The news that Google employees in the US who choose to work from home permanently may get a pay cut has understandably generated a lot of interest and comment. Pre-pandemic only a small minority of full-time employees with office jobs worked primarily from home. Covid-19 changed that. Government guidance to work from home if you could, meant that remote working was suddenly and unexpectedly the norm for office workers. Adapting to this enforced change some employees found that remote working offered them a better work-life balance, and many are keen to continue to work either fully or partially from home. At Hays in response to feedback from our employees we recently implemented a balanced working policy whereby most staff are expected to work five days in ten in a Hays office. We recognised that norms of working have changed, and we responded by giving staff greater flexibility to choose a working pattern that suits them. Now, in the UK at least, social distancing guidelines have eased employers and employee alike are trying to navigate a new normal and establish ways of working that are less rigid and offer more flexibly. Set against this backdrop the announcement that Google are changing how remote workers are paid – has many questioning what this might mean or the salaries of those who opt to work remotely. Is Google, in many areas a trailblazer, setting a remuneration trend other organisation will follow? It is important to recognise that remote working doesn’t just offer benefits to employees, companies are also using full-time remote working to their competitive advantage as it enables them to recruit from a wider talent pool, particularly in sectors such as marketing, finance, HR and technology. A recent survey by Hays found 28% of employees are hiring for fully remote roles, of those 16% said it was a new policy that did not exist pre-pandemic. In the US, Google is the first major employer to state that staff who work from home full-time could face salary cuts and earn less than those who work in its office. So far, no major UK employer has announced a similar plan and I think it is unlikely to happen any time soon given the widespread skills shortages across many sectors. Currently the main driver of salaries is the hight demand for skilled talent and this fuelling pay increases. What’s more lower pay for remote workers is currently at odds with popular sentiment, we ran a poll on our website of 2000 respondents and the response was clear, 80% don’t believe fully remote workers should be paid less than in-office workers. Covid-19 has been a huge catalyst for change in terms of how and where we work. And it is challenging in periods of great upheaval to know which changes will be temporary and which are fundamental shifts that will be permanent. However, while the demand for talent is high and skills shortages are widespread, I can’t see a policy of pay cuts for remote workers gaining traction in the UK.
As you juggle your workload, perhaps with the added stress of having to create a hybrid working pattern by working from both home and the office, do you find yourself wishing: “If only I had two more hours each day”? Creating a balance between the hours spent at different work environments and doing things just for yourself can seem impossible, while the very act of trying to attain it can leave you depleted of energy. Plus, deep down you feel that you are unproductive despite the long hours you put in, so that unhelpful voice in your head tells you that you are a procrastinator, rendering you not only tired but also demoralised. If you search online for ‘Productivity Hacks’, you will see that being productive, or ‘in peak flow’, is down to many things, including: The importance of energy management Cognitive, physical and sensory energy boosters Being centred and changing your mindset Workflow productivity hacks Improving your energy levels through diet In 2019, 100 million + Americans (1 in 3) cited depression as an issue. The causes of it are many and having depression in your life compromises your focus, energy, and joy. Some of the causes can be physical, so be mindful of: Vitamin D deficiency Folic acid deficiency Vitamin B12 deficiency Gluten intolerance Hormone imbalances Omega 6 fats from processed oils A diet high in sugar and starch and low in fat is extremely harmful. The brain loves saturated fats. They are not called essential fatty acids for nothing! To gain optimum nutrition you need to include whole foods, plant-based foods, healthy fats, Omega 3 fats (avocados, nuts, seeds), grass-fed animal protein or natural protein that provides amino acids, plus good oils (e.g., coconut). Show me a child on a beach and I’ll show you someone who runs into the water at some point or plays with it. We seem naturally drawn to water, perhaps because 97% of our bodies are made up of it. Water is essential, yet few people drink enough of it, leading to dehydration. Before you feel thirsty, you will experience many signs that are less noticeable. These include lethargy, lack of concentration and lower tolerance to stress. Aim to drink 8 – 10 glasses of water a day on average. Start to replace other drinks (e.g., tea and coffee) with water during your day. Don’t drink caffeine after lunchtime as it will adversely affect your sleep. Diet drinks should be avoided altogether as they have additives that the body stresses to remove. Sometimes we confuse hunger for thirst. Drinking a large glass of water half an hour before eating will cut down your appetite, but do not drink it with your food. This will dilute the natural digestive enzymes in your mouth and slows down digestion. If you are bored of water, try herbal teas. Exercise for increased focus Our bodies were designed to move, and we now do not move enough. Make sure that you are moving each hour by stretching or walking around and add some exercise into your routine every day. If you really feel like your head is in a vice, then get some oxygen into your system quickly by finding a private space and stretching and deliberately yawning for a minute or two. One of the most common blockages to people making time to exercise is that they just don’t feel motivated enough to do so. You need to tap into your reason for this: Write down all the personal reasons why you would like to look and feel better through exercise. Now write down all the possible outcomes of NOT exercising. Take a moment to think how looking better & being healthier will make you feel. Now take a moment to write down how the outcomes of NOT exercising will make you feel. Then work out how you can make it fun. For me it is rebounding on a mini trampoline to loud 80s music or joining an online class with a teacher I love. Tracking your exercise progress is key. Most importantly, keep a note of your energy levels at points in the day (scale of 1 – 10) and journal the changes. Recharging through sleep Sleep lets your brain relax and integrate your day. It evacuates stress, aids learning, and finds answers to problems. When you sleep your body gently relaxes and quietens, your heart rate slows down, and your body temperature lowers as you release tension and let down your guard. Not getting the sleep you need will impact your physical and mental health as well as any steps toward increased focus at work. It can increase your stress and anxiousness, it can have a negative effect on your mood and your ability to concentrate and be productive. To ensure a good night’s sleep: Prepare your room for slumber (dark/cool/quiet) Remove as many digital devices as possible Have a clean comfortable bed. Prepare your mind for closing via a regular sleep rhythm – go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, associating your bed with sleep (not TV or food or work!) Prepare your body for calm (avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, food in the hours before sleep. Avoid intense sport in the hours before sleep. Do a mind-detox just before sleep by writing down everything that is on your mind and then put the list aside). Use the 12-hour Board Meeting hack. If you wake up at 2am with something on your mind, write it down immediately then say to your subconscious: “Thanks for that.I’ll schedule a board meeting with myself in 12 hours at 2pm when I’m fully awake and able to deal with it well”. Then, prepare for morning by having a glass of water by your bed that you can drink to rehydrate your body with when you awake. In addition, wake up to a nice soothing alarm or music, meditate or do a morning affirmation by welcoming in the day by finding ten things to be grateful for. So far so good. Increased focus and productivity at work Now you are at work, hydrated, having slept well and eaten wisely and you still find that as the day becomes more hectic and you are just about to do “the thing” when the phone rings, and it is only later that you remember that “the thing” never got done. Knowledge workers spend their days juggling dozens of tasks and projects at once, while being constantly bombarded by more. Without an effective way of prioritising/editing/storing all these tasks, they literally remain “on your mind”, creating an overwhelm of whirligig thoughts. This in turn – despite your best productivity hacks – makes increased focus difficult and leads to an inability to concentrate fully on the work at hand, or a trade-off where you just about manage to get through it all, but the cost is that you are spent at the end of the day and just want to switch off and numb it all away. All of the unfinished tasks whirring around your head, are, according to Matt Serna: “open loops”, and your brain will constantly remind you about them, whether you want it to or not. This is distracting; you can’t possibly expect increased focus when thoughts like “Remember to deworm the cat” keep intruding. Indeed, according to ‘The Zeigarnik effect’, the mind has a natural tendency to return to incomplete tasks. It is a product of ‘open loops’ that hinder your mind from doing your work effectively by distracting you with other unresolved task and issues. Your mind will keep being flooded with these unhelpful reminders well into your evening (stopping you from switching off at home) and then intruding into your sleep, leading to more mental exhaustion and overwhelm. The solution is to close the loops. Remove the cognitive burden of having to decide what to do and when with some simple task organisation tools. These can include daily: A simple piece of paper with all your tasks written down on it. Looking back at all the tasks and items you have, highlight them with either a Red or Amber (Yellow) or Green highlighter (RAG system). Red = urgent, amber = important but not urgent, green = noted but not needing to be done now. An easy-to-use method of task prioritisation such as the Eisenhower Matrix. Then each week create a Loop Closing Checklist as follows: It’s no longer needed and can be deleted. No action is needed right now, but you may need to do something about it later. Create an ‘Awaiting response’ file and review weekly. It’s information that you may need later, like the budget for a project you plan to undertake. Put that into the correct reference/library file. If you need to still do the action or there is more information you need in preparation for it, create a shared project board using your company system. Then have a master Projects List (with projects ranging from: ‘Complete the £££ pitch document’ to ‘Finish my online course’ to ‘Pay for the weekend away’ etc.) If it comprises a single, non-urgent action, put it into your Calendar with a time/date specific plan to do it This can extend to all those boxsets you’ve downloaded and never watched. Either delete them or set time aside to watch them. As you watch the third episode of The Queen’s Gambit you can call it good mental health!Finally, it is OK to have a ‘Decide not to decide now’ or ‘Someday’ list just for all those future dreams or plans that you don’t want to forget and which, with your renewed energy and increased focus, will find their way to the top of your list sooner than you dared to hope for.
