, the range of expertise and advice available has always been interesting to me from a personal point of view as well as professional”.
Rosie Stewart CA, 31
Finance Manager, Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines, Edinburgh
Rosie completed a degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Durham. After a year working as a research assistant at AstraZeneca, she decided to pursue a career in accountancy, partially because a shaky hand meant she was never very good at scientific research and partially because she was more suited to a role interacting with people. The CA qualification was the obvious choice for her. After qualifying with Baker Tilly, she took on the role as Head of Finance at Penumbra, a mental health charity, and then moved to Blackcircles.com as Finance Manager. For the last two years, Rosie has been working as Finance Manager at GALVmed, which makes livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible and affordable to the millions in developing countries for whom livestock is a lifeline.
“I completed my training contract at Baker Tilly working primarily on the audit of charity clients. After leaving Baker Tilly, I took on the role of Head of Finance at Penumbra, a mental health charity based in Scotland. I really enjoyed working at Penumbra where the drive and dedication of those working in charities was very evident. Penumbra was however a well-established, well-organised charity and I was keen to continue to progress in my career. Because of this I left Penumbra to work at Blackcircles.com for four months as Finance Manager. While it was interesting to work in a fast-growing ambitious company and proved a thought-provoking contrast to working in the charitable sector, after this time I decided to return to the charitable sector as Finance Manager at GALVmed.
This is a role I have now been in for two years and one which I enjoy very much as it incorporates my accountancy and scientific background, with my interest in the developing world. As GALVmed is a relatively new organisation with a desire to develop its staff, it is an excellent place to continue my career, allowing me the opportunity to make changes, improve processes and establish systems that make a clear difference to the lives of those the organisation aims to help. This has provided a brilliant platform to strengthen the organisation and see the impact my work has.
Becoming a CA is the best thing I have ever done. It has given me the knowledge to forge a successful career and the confidence to put myself forward to help others on a local and international level. Often charity accounting is an area CAs enter at the end of their career to give back but I want to do this from the beginning.
My ultimate aim is to become Finance Director and GALVmed is an excellent place to develop these skills, providing training and experience in areas I lack, particularly governance and strategy. In turn, this has motivated me to develop my team, providing training to the Finance Assistant while completing ACCA and the Management Accountant to work towards Finance Manager. Furthermore, working with colleagues in Kenya, India and Malawi, I have established strong financial practices, particularly important in areas where bribery and corruption are widespread.
I am also the Chair of the Borders Exploration Group. This is a small, local organisation with big aims, organising expeditions for young people to the developing world. Currently we are organising expeditions to Bolivia and Malawi where we will fundraise £100k for each expedition.
BEG was floundering when I took over with too few volunteers and little lasting impact. Under my leadership, I have been instigating change to ensure the organisation continues, e.g. on expeditions BEG undertakes projects such as building schools. While this is laudable, what long term impact does this have? I have been restructuring expeditions to work with existing charities, ensuring our money and efforts are going where they are needed most and continue after the expedition finishes. In addition, BEG struggles to recruit those from lower income families. I am developing a programme to encourage such children by funding places on expeditions.
I never intended to become Chair and to dedicate so much time to BEG. Initially I got involved by being a leader to Malawi which led to a place on the committee as treasurer then finally to Chair after a deathly silence when no-one else was willing to take on the role. Being a CA has given me the confidence to put myself forward and to be the one willing to fill that silence. It has given me the skills and training to chair meetings, to instigate change and to represent others on a local and international stage. For me, the CA goes beyond a job, beyond a career."
Colleen Welsh CA, 25
Accounts Senior, Consilium Chartered Accountants, Glasgow
Colleen left school in 2010 with four unconditional offers for university. It was during her gap year that she applied for a job at RSM Tenon (now Baker Tilly) as an accounts assistant, becoming AAT qualified in 2013. She started the CA qualification at the same time RSM Tenon was taken over by Baker Tilly, and after completing TC, Colleen moved to Consilium, to reunite with the old partners of RSM Tenon. She is very passionate about mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding it, and has encouraged her firm to become a more open, honest and approachable environment.
She is also set to become a mentor for Career Ready later this year, which provides guidance and support for S5 & S6 students at school, to help them get ready for the working world.
