I graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2007 having successfully completed my degree in Management Studies. My degree included a wide range of subjects including finance, management, tourism, psychology, and economics – the whole works.
Over the years I have considered lots of different careers. So how did I end up as a management accountant at the FSA.
I had considered working for one of the large accountancy firms in audit. However I established that auditing was not for me, as it involved too much looking at the past, and not enough looking at the future. I then discovered the CIMA qualification for management accountants and also the management accountancy graduate programme that I am on now at the FSA.
The programme is really diverse which certainly keeps me on my toes and the time is flying by. It lasts three years and you rotate round various different teams and departments within the finance function to get a wide range of experience. The final six months are spent on a secondment to an external firm. The wide range of experience is not only invaluable but also really helps you meet the practical experience requirements that CIMA want you to achieve before you can qualify.
Let me tell you a bit about my journey so far…
My first six months were spent in our financial control team. This was a really good introductory role, as you can get up to speed on general accountancy and how systems and procedures work within the business. The team is responsible for ensuring compliance with our internal finance policies and carrying out daily and monthly reconciliations I input into our treasury management process, assisted with year-end and wrote papers for our Audit Committee.
I was responsible for the analysis of our Chairman’s expenses and also revised a number of processes to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. In this rotation I was even responsible for moving our critical finance systems, such as our supplier payment system, from one building to another.
Business partner function
I spent the next six months within our business partner function. This was a really exciting and also very demanding rotation. This function was created following the centralisation and re-structuring of our finance operations. I joined the team when it was only a few weeks old and we went straight into our annual business planning cycle.
It was a fantastic rotation which I thoroughly enjoyed as it involved spending the majority of my time working with the wider business on their priorities. I had exposure to very senior people in the organisation, including Directors and Managing Directors, which provided good exposure and experience, especially so early in my career.
This is a very forward-looking role as you are forecasting future expenditure and at month end looking at your variances and working with the business to understand why they happened.
The financial services firms we regulate pay fees; this is how the FSA is funded. The revenue operations team are responsible for setting the fee rates, and then invoicing and collecting payments from over 30,000 firms. I am now coming to the end of my six months in the revenue operations team and have been involved in a wide range of projects.
I have produced a consultation paper to give the industry an opportunity to comment on our revised fees and policy proposals. As a result of this I have produced press releases, briefings for our Chairman and Chief Executive and even responded to letters from MPs. I have also been involved in the operational implementation of a new European directive.
As you can tell this rotation has been really different, and in fact quite unique. I am not sure you will find many finance teams that have to deal with these issues.
So what’s next?
Well, I will move to our procurement department for a short one-month rotation so that I can gain an understanding of our procurement processes and procedures. The next six months will be spent in our group management accounting team who are responsible for looking at the bigger picture and producing finance reports for our Executive Committee and Board. I shall then move onto our group planning team before going out on my external secondment.
I hope you can see that I have had an enjoyable and interesting time so far and there is still another 18 months to go! There is one last thing to mention and that is the studying. The CIMA qualification is demanding working full-time and trying to study is extremely demanding, more so than university. It is however worth it in the end, as you gain an internationally recognised qualification that will no doubt brings future success. The majority of employers pay for your college courses, exams and even provide study leave. I would certainly recommend looking at how any prospective employer supports you through your studies, as this will be crucial to your success.
What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?
I enjoy getting to work with new people every day. You can learn a lot from other people and they often have their own golden nuggets of knowledge that they can pass on to you.
Tell us about the most stressful experience on the job.
This has to be working and studying. It is really hard balancing the two and I often find that I have a really large workload and also a lot of college work to be doing. It is difficult trying to find the right balance.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since graduation?
I have learned since graduation to not turn down an opportunity or challenge, as you never know what it might bring.