Two in five chartered accountants have admitted to feeling too emotionally drained to work, according to the result of new research timed to coincide with National Stress Awareness Day, which shows many feel isolated and unable to speak about their feelings. The study conducted by CABA, the wellbeing charity for chartered accountants, paints an alarming picture of stress levels across the profession. It also highlights that COVID has aggravated an already worrying mental health pandemic that shows little sign of abating. The study found that 30% of the 1,222 respondents had recently felt isolated, while more than half had felt emotionally challenged. A further 21% say they either never or rarely feel optimistic about the future. When asked the cause of this distress, one in three cited either their work, career or studies, while one in five put it down to lockdown and the impact of COVID-19. A further 14% put it down simply to feeling constantly under pressure. A quarter of chartered accountants surveyed admitted they don’t feel able to speak about their feelings when angry, stressed or worried, while only half of respondents said they were dealing with such feelings well. Paul Day, Support Officer at CABA, said regardless of the pressures accountants were struggling with, it was vital they sought some kind of support: “We all have different ways of coping with stress and anxiety. However, there are also times when we find ourselves not coping as well as we might like. Some individuals may be put off from seeking help due to the perception of mental health issues, time barriers or simply not knowing where to look or how to find help.” CABA provides a range of wellbeing services free of charge to past and present ICAEW members and their families. They include access to online mental health support service Qwell, confidential chat sessions with qualified counsellors available 7 days a week, 365 days a year, peer support and access to a range of information and resources from its website. But Day says that individuals can also try a range of techniques to help keep their mental health in check: Find ways to control the situation We tend to feel safe when the stresses we’re facing are predictable. So if you are feeling nervous, focus on the things you can influence and control. For instance, if your employer invites staff to participate in projects, have your say. Getting involved can provide a greater sense of control. Celebrate your achievements A proverbial pat on the back helps us to find the strength to push ourselves further. Find things to feel proud of because ultimately, confidence is built by acknowledging how difficult things were, identifying what we did to overcome it and then building on those foundations. Take regular breaks Frequent breaks away from your computer screen will allow for more creative thinking, better processing of information and improved focus. Aim for a 5-minute screen break every 90 minutes or so, and always try to take your lunch break away from your desk completely. If possible, get some fresh air with a short lunchtime walk. Stick to your office hours The key to a good work-life balance is setting strict boundaries between work and home. Try to leave your work phone and laptop at work or set yourself a curfew for checking them when you get home. This will help you to properly unwind and give you more time to spend with friends and family or on hobbies and passions outside of work. Stay hydrated Keeping your H2O levels topped up throughout the day will help you maintain focus and concentration. When we’re dehydrated, we’re more likely to feel irritable and find it difficult to make decisions, which can exacerbate potentially stressful situations. Pause and refocus Mindful breathing exercises can help you stay calm and in control when things start to feel overwhelming. Even a momentary pause, like this one-minute meditation, can make a difference. Prioritise You can’t do everything at once, so be realistic about what you can achieve and by when. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t tick everything off your to-do list. Write a list and work out what is urgent and what can wait. Pace yourself We all have a threat centre to protect us from danger, a drive centre to get us out and about and a sooth centre. However, lots of things that we would assume originate from drive actually come from threat. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might be the result of this sort of imbalance. Ask yourself; are you pushing yourself to do so much because it brings you joy or because you’re worried about missing out? Set aside some time to rest, relax and bring your sooth centre into balance. Know your worth Understanding the impact of your role and the difference you make to the wider organisation can give you a stronger sense of purpose, which will help you cope when the pressure is on. It’s hard to stay motivated when you can’t see the point or value in your hard work. For information and support on maintaining your mental health at work visit the CABA website
Laura Dymott started out in audit before discovering the fascinating world of forensics. The variety of clients and cases means no two days are ever the same – and she’s certainly never bored Like many ACA students, Laura Dymott began her career as an audit trainee. “At university I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do, but I found out about the ACA qualification at a careers fair and thought it sounded interesting,” she says. “I liked the fact that it seemed to open up a few doors in terms of different career options. So, once I finished university, I joined the graduate scheme at RSM, and undertook my ACA qualification there in the audit practice.” Although she had completed several accounting modules as part of her business management degree, it wasn’t until Laura started her professional career that she discovered the area of forensics. “I didn’t know a huge amount about forensic accounting, it was only when I started my job that I heard about it really,” she remembers. “I met someone who worked in forensics and it sparked my interest, so I started looking into it. Then, in my second or third year of training, I sought out the forensics team at my firm to find out a bit more and understand whether it was something I could potentially move into. I was working in Rochdale at the time, and one of the forensics partners in the Manchester office offered to mentor me to give me some insight. It just sounded like a good fit for me, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some wider experience.” At the time, there weren’t any opportunities for an official secondment into the forensics team, but Laura was able to offer some support on a couple of cases. “There was one case where they needed to complete a forensic audit, which played into my skillset,” she says. “I was able to see how a case worked and understand the change in mindset that was needed. Immediately afterwards, I knew it was something I’d like to pursue. I had always had an interest in law – having actually started off studying towards a law degree – so the opportunity to use my accounting qualification and skillset, but in the field of law, was a really nice mix.” The following year, a vacancy came up in the forensic accounting team at RSM’s London office. In what she describes as ‘a career-defining moment’, Laura decided to go for it; relocating to London and moving into a forensic role full time. She quickly ‘got the bug’ and found her new job suited her: “Every case is different,” she explains. “I enjoy working with different law firms and different clients; no two days are ever the same. It gives me the variety and challenge I was looking for.” Forensic services typically fall into two areas: expert witness work, where forensic accountants provide their expertise or opinion as part of a dispute or litigation, and the investigation side which, Laura explains, “Again, could be part of litigation, or an internal corporate investigation, or a wider investigation being undertaken by a third party such as a regulator. Fraud could have been identified or suspected, or a company could have collapsed and we need to understand why. For example, were there any issues with the actions of its directors or with the auditors? There’s a variety of different bribery and corruption investigations you can get involved with as well. The firm I have worked at for the past five years, FRP Advisory, performs both types of work, but I specialise more in investigations, typically working on compex insolvency investigation matters. “There’s no such thing as a typical day in forensic accounting because there’s so much variety,” she adds. “As a senior manager, my role includes managing the team and reviewing their work, liaising with instructed solicitors and clients, and reviewing and implementing a strategy for the case, particularly where litigation is involved. “We work closely with our colleagues in the forensic technology team at FRP, who compile the data and documents for an investigation, hosting information in our disclosure review platform, Relativity. The more junior members of the team often get involved more in analysis work such as examining bank statements and reviewing documents to understand what has happened as part of a particular case, so that we can report back to the client. Eventually, we’ll produce a final work product, whether that’s writing a report, producing analysis in a way that can be understood by the client, preparing documents for court, or giving evidence as an accounting expert.” When she tells people she works in forensic services, Laura says, they often automatically think of CSI. “Of course, it’s not that sort of forensics, but the actual mindset behind it and the detail that you’re looking for – the evidence – is often very similar. And for me, that’s what makes it so interesting. If you’re the sort of person who likes being a bit