“I have always believed that charity work is important, even from a very young age. I am the charity fundraiser/organiser in our office, and have managed to get all our partners and staff on board with having more regular fundraising events in the office. This year, I organised an office wide vote to choose a couple of charities for us to raise money for. Although we may not raise thousands of pounds, we still manage to make generous donations for our chosen charities. I have organised bake sales (and baked lots of cakes for them), sweepstakes and other fun activities to raise money.
I am very passionate about mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding it, and last year I reached out to the partners to encourage them to make our office a more open, honest and approachable place for anyone who struggles with mental health issues. Mental ill health affects more than 1 in 4 people so it is bound to happen in an office of our size. The partners took my thoughts on board and we now have a great policy in place.
I have also attended the Scottish Mental Health First Aid Course, and am trained in assisting people who are having a mental health crisis. I felt this subject needed to be approached for a number of reasons, one being that sometimes being a CA can be stressful. Stress can bring on a number of mental health issues if not dealt with properly. I am keen to attend more courses like this, if I am able to.
My passion for mental health and my passion for charity work will be intertwined this year, as one of our chosen charities to fundraise for is the Scottish Association of Mental Health. I am really looking forward to making a difference for this charity.
I am signed up to be a mentor for Career Ready after the summer too, which provides guidance and support for S5 & S6 students at school, to help them get ready for the working world. I try to support the CA trainees in my office with their studies and exams, and catch up with them regularly to make sure they’re not struggling too much or becoming too stressed”
“I want people to know that we are not just ‘bean counters’ or ‘number crunchers’ we are good people with good hearts too (although I do love number crunching). I want to use my place in the profession, and in the world, to do good things and to help people”.
Innovation & Technology
Mark Anderson CA, 32
UK Operations Analyst, ConocoPhillips, Aberdeen
Mark qualified in 2011 with PwC in Edinburgh. At PwC he worked for two years in the Assurance department, focussing on Financial Services clients, and two years as part of the Deals time, specifically Business Recovery Services. He joined ConocoPhillips in 2013 and has been in his current role as the UK Operations Analyst since 2016. At the start of this year, Mark initiated and led a new cost management initiative to improve visibility and accountability within Cost Management to eliminate waste and optimise costs.
“I qualified in 2011 with PwC in Edinburgh. At PwC I worked for two years in the Assurance department, focussing on Financial Services clients, and two years as part of the Deals time, specifically Business Recovery Services.
I left PwC as a Senior Associate to join Accenture on their Talisman-Sinopec (now Repsol-Sinopec) contract in Aberdeen at the end of 2012. I worked firstly as a Joint Venture Accounting Supervisor and then as a Business Analyst before leaving to join ConocoPhillips at the end of 2013.
The oil and gas industry has always appealed to me due to the global career opportunities, the complexity of the production process and the global reliance on the industry.
My roles at ConocoPhillips have been Joint Venture Accountant, Joint Venture and Business Analysis Supervisor and UK Operations Analyst. I started my role as the UK Operations Analyst in September 2016. This was a new role whose purpose was to provide more support and leverage existing finance resources to our Operations department to ensure that costs were optimized. The role has developed as I'm now also heavily focused on continuous development, specifically with Cost Management and the supporting IT tools.
The CA qualification has given me the opportunity to work in a variety of interesting and challenging roles. The CA qualification has provided me with the confidence to challenge the status quo and to think about the big picture when presenting management information or business discussions”
James Hamilton CA, 32
Senior Manager, Ernst & Young LLP, Glasgow
James graduated from Glasgow University in 2006 with an accountancy degree and then joined the Baker Tilly ICAS graduate scheme in 2006 as an auditor in Glasgow. After qualifying as a CA, in 2009 he joined EY and progressed to his current role as senior manager, where he is becoming a clear leader locally in the innovation of audit. Using passion and enthusiasm, James is transforming the audit approach from the traditional approach to one powered by analytics
“During my time at Baker Tilly I had a three-month secondment at BAA as reporting accountant. I qualified as a CA in 2009 before joining EY in November 2009 as audit senior in Glasgow. I progressed to assistant manager with EY in October 2011, promoted to manager in October 2012, and then promoted to current role of senior manager in October 2015. During this time, I've been exposed to a wide variety of interesting and challenging clients, travelled extensively within the UK, worked with colleagues across the Globe and trained our audit seniors from across EMEIA.
My current role involves managing client portfolio, leading the regions implementation of analytical audit techniques and new platforms, leading the strive for audit quality and the audit team’s representative on the cross service private middle markets board.
