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From practice to business: My career journey

Written by: Simon Alsop
Published on: 12 Nov 2018

Simon Alsop


Why did you decide to become an accountant? 

I studied for a degree in business studies and the course included quite a lot of accountancy content. I really enjoyed that aspect so I knew I wanted to do something with a finance/business focus. During my job search I met several accountancy practices and liked the sound of advising and understanding a broad variety of businesses; and I got to see everything - from small sole traders to FTSE listed companies.

How did you come to a decision to work in business rather than practice? 

I always intended to leave and work in business eventually. I think the ACA exams, together with the experience you get from working in a practice while studying, is the best way to learn about business. I was lucky in that I got to take on some management accounting work for clients, which I really enjoyed – much more so than auditing I’m afraid – so it wasn’t a difficult decision to make and I left practice pretty soon after qualifying.

What does your career journey look like? 

I joined a relatively small publishing and events company as financial controller. It was on a rapid growth trajectory and was led by an entrepreneurial Managing Director, who was also an ACA. I learned a lot about how business really worked from him. I helped sell that business and then moved through a couple of much larger organisations until my last role, before working at ICAEW, as CFO of a private-equity backed training company. The owners wanted to exit and I managed the sale of the business which was the catalyst for my ending up at ICAEW.

What are some of your career highlights? 

M&A activity, including the successful sale of the businesses themselves, was a big part of my last two roles before ICAEW. It is really hard work, requiring long hours and there are many ups and downs throughout the process but I really enjoyed it. I also found leading projects, sometimes quite small, that delivered process and efficiency improvements really satisfying. 

What advice would you give to a recently qualified ACA embarking on their career? 

If you get the chance to work overseas, take it. It’s great experience and something most of the really successful members I speak to have done at some stage.