nosy, digging deeper and finding out what happened, there are so many different, interesting cases you can get involved with. A lot of what we do is quite high profile, and that often makes it more interesting than what an accountant typically does, or what someone outside the industry might think an accountant does.” How does it feel to be on the ‘other’ side, scrutinising the work of fellow accountants as part of her remit? “When I was an auditor I was out conducting audits, whereas now I’m examining audits performed by other firms to see whether they have been done to the standard required,” she says. “It’s interesting seeing both sides of it, and while you may appreciate where the auditors are coming from when you’ve experienced it yourself, at the end of the day we’ve got a job to make sure that we maintain the standards of the profession. I’m a Chartered Accountant and I’m proud of that title, and the job I do.” One of the benefits of the ACA, Laura believes, is the range of potential careers available to Chartered Accountants. “If you look at the opportunities available, especially once you’ve done the ACA, there’s just so much variety,” she says. “And you can keep your options open – it doesn’t matter if you don’t know which field you want to go into. Even once you pick a field, you don’t have to stay in it forever. For me, it has opened up so many doors in terms of career opportunities, and the people it’s enabled me to meet.” Being a member of ICAEW has proved invaluable when it comes to networking, especially when Laura first moved to London. “I was involved with the North West Student Society in Rochdale, so when I moved to London I wanted to stay involved as a way of meeting new people,” she says. “I found a group for newly qualified members, but at the time there wasn’t a huge amount of interest in it. It just needed someone to pick it up and drive it, so myself and a few others built it up again over the period of a few years, three of which I acted as chair. In 2017, I was asked to run for ICAEW Council, and was successfully elected. I’ve served one term so far, and I’ve just been re-elected to serve another term representing members across London. “My involvement with ICAEW has given me the chance to meet a mixture of different people including CEOs of international organisations and partners of large accounting firms, as well as a variety of young people working in other complementary professions. It’s a great way to expand your personal network, and it’s an opportunity to market to other firms too. I’ve made contacts through ICAEW that have referred work to FRP and vice versa. I’ve learned so much about the profession that the public – and even a lot of accountants – have little insight into.” If you are ready to take the next step in your career journey take a look at our job listings and other career advice.
If you’re currently preparing for a remote job interview, you may be feeling concerned that it could be more difficult for you to assess whether the opportunity is the right one for you. After all, when interviewing remotely, you won’t have the opportunity to meet the people you’ll be working with face-to-face, visit the organisation’s offices and generally get a feel for the place. But it is possible to judge whether an opportunity is right for you when interviewing remotely, as I will explain in this blog. Useful techniques include: reviewing the organisation’s online presence prior to the interview, asking the interviewer the right questions and reading their body language. Is this job a good fit for me? Regardless of whether you’re interviewing remotely or face-to-face, there’s always a lot to think about when judging whether an opportunity really is the right one for you, such as: Is the role aligned to your skillset and future career goals and aspirations? Do the salary and benefits on offer make this a financially viable choice for you? Where will the role be based, and will there be opportunities for you to work flexibly should you need to? Are there learning and development opportunities available which will allow you to further develop your career? Are you genuinely interested in the organisation’s products and services, and does their purpose compel you? Is the organisation’s culture appealing to you? Will you feel included, valued and engaged? Do you think you’ll have a good, supportive relationship with your new team and boss? Of course, all of these things are incredibly important. But, when it comes down to it, you’ll often get a gut feeling. Your intuition will help you decide whether the opportunity is the right one for you. And it’s much easier for that instinct to kick in when you’re interviewing face-to-face. Interviewing remotely? Six ways to determine whether the opportunity is right for you So, how can you decide if an opportunity really is the right one for you when interviewing remotely? Here are a few of my thoughts: 1. Before your remote job interview, do your research Analyse the language used in the organisation’s job adverts. What can it tell you about what it might be like to work there? Is the language they use inclusive, accessible and relaxed? Do they write in the first or second person? Do they use diverse imagery and language? Are the role responsibilities clear, focused and succinct? Reading between the lines of job descriptions can really help you build a clearer picture of the opportunity than what you might realise. It’s also essential that you review the organisation’s website, finding out more about their vision and purpose to see how well they align with your values – just as you would do before a face-to-face interview. Visit their YouTube channel too; many organisations will create videos that will give prospective employees an idea of what it might be like to work there. Other techniques you can use to help you build a picture of the organisation as an employer is to read their Glassdoor reviews, as well as search Google News for any recent news coverage. Aside from scrolling through their social media channels, it’s also a great idea to research current employees on LinkedIn – their activity may give you clues into their company culture. If your recruiter or the hiring manager sends you any company material – whether that’s blogs, reports, or any key documents – ahead of your remote interview, be sure to read them. This will help to give you an insight into what the organisation’s priorities and key focuses are. For example, perhaps they’ve recently published a new commitment to diversity and inclusion? Or published a new report on the state of the industry? These pieces of information can also often be found on their website, so make sure you check there for any significant company updates whilst you’re exploring their vision and purpose. 2. Assess the organisation’s culture during your remote interview The employer might offer you a virtual office tour, for instance, or provide you with short videos that employees have recorded about their role, expertise or experience of working at the organisation. You may even have the opportunity during your interview to have virtual introductory meetings with team members. If these aren’t immediately available or apparent to you during the interview process, ask your recruiter if they are. All of this will help you to get a glimpse into the organisation’s culture, and to better understand what it would be like to work in that office, with that team, on those projects – and assess whether all of that would suit you. Also keep a lookout during your remote job interview for any other clues as to the company culture. As communication and behaviour expert Mark Bowden explains: “How we live and the objects we keep around us are a big unconscious indicator to others of what you value and therefore the values you hold.” Is there anything about the interviewer’s background or environment on the video call that indicates what it would be like to work there? Or anything that gives you a feel for what it would be like to have that person as your manager? If they’re in the office, what is the design and branding like? Or perhaps they’re at home where you can see and hear their children – demonstrating their flexible and relaxed approach. 3. Ask the interviewer the right questions Remember that all interviews, regardless of whether they are conducted face-to-face, or remotely, are a two-way process. They don’t just give the interviewer the chance to find out more about your suitability for the role, but they also give you the chance to assess the role’s suitability for you. Therefore, the questions you ask the interviewer and the answers they give, especially during a remote interview, can be extremely valuable in helping you to decide whether this is the right opportunity for you or not. There are certain questions about the role, team, interviewer, company and learning and development opportunities that will give you a better idea of what it would be like to work there. Chris Dottie, Hays Spain Managing Director, has outlined some great examples of questions to ask your interviewer in this blog, some of which include: “What does a typical day in this role look like?” “What constitutes success?” “From your perspective, what’s it like to work here?” It’s also worth thinking about whether you’d like to ask the interviewer questions surrounding COVID-19, such as “What have been your key learns from the COVID-19 crisis so far, both from a business and a leadership point of view?”, and “What support could I expect to receive when working remotely or from home or as part of a hybrid team?” These questions can help you to understand how the organisation is operating during the crisis; what their reaction has been, and if you would’ve been proud to work for them throughout any changes and shifts due to the pandemic. The answers that the interviewer gives to your questions will help you understand your likely level of cultural fit at this organisation. If you’re told, for example, that they are a ‘results-driven’ organisation, does that mean you could be punished if you miss a deadline or target, or even make a mistake? 