Initially, I stayed in audit after qualifying as a CA to buy more thinking time for my longer-term goals. Now I realise I've stayed within practice and audit because I find the variety of work, wide range of challenging technical matters and interaction with people highly rewarding. You get great access to business leaders in large corporates to entrepreneurs of SME's. The visibility of the career path in a professional services firm particularly in audit is also very appealing.
Undoubtedly the CA qualification has given me the foundation to build my career and provided me with a solid foundation to succeed as an auditor. It's helped build up my commercial acumen which I've been able to apply in the day job as an auditor. The grounding I have as a CA certainly helps when it comes to embedding new techniques and approaches in audit”.
Aneela Mather-Khan CA, 28
Financial Analyst, A.M. Best, London
Aneela began studying towards her CA qualification at EY in 2010, where she worked for 2.5 years. She went on to complete her CA at Marsh and McLennan as an internal auditor and graduated in March 2014. Since then, she has worked as a Financial Analyst at A.M. Best and a manager at Deloitte. Whilst at Deloitte, Aneela identified a gap in the market for the provision of ratings advisory services.
“I decided to branch away from Audit and pursue a role that would allow me to gain more of a strategic view of insurance companies. I worked as a financial analyst, rating insurance companies in the middle-east at A.M. Best for 18 months before moving to Deloitte to work in Insurance Regulation and Strategy. Whilst working there I helped develop a new service line and was actively involved in charity initiatives.
I returned to A.M. Best in February as I realised my interest lay in ratings and I wanted to further develop my analytical skills and knowledge.
I believe I should be on the CAs under 35 list as I have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and spearheaded the creation of a new service offering for my previous employer.
Whilst working at Deloitte, I identified a gap in the market for the provision of ratings advisory services, which would help companies looking to achieve a credit rating or undergoing a strategic change in direction assess both what rating outcome they would likely receive and prepare for the process. I also identified this as an opportunity to encourage greater cross-border and cross-service line partnership.
The Partner in charge of my department saw the merit in my idea, as it was both an innovative proposition for the firm and a potential revenue stream. I demonstrated that there was a market for the service through independent research and discussions with both clients and colleagues across the firm. I designed a work stream for the service bringing together Audit, Tax, Consulting and Corporate Finance. During this process, I developed a strong network across the firm with senior Partners and Directors and had the opportunity to speak at two international conferences. I was praised by senior members of the firm for independently pursuing the idea and for the innovation.
Being part of the ICAS network and listening to the achievements of other young CAs gave me the confidence to pursue my ideas. I used my CA training to create a business case and plan. My CA gave me credibility when speaking to clients and gave me the skills and knowledge needed to scrutinise their financial performance and business strategy. Importantly, it gave me the confidence to build a team around me, training junior staff on how to perform financial analysis.
I have also used my CA outside of work to help an entrepreneurial social enterprise to grow over the past year.
I hope to one-day start my own business and my experience has provided me with the confidence that I have the skills to achieve that dream. To get closer to realising this dream I made the tough decision to leave Deloitte to work as a financial analyst at A.M. Best recognising the need for me to gain more experience in a field I have a passion for.
Achieving my CA was an arduous process but I am proud of my achievements and it has proved invaluable in my career progression. My experience led me to mentor other young professionals that have failed their exams and provide them with the encouragement and motivation not to give up.
My CA has provided me with the skills needed to understand business. It has also provided me with greater confidence. I believe my CA gives me access to an amazing network of individuals and opens numerous doors”.
Colin McLellan, 34
CFO, Skyscanner, Edinburgh
Colin graduated with a degree in accountancy from Strathclyde university and qualified as a CA and tax advisor with KPMG in 2008. Since then, Colin has worked at Scottish Power and Worldmark, before joining Skyscanner in 2013 as group financial controller. He’s recently been promoted to chief financial officer
"I qualified as a CA and tax advisor with KPMG in 2008 and after being there four years left to work with Scottish Power as their IAS39 hedge accountant. I then moved to the role of group accountant at Worldmark, a global material science and manufacturing business in the electronics sector where I learned a great deal about managing cashflows and margins.
In 2013 I joined Skyscanner as Group Financial Controller at that stage the business had around 150 people and 3 offices.
In H2’15 I took up the post of interim CEO of Skycanner’s Japan joint venture with Yahoo! Japan which involved relocating to Tokyo. On returning to the UK in H1’16 I was promoted to Finance Director.