4. If you are being interviewed by the hiring manager, use the remote interview to understand whether they would be the right boss for you You need to have confidence in your new boss – your relationship with them will be as important a factor as the job itself, if not more so. It’s fortunate, then, that even a remote job interview still presents plenty of opportunity to suss them out. During the interview, analyse your potential manager’s communication skills. As your interview progresses, assess their clarity of thought, how they communicate their expectations for the role and for the successful candidate, and whether they seem to be listening to you. This will give you an idea of what it would be like to work with them. Do you think this communication style would suit you and help you to form a strong relationship? Be mindful, too, of the language used when your questions are answered, and throughout the interview. If they use ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ when speaking, that could suggest a non-collaborative approach. Also assess whether the interview feels more like a conversation than an interrogation. If it feels natural and almost effortless, and the two of you seem to share many of the same motivations and values when it comes to your career and the workplace, then these are signs that you would get on well. President of Hays Canada, Travis O’Rourke, has also written on this subject, adding that you should consider what this person could teach you if they were your new boss. Ask about their career so far – have they had a lot of experience that you think you will be able to learn from? Are they passionate about their job and the company? If so, it’s likely it’s a very positive and encouraging environment to work in. 5. Read the interviewer’s body language While this is not as easy to do remotely as it would be in a face-to-face interview, it is still possible. After all, you can see whether or not the interviewer is smiling while you’re speaking, as well as what their posture is like, and whether their arms are crossed or open. The interviewer’s gestures and vocal pitch can also tell you a lot about how invested they are in you as a candidate. In fact, communication expert Mark Bowden shared some really valuable advice with me on reading your interviewer’s body language: “Watch for big CHANGES in body language when you are speaking to the interviewer, rather than individual gestures. If you see anything that stands out as very different in the interviewer’s posture, face, movement, or behaviour, then ask them what their thoughts are on what you have been saying. This helps you check in on the significance from their perspective of what you are saying. It may give you a good opportunity to better understand how well your ideas, views, or even personality fit with theirs as well as that of the organisation.” I recommend having a look at Mark’s YouTube channel. His videos will allow you to learn more about not only how to interpret your interviewer’s body language, but also how to improve the effectiveness of your own use of your body in a video interview. For example, this video on how to present yourself effectively via video from home, covering tips such as ensuring the space is well-lit and placing a post-it note of a smiley face above the camera, which will encourage you to smile during your video job interview. 6. Reflect on the experience you’ve had throughout the interview process Assess how your interview process, from start to finish, has been handled. Does the company appear to be well-organised? Are you, as a candidate, at the centre of the process? Has communication and feedback been prompt and detailed? All of these things, paired with your knowledge and experience of the company to date, are signals as to the company culture, and whether it’s the right opportunity for you. Just because your interview is taking place remotely, that doesn’t mean you can’t find all the information you need to decide whether or not this is the right opportunity for you. By following the six steps above, I hope you’ve realised that. If you are ready to take the next step in your career journey take a look at our job listings and other career advice.
The world is changing, and so is finance. In just 10 years, the sector will be unrecognisable from what it is today. Digital transformation, automation and a big data boom will see finance professionals embrace AI as standard practice, and many of today’s finance roles will no longer exist. Sounds scary. But it’s not if you know where things are going so you can prepare to stay relevant and develop the skills needed in finance jobs. That’s why we asked Oliver Deacon, former Microsoft FD and career coach for finance professionals, to lay out the key skills that you can develop to get ahead of the curve and futureproof your finance career. 1) Data Analytics Right now, businesses have access to more data than ever before. And this is not only going to continue, it’s going to explode, with data expected to grow at a CAGR of 10-20% per year. This huge growth means that Data Analytics specialists—people who can analyse big data to create insight and recommendations— will be in extremely high demand. According to a World Economic Forum report, traditional backwards-looking reporting analyst roles will be replaced by forward-looking decision support roles with business partnering skills. If you’re not familiar, data analytics refers to the process of collecting, transforming and analysing data to inform decision-making processes. By utilising the data at hand, data analysts and finance business partners provide key decision makers with the actionable intelligence needed to make well-informed, lower-risk decisions. Examples of popular data analytics and presentation tools include PowerBI and Tableau. Finance teams will look for individuals who can utilise these tools to build analysis and present findings to the business. If you want to get started learning about Data Analytics and some of the key tools and skills, I recommend the ICAEW Data analytics courses. If you already have a good understanding of Excel and want to start the journey of generating business impact through complex data analytics, I recommend the ICAEW Data Analytics Certificate which is available at analyst and manager levels. 2) Finance Transformation The rise of automation will allow finance teams to deliver an unprecedented amount of business impact. However, with rapid change comes instability. This is where transformation specialists come in. Many finance organisations now look to Finance Transformation specialists to guide them through periods of technological and process change. Their role involves standardising and automating processes such as budgeting, reporting and data processing. More than that, their work gives Finance Directors and CFOs more time to focus on building their team’s capabilities. These specialists are often brought in with specific problems to solve. Once changes have been successfully implemented, they may move on to larger companies with bigger, more interesting finance challenges to transform. As the speed of change only accelerates, their skills will always be in demand Looking to learn more about finance transformation? This ICAEW course on Leading Change in the Finance function gives great insight on what this work involves and how to be effective at it. 3) AI/Machine Learning Specialisms Like Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have exploded in the past decade, their impact growing exponentially year on year. This boom, powered by big data and breakthroughs in microchips and computing power dictated by Moore’s Law, has spread into almost every industry on the planet. AI, particularly machine learning, has already permeated many finance roles and processes. It is already helping companies to detect fraud and money laundering, automate trading activities and provide in-depth advisory services. For FP&A teams, machine learning will increase the reliability and accuracy of market forecasting. Machine Learning is the combination of algorithms and statistics applied to big data that automatically predict, learn, and improve through experience. For example, in forecasting, patterns can be recognised in historic variables, allowing for more accurate future statistical predictions. In audit, fraud detection can be improved by ML recognising odd transactions and patterns seen in other data sets. While many think of AI as a disruptive force impacting jobs, largescale adoption will make way for a new wave of AI-focused roles –especially within finance. Businesses and finance teams looking to invest in AI will need dedicated specialists to implement, maintain and develop AI models and strategies. Specific skills required will be Big Data programming languages such as Python, R and SQL, plus those relevant to building ML models themselves. For those looking to boost their understanding of the uses of AI and Machine Learning, the Finance in a Digital World platform for ICAEW members provides great context for both beginners and those with some foundational knowledge. With all the changes that are coming, the future of finance can seem unclear. There are new skills that finance professionals will have to develop in both finance or accounting jobs. But the fact that you’re here right now means that you can get ahead of the curve and thrive in the exciting new world of finance! If you would like to get more clarity on your unique path, CABA offers ICAEW members support from highly respected and established career coaches (including Oliver Deacon). Find further information about personal and professional coaching through CABA and get career support from one of the highly respected CABA coaches today.
A good CV is vital when applying for a job, especially in recent years with the job sector becoming more competitive than ever. Many studies have shown that recruiters or employers won’t spend more than a couple of seconds looking at a CV, especially when there are numerous candidates for the same job. Creating a CV that will capture the attention of an employer or recruiter to help you get shortlisted and even get the job doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are 5 useful tips on how to make your CV stand out from the crowd and highlight the skills or experience that will contribute positively towards you as a candidate. 1. Tailor your CV to the role Depending on the role you are applying for, customise your CV to highlight the skills, accomplishments and experience that are relevant. The clues are in the job description and company information, so read the details from start to finish and create a CV specifically for that role. You need to clearly demonstrate that you understand what is needed for the role and that you are the perfect fit. There is no perfect template as each sector requires emphasis on different aspects of your CV, such as career history or qualifications. Try to be as specific as possible and reflect the skills set and qualities they are looking for in a candidate. Present your skills in a similar order to the job description and make sure to remove any unnecessary areas. This means that you may have to alter and adjust your CV for each new job you apply for. 2. Include keywords in your CV Many employers or recruiters use keywords when looking for candidates. Keywords are often based on the job title, the job description and specific skills or qualifications needed for the role. Utilising keywords is even more important, if the employer is using an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to filter out candidates. You should identify and carefully pick up these specific words and phrases and use them within your CV to increase your chances of getting noticed by employers. When applying for an accounting or finance job in particular, it is important to include keywords that are relevant to your technical skills. These could be phrases such as ‘Management Accountant’, ‘Financial Planning’, ‘GAAP’, ‘SAP’ etc. Read also about how to present your transferable skills in your CV. Using keywords is a sure-fire way to make your CV stand out from the competition and unfortunately is often overlooked by candidates. 3. Emphasize actions and results rather than responsibilities When writing your CV, work history and experience sections, you need to ensure that you don’t just list your responsibilities. Emphasis should be given to results and you should always use real life examples and quantifiable data to back up your accomplishments. Use assertive and positive language, such as "developed", "organised" or "achieved". For example: "The work experience involved working in a team," or "This position involved planning, organisation and leadership as I was responsible for a team of people". When you get into the habit of writing about your achievements, rather than things you’ve been responsible for, it creates a sense of accomplishment and gives a positive context to your writing. 4. Sell yourself Your CV is your marketing tool and your opportunity to show off your skills and accomplishments to potential employers. You need to focus on the relevant skills you can bring to the role and the value you can add to a company, but you also need to convince them that your CV is worth reading. Make a first good impression with a good personal statement (a brief summary of your skills and accomplishments). This is an important part of your CV because it can grab an employer's attention straight away and help them understand if your experience and skills match the requirements for the role. When writing your CV make sure it reflects your personality and demonstrates the things that will make an employer consider you as a potential employee and not just another CV in the batch. In most cases the best way to make a CV stand out is to make yourself stand out! 5. Don’t forget the basics Presentation is key when putting together your CV. The layout should be clean and well-structured and should clearly outline all of the different sections including contact information, a brief personal statement, work experience, education and finally your skills. A CV should also be short, usually no more than two sides of A4 stressing achievements and strengths on the first page. Ensure you include references and keep your CV updated adding any new skills or experience. These include contact details, education and qualifications, career history and own interests. Keeping a CV up to date is crucial to building a level of trust with an employer and establishing you as a professional. If your CV contains out-of-date information, it may show a lack of attention to detail and can paint you in a bad light before you’ve even had a chance to engage with potential employers. Creating a CV that stands out requires a bit of extra work and can be time-consuming, but following the above CV tips will help you show off your accomplishments and skills in the best possible way. For further career advice and support, visit our career advice portal or contact us.
Today mentoring relationships are becoming more common amongst professional accountants. Many of them are looking for a mentor to help them develop their professional skills and achieve their career goals. This blog will explore the benefits of mentoring and explain how to get the most out of having a mentor. What is a mentor? A mentor is an industry expert with extensive knowledge and experience in your professional field who can guide, advise, motivate and support you to achieve your personal career goals. A mentor acts as a role model and shares his or her knowledge, experience, resources and useful information about the industry. A mentor is there to provide guidance and help you build a network of contacts, identify the right resources and set clear goals to progress your career. What is mentoring? Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship between you and a mentor. Sometimes this relationship may be a formal one organised through your employer, or it could be through a mentoring organisation or via your professional institute. Alternatively, it may be more of an informal relationship that you have arranged yourself through your own network. There are advantages and disadvantages of an internal/external mentor so you need to consider who the right person is to help you succeed and then ensure that your mentor has the time to commit to helping you. Sometimes a workplace mentor may have a specific remit to support you with such as helping you keep focused with studies and experience to qualify whereas general mentoring in its purest sense is about your long-term career. Mentoring can take place in a range of ways both in person or remotely using virtual meetings or social media platforms. What is the role of a mentor? A mentoring relationship will typically involve the mentor playing different roles to support you by offering you guidance, advice and suggestions from their own knowledge and experience. They could support you with advice around technical skills development in your early career, leadership skills or business skills as you progress further in your career. They can also act as a sounding board, someone to think through problems, issues and challenges with as well as someone who may challenge and push your thinking, motivating you and holding you accountable for any actions. Do I need a mentor? Having a mentor can have many benefits. Working with the right mentor can help you by allowing you to: Seek advice from an industry expert who has the knowledge and expertise to give guidance Explore your career options, path and future objectives with someone in the field Discover your areas of strength and areas of development through feedback Discuss ways to overcome any barriers to your success Gain different perspectives when thinking through issues Improve your confidence and performance in your role Access the mentors network of contacts that could be helpful to your future career Gain the support and advocacy of the mentor for future job roles Choosing a mentor It is important you have some choice in your mentor. You’ll want them to be someone you can be open with and trust with your personal objectives, thoughts and feelings around your career, as well as being someone who inspires you. When choosing a mentor, you should consider: Whether the person has the relevant knowledge and experience to advise you in your career Whether you hold the person in high regards, someone you admire or who you find inspirational Whether you feel comfortable with the person’s style and approach Whether you feel you will be able to be open and honest with the person Whether you feel the person will treat information with confidence Whether you think the person will be able to offer you feedback to help you learn and grow; Whether the person has some experience in mentoring others You should spend some time meeting together to assess your answers to these questions and ensure you make the right choice before entering into a long-term mentoring arrangement. For mentoring to be successful you need to enter into it with clear objectives around what you want to achieve from it together with personal motivation and commitment. Mentoring can be a short-term relationship with regular meetings to support you through a particular challenge or career transition or it could be a long-term relationship throughout your career journey with fewer meetings spread out over a longer period of time. This has to be mutually agreed between both parties and regularly reviewed. Your career takes different routes and you may naturally reach a point where you are ready to work with someone else or they may feel they have supported you so far and are ready to watch you fly on your own. How to get a mentor? ICAEW Academy offers a bespoke Coaching & Mentoring Programme that aims to empower you to take big steps to further your career. Every Coaching and Mentoring programme is tailored to your needs. For more information about mentoring, visit the ICAEW website. Written by: Meg Burton Meg has over 15 years' extensive experience of delivering and facilitating development training in corporate organisations working with leaders and managers at all levels in a wide range of businesses. Meg is a qualified learning and development professional, qualified MBTI practitioner and Executive Coach. Meg has a warm enthusiastic approach, a passion for learning and a desire to make a difference to individuals. How CABA can help Everything we do at CABA is underpinned by our commitment to provide lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, past and present ICAEW staff and their close families. All of our services are free, impartial and strictly confidential.