The three most important aspects of my development and impact in the last year have been:
1) I played a key role in the acquisition of Skyscanner by Ctrip in H2’16.
2) leading the team through Squadification of our Finance Tribe, and
3) actively participating in the strategic CxO level discussions about the evolution of our products
I have recently been promoted to the role of CFO. Skyscanner now has around 900 employees and 11 offices globally and in 2016 is estimated to have facilitated over $16bn in total transaction value”.
Iain McMichael CA, 31
Senior Manager Data Analytics, PwC, London
Iain completed a degree in physics and started with PwC eight years ago. His current role is as a Senior Manager within the Global Transformation team where he is in charge of automating Journals transformation toolkits. Previous roles include (and still do) leading the Halo for Funds platform and before that he worked in Scotland from SA1 through to Manager at the inception of the analytics team. In Scotland, he grew the number of clients who used analytics from three up to 103 clients.
“I have been at the forefront of transforming PwC's auditing approach, using the core skills that my CA has given me, and combining this with my programming skills to develop new tools and technology to deliver audits. PwC is the world's largest professional services firm, and it's so satisfying to see the firm step up and invest in technology and be brave in leading the market.
Having delivered several technologies locally within the Scottish practice, I was seconded into our global transformation team where I was put in charge of delivering our Halo for Funds analytics solution. This market leading visualisation technology has allowed us to create efficiencies in our delivery, thus improving quality, as we are able to look at full populations rather than sampling, and to give our staff a richer experience: so they can now focus on advising clients and adding value to our clients teams as opposed to spending time inputting and processing data. Candidly, it’s what our clients expect from us and is where our audit practice is moving as a whole.
PwC is the market leader in the funds industry in the U.K. and the Halo technology developed is now being used on 80% of our U.K. fund clients. In addition to the success in the U.K. - the tool has been used to win large European audit proposals and we are working with several partner firms in the EU and our Australian practice to embed the process within those territories.
Leading the team in launching this to the UK firm was challenging. The skills and business knowledge acquired during my CA were invaluable in this process. My qualification offered me both immediate credibility when discussing matters with engagement teams and it has enabled me to consider decisions from a balanced position; addressing issues from a regulatory, auditing, management, process and technical perspective. Without my CA, I know I would lack much of the insight required to flex myself between these, often competing, technical and business roles.
My next challenge has been to drive efficiencies in our global application ‘Halo for Journals’. This has involved managing a global team to automate the delivery of our flagship analytics platform. Halo for Journals has seen rapid global adoption, now being used in over 30 countries and with circa 144,000 global users. However, this has placed a heavy burden on our data analysts and delivery centres to review the huge quantities of data. By automating a new end to end solution and removing the need for human intervention, we have shown we can reduce costs by a factor of ten, allowing for us to complete the rollout to our remaining member firms.
Completing my CA was one of the proudest achievements of my life. It gave me fundamental skills which I continue to build upon. It has, and will continue to be, the foundation upon which I grow my role and my brand in my career”.
Mark Smith CA, 32
Director, KPMG, London
Mark joined KPMG in 2007 and, after completing the CA and CTA on the Tax Graduate programme, he moved into software development. He has launched many successful accounting technology products, which are used by hundreds of clients in the UK and globally. Mark has also set up technology teams for KPMG in South Africa and Australia.
“During my training contract, I was surprised at the level of manual intervention required by clients and advisors and curious how technology could be used to resolve process issues. I started by developing financial models to replace the manual data manipulation in the tax compliance process. After I qualified, I transferred to KPMG’s Business Technology team so that I could focus full time on working with developers to create and implement technology solutions. These solutions have grown from ideas into products that support numerous clients.
I also set up accounting technology teams in Australia and South Africa that build and implement technology solutions to resolve client issues in their markets. These secondments have broadened my experience and mind-set.
My experience at KPMG has given me the opportunity to become a business leader in technology and innovation. I now jointly lead all aspects of the team including strategy, budget and finances, product development, technical accounting, sales and implementation.
The CA qualification has had both a direct and indirect impact on my career. Directly, the qualification has given me the skills to recognise accounting issues and then input directly into building and implementing solutions. Indirectly, the qualification is much more than learning technical accounting; it has also provided me with a commercial foundation to deal with wider business issues, for example, assessing competing investment opportunities”.