Any organisation run by the government and funded by tax-payers’ money can be classified as public sector. Many ICAEW members work in or with the public sector to deliver public priorities and strong public finances. ICAEW acts in the public interest to support strong financial leadership and better financial management across the public sector – featuring transparency, accountability, governance and ethics – to ensure that public money is spent wisely and that public finances are sustainable. Accountants are among the world’s most sought-after professionals. In fact, accounting and finance rank seventh on the list of roles that are hardest to fill globally, according to a survey by recruiter ManpowerGroup. Meanwhile, rapid societal and technological change is transforming both the employment landscape and what individuals expect from jobs, threatening to further exacerbate the talent shortage. In many parts of the world, public sector employers are simply unable to pay salaries that compete with those on offer in the private sector. What, then, is the public sector pulling power? Here are the main reasons why you should go after a public sector finance job. Unmatched influence In the public sector finance professionals have a far-reaching social impact that cannot easily be replicated in the private sector. Finance professionals play a crucial role in delivering public services and ensuring that taxpayers’ money is used effectively. They need to have the same analytical and strategic skills as their private-sector peers. The right mindset It is the mindset, rather than technical expertise, which is probably the principal differentiator between finance professionals in public service and those who work in the private sector. In the private sector, you have the responsibility of helping the corporation to reach its goals and provide shareholders with the maximum return on their investment. In public finance, you have to deal with an entire country’s budget, and you are impacting the lives of many more people. You’re not just looking at shareholders’ returns. Another important difference is that public sector accountants often have to accommodate and manage the expectations of a very wide range of stakeholders. This requires an ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. Complex challenges Today public sector bodies around the world are navigating widespread technological disruption alongside a range of other challenges. These include severe budgetary constraints, extreme weather events arising from climate change, and demographic developments such as ageing populations. As a result, public sector finance professionals may have to deal with problems of far greater complexity and magnitude than those in the private sector. It is for this reason that public sector finance professionals need to be innovative. One example of how public sector finance professionals are becoming more innovative is through their use of outcome-based budgeting, by allocating money to the areas of government that achieve the best results and measuring these outcomes to make informed decisions in the future. Recruitment and retention Using the power of impact to attract people to work in the public sector is one thing; retaining them is another. There is always a risk that talented people will leave a public sector finance role if it doesn’t meet their expectations. The public sector is more likely to attract and retain talent if it offers clear career paths, an excellent working environment and the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. In certain jurisdictions, a further consideration is the security of tenure that a career in public finance can offer. This may compensate for lower pay and make it an appealing proposition for some people. Ultimately, the kind of people who are really suited to joining – and building their careers in – the public sector will not be motivated by money alone. They will be motivated by the desire to make a positive difference to their communities. Be part of the ICAEW Public Sector Community For accountants and finance professionals working in or with the public sector or want to follow a career in public sector finance, this Community is the go-to for the key resources and guidance on the issues affecting practitioners like you. With a range of dynamic services, we provide valuable tools, resources and support tailored specifically to your sector. Membership is free and open to everyone, including non-ICAEW members.
That’s it. They’ve had enough. Enough of the endless Teams calls. Enough of putting their career development on hold. Enough of feeling unsupported, overloaded, and overlooked by their employers. If the reports are true, record numbers of people around the world have come to the realisation that, for them, enough is enough and are considering voluntarily leaving their jobs. SEVEN REASONS WHY SO MANY PEOPLE ARE CONSIDERING LEAVING THEIR JOBS According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 41 per cent of people are likely to consider leaving their jobs within the next year. That’s a very high number indeed. It’s been dubbed the “The Great Resignation” by organisational psychologist, Dr Anthony Klotz, and for good reason. As with the other ‘Greats’ we’ve witnessed across history, take “The Great Recession”, or “The Great Depression”, for instance, the impact could be monumental. Just think about the implications for a minute. If you’re a business leader, almost half of your entire workforce may, right now, be thinking about leaving you. Where does that put your growth plans? Your customers? Your bottom line? Just when you thought you could see light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel and get back to resurrecting your business, your greatest assets are leaving you. Before we dive into the reasons before this unprecedented movement of talent, it’s important to note that certain demographics of society appear to be more open to the idea of quitting than others. As explained in this Guardian piece, “Socioeconomic differences will shape who is quitting and why.” Blue collar workers: In this piece, Sandra Sucher, Harvard Business School professor and author of the forthcoming “The Power of Trust”, noted that low-wage workers are particularly motivated to change jobs with even marginally better offers. As explained in this BBC article, “Many retail and service workers are departing in favour of entry-level positions elsewhere – in warehouses or offices, for instance – that actually pay less, but offer more benefits, upward mobility and compassion. With employers across the board looking for new hires, many have found it’s easy to find another job and make the transition.” Gen Z: Microsoft’s research found that 54 per cent of Generation Z workers could be considering handing in their resignation, and pointed to the fact that “…Gen Z reported difficulties feeling engaged and excited about work, getting a word in during meetings, and bringing new ideas to the table.” Mid-career workers and managers: Research from people analytics firm, Visier, found that the cohort of employees aged between 30-45 years old saw large increases in resignations between August 2019 and August 2020, signalling that those who are more established in their careers are more likely to consider to switching jobs. Plus, as of December 2020, resignations among managers were 12 per cent higher than the previous year. So, what’s behind this predicted mass exodus of talent? What’s triggering people to want to leave their jobs in such vast numbers? 1. They finally feel confident searching for a new job According to Klotz, those people who had planned on leaving their jobs pre-pandemic but decided to hold off due to the instability caused by COVID-19, are now resuming their job searches with a new-found gusto. As a result, the backlog of resignations that have built up over the last 18 months are now beginning to clear. This is hardly surprising. With rising vaccination rates globally, and the gradual opening up of economies, we’re seeing a seismic shift in the job market and confidence returning almost everywhere in the world. This sentiment is echoed by Neil Carberry, chief executive at the UK-based the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), who said, “The jobs market is improving at the fastest pace we have ever seen, but it is still an unpredictable time.” In fact, our own UK & Ireland Salary Guide revealed that 63 per cent of employers are currently recruiting. There are more opportunities out there than there have been in a long time, so many feel now is the right time to finally make their move. But what else is at play? 2. They’ve been given the time and space to reflect on both their personal and professional lives If people weren’t already considering looking for a new role before the pandemic hit, then chances are that they are now. According to our recent LinkedIn poll of over 25k people, 74 per cent said that the pandemic has made them consider their job or career choices. Whether it’s feeling unsupported on a number of levels by their employers, or the fact that, as Klotz argues, we’ve all been forced to confront our own mortality in a way that we’ve never had to before, for many, the pandemic has afforded people the time and space to reflect on their working lives – something that many have never had the luxury of doing before. As explained in LinkedIn’s ‘Hello Monday’ podcast, lots of people have simply realised that life is too short to do a job they don’t love, for a company they don’t think cares about them. 3. They just don’t want to go back to the office…ever After 18 months of working from their own homes, where they are the ones in control, doing their jobs in a way that works best for them and enjoying the freedom to live their personal lives alongside their 9-5’s, some just don’t want to go back to the office. This, coupled with the fact that many have already relocated or are planning to in order to be closer to family or to achieve the lifestyle they’ve always dreamt of, the prospect of having to return to the office has been a big trigger to leave for many people. This is reflected by Microsoft’s research, which found that 46 per cent of people say they’re likely to move because they can work remotely now. But is returning to the office, at least part of the time, really going to be as bad in reality as what many have convinced themselves it will be in their own minds? Lots of people, including myself, feel they have re-discovered a newfound sense of connection with people that they have been lacking for over a year, just by going into the office a couple of days a week. In my mind, both our homes and our offices have a part to play in enabling us to lead fulfilling working lives, but I appreciate that not everyone feels that way. 4. They’re burned out We’ve seen the headlines – burnout right now is real and it’s rife. According to Microsoft’s survey: 37 per cent of the global workforce say their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this One in five think their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance 54 per cent feel overworked and 39 per cent feel exhausted The average Microsoft Teams user is sending 42 per cent more chats after hours, with 50 per cent of people responding to Teams chats within five minutes Microsoft argues that these frightening stats “…prove the intensity of the workday, and that what is expected of workers during this time has increased significantly.” I’d have to agree. It’s no wonder so many people are reconsidering their job options. Technology has been the Great Enabler for us all to continue to do our jobs and keep our economies and societies from total collapse over the last 18 months. Imagine if we had had to cope with a global pandemic just a few years ago without Teams and Zoom, no fast internet, no mobiles, no online banking/shopping/food delivery/Netflix/everything else that enables our lives today? If this had happened 20 years ago, I’m not sure how we would have kept working, so technology has been our saviour. But technology has also blurred the lines between work and private life and the level of burnout and exhaustion is unsustainable. 5. They want to hit ‘play’ on their career growth Everyone wants to feel that they are moving forward, that they are on the path to personal growth and success. The need to feel a sense of progress is an innately human one, but it’s a feeling many haven’t necessarily experienced for a long time. Many have put their own personal development on pause. Instead, they’ve been busy keeping the businesses they work for afloat. Upskilling for many has been off the radar, a secondary concern that can wait until tomorrow, the next month or even the next year. That mindset is starting to shift, with many reaching for the ‘play’ button again. High performing workers, according to research from Axios, are the most concerned about their career advancement in their current job, with 75 per cent of people saying the pandemic has made them question their skillsets. Unfortunately, many feel that to reach the next level and achieve their goals, they have no choice but to move jobs. To me, this is a wholly avoidable challenge and one that employers should be tackling head on. It’s well known that career progression is a crucial factor in employee engagement in an organisation. Without it, people who want to get on will go elsewhere and create value for someone else. And those that stay may well not be as engaged in your success as you hope or think. 6. They are motivated by financial reasons For those who have continued to work during the pandemic, their savings have probably increased. Without the commuting costs, the after-work drinks, the meals out or lunches in, most have actually managed to save money. This financial cushion has led many to feel more confident to make a move, or even to leave a job without having another lined up. For many, this financial freedom has given them more space to make the career decisions that are right for them. Secondly, thanks to sites like Glassdoor and salary.com, people now have more visibility than ever before into exactly what salary their own unique skillset and experience can command. And, when they do decide to move, particularly those working in tech and life sciences, they often realise a 15-20 per cent salary increase. These numbers can make a big difference to someone’s finances and I’m sure are a huge driver behind all the movement we’re seeing in the market. 7. They’ve realised they don’t actually like their jobs Without the welcome distractions and colleague camaraderie that comes with working in an office, many people have been left to just do their jobs at home. And, with all of the peripheral interactions and distractions stripped back, many have realised that they don’t actually enjoy the work they do, especially when they don’t have all the other softer stuff to break up their days. The reality of what they do has really hit them. On top of that, despite the constant Teams calls and chats, many are feeling disconnected from their teams, their managers and their organisations, as explained by Cassie Whitlock, head of human resources for BambooHR, “Many have lost a sense of connection to the workplace,” she says. “Even if they’re getting time with their manager, we discovered they’re having fewer interactions, and the quality of those interactions is diminished. They’re not having a feeling of genuine connection. They feel less seen, recognized, and appreciated.” As a result, there’s been a huge rise in people choosing to go it alone and set up their own solo ventures. According to the National Bureau of Economic Statistics, the pace of new business applications since mid-2020 has been the highest on record, and across the course of the pandemic there’s been a rise in side hustles. This is echoed by Microsoft’s research which found that 46 per cent of people are planning to make a major career pivot or transition. This blog was originally published on LinkedIn.
From chartered accountant in restructuring, turned business lender, to the CFO of ClearScore - Guy Buckley-Sharp exclusively unpicks his unconventional career path to lead the finance team at a household business. By his own definition, Guy Buckley-Sharp, CFO of financial wellbeing business, ClearScore, didn’t have the most traditional career path from financial controller to CFO. He diverted from this track to first experience the business world from a lender's point of view. In an exclusive Career Conversation with ICAEW Sharp reveals how this early career move was instrumental in grasping a solid understanding on how to secure investment when he was sitting on the other side of the desk as a CFO. Sharp was ACA trained by 2003 at Arthur Anderson in the corporate restructuring team before he then moved to a company called ETV Capital; a start-up in its own right where he was a Lender to venture capital backed businesses. “That gave me my first taste of the venture capital world, and the key experience I got out of my time there was seeing businesses from the perspective of an investor and putting capital at risk”, said Sharp. “I think that has informed my approach to business and has been very valuable as a CFO. You’re usually the equivalent to a ‘grey-haired doomsday guy’ who is always considering the downside. A background in debt certainly trained me for that.” He added: “Crucially, it also really built my network in the private equity and venture capital world. Through any of the companies I was dealing with, I would be dealing with their investors and you had to build relationships there.” From Lender to CFO Sharp then left in 2009 to do his first CFO role in a company called Borro, a collateral loaning company, which at the time had 12 people in Oxford. He actually came across this business through ETV as they were trying to do a deal with the business. Sharp didn’t get to do a deal, but he did get to know the CFO and got to know the business pretty well. “I spent four years there where we grew the team from 12 to over 60 people. Then I went from Summertown in Oxford to London as we grew the team and then we launched in the U.S. We nearly issued $100m of loans to individuals which equated to about 17,000 loans; lots of lending to people with high value assets.” He continued: “Importantly for me, and leveraging my background with ETV Capital, a lot of my role was raising finance for the business, and anyone going into an early-stage business looking at a CFO or finance role – liquidity and fund-raising capital, managing capital raising for these businesses is a massive part of the role.” Second CFO role At Borro the Sharp’s team raised a large amount of finance and had left the business in a good position, so he jumped out at that point and was brought into another business which was his second CFO role, a business called Gazoob which moved him from fintech into the educational technology space. In his own words, ‘this was a turnaround, this was literally four or five people with some money invested by an investor’. The day he joined is the day the CEO and Founder left; he was brought in to try and salvage something from this business. “I spent a couple years there and the turnaround wasn’t successful, we had raised some more money and tried to pivot the business. But interestingly in those two years I think I learnt as much from a turnaround salvaging business as I did in Borro”, he said. Becoming the first CFO at ClearScore Sharp had already met the team at ClearScore just as they had launched in July 2015 and in March 2016, he then joined the business when there were just 20 people there at the time and became their first CFO. Interestingly, some of the investors he had brought into Borro two moves back, were lead investors in ClearScore. This really consolidated the value of those relationships to Sharp and maintained those relationships wherever industry can take a person as it’s such a small place. ClearScore is an online marketplace for financial products, for example, Skyscanner for flights, ClearScore is the equivalent for credit cards. He added: “ClearScore Started in the UK, we now also have operations in South Africa and Australia. We also have 13 million people using us around the world. It has gone on quite a journey.” “We’re all at CFO school until we retire” Throughout Sharp’s success in his career, he remains grounded by the fact that he doesn’t have all the answers and that he is constantly learning. He stresses the importance of building lasting professional relationships to help each other keep moving forward in business. This constant learning makes him feel like he never left school. Sharp explained: “I have a mentor who was actually arranged through ICAEW and he is an extremely successful CFO and when we were doing our sessions, I once said to him that ‘I still feel like I’m at CFO school every time I turn up’. And he said, bearing in mind this is someone who has taken businesses public, ‘so do I, it's completely normal, we’re all at CFO school until we retire. Because the nature of the job is growing a business, sorting a problem out, fighting a fire and you never know what’s going to turn up’.” This doesn’t just apply to CFO’s; it’s said openly at ClearScore that they’re all finding their own way. If it was easy to do then every business would be a ClearScore. “You get some really bright and motivated people together and you try and solve the problems that are thrown at you every day. I didn’t have a finance network behind me at the time of using Borro, but there was scaffolding around me in terms of people working around me in the CEO, Founder and others. You’ve got to support each other and that’s the only way”, concluded Sharp. For more insight on: what to expect when working in a finance role at a start-up; what Sharp wishes he’d known before joining the exciting world of start-up; how the finance guys ‘the grey-haired doomsdayer’ build a good relationship with Founders and marketing team; and maintaining a work-life balance as well as your own sanity, watch the full Career Conversation between ICAEW and Guy Buckley-Sharp. If you are ready to take the next step in your career journey take a look at our job listings and other career advice.
ClearScore CFO, Guy Buckley-Sharp, shares expertise learned from his pathway to financial controller of a household business exclusively with ICAEW Insights Q&A. Guy Buckley-Sharp, CFO of financial wellbeing business, ClearScore, didn’t have the most conventional career path from financial controller to CFO. Sharp was ACA trained by 2003 at Arthur Anderson in the corporate restructuring team before diverting to lending at ETV Capital, a lender for venture capital backed businesses. Then Sharp took a leap from lending into the financial controlling world with Borro, a collateral loaning company he came across while working for ETV Capital. After growing the team at Borrow from 12 to 60 and breaking into the U.S market, he then joined Gazoob (a fintech in the educational technology space) as their CFO. Sharp’s next role would be the CFO of ClearScore, an online marketplace for financial products. He joined the business when there were just 20 people there at the time and became their first CFO. Along the journey from chartered accountant in restructuring, turned business lender, to the CFO of ClearScore, Sharp has gained invaluable career insight which he chose to share with ICAEW Insights. What is the biggest challenge as a CFO? “The biggest challenge is keeping up with the pace of growth. In terms of people, it’s shifting a company from 20 to 200 or 300 people, turning a company from a single jurisdiction to a multinational business. All these things create regulatory challenges, much greater financial complexity, much greater constraints on the business, treasury and liquidity. As they scale it’s a real challenge, but it’s also an attractive part of the role because you are given these challenges and it’s kind of a little bit what you’re there for.” How can the job affect you emotionally? “You’re going to work very closely with the CEO of this business if you’re taking on a CFO role. You’ve got to be able to work night and day. At ClearScore, the CEO and I have been through extreme emotional highs and lows. You’ve got to look at the character of that individual and the team around you to make sure you’re with the right people to be going into the trenches with. “There’s going to be loads of balls thrown at all of you, so you’ve got to think someone has your back and you can all stand shoulder to shoulder and take it. However, if you learn/earn enough over the next year or two then it would be worth taking that leap and continuing onto the next job, and that’s how I would look at it from a career perspective.” How do you pick the right CEO? “The successful CEO is generally extremely passionate, driven and hardworking, very ambitious, super optimistic and totally obsessed with the mission that they’ve created. They founded the business on it. That creates quite a lot of energy and drive, and you can see the CFO’s role as slightly the Ying to the Yang. “You’ve got to be a little more level-headed as you can’t have two fiery energetic people bouncing off each other because it probably doesn’t work as well. That is why I’ve worked so well with the CEOs that I’ve worked with.” How important is building a network? “I still work with people now from a legal and finance perspective, even if I don’t work with them contractually, I still speak to them and get advice from them. This includes people from 10/12 years ago when I started as a CFO under a different company. “Use that network as it's super helpful and no one knows the answers to everything. That network is important as it’s a very small world. No business is more important than you and the people around you because you’ll all be around longer than any of these businesses.” Was it a straight path to becoming a CFO? “The journey will never be linear, very often there will be days where you’re taking one step forward and two steps back, and there will be problems coming in that you have to deal with. Be prepared that it’s not going to just flow’ if you do have a straight journey then you’re very lucky." For more insight on: what to expect when working in a finance role at a start-up; what Sharp wishes he’d known before joining the exciting world of start-up; how the finance guys ‘the grey-haired doomesdayer’ build a good relationship with founders and marketing team; and maintaining a work-life balance as well as your own sanity, watch the full Career Conversation between ICAEW and Guy Buckley-Sharp If you are ready to take the next step in your career journey take a look at our job listings and other career advice.