Philip Smith, journalist

‘I would listen to a client and the problems they had, but be unable to help because I was bound by independence rules,’ says Reena Jugdhurry FCCA, talking about her previous life as an auditor in a Big Four firm. ‘But now I can help my clients in many different ways.’

Jugdhurry is talking to AB just a few months after joining Theta Financial Reporting, an accountancy firm that aims to provide Big Four expertise, but without the potential conflicts of interest that can rightly bar an auditor from offering additional advice.

It’s not every day that you are sitting in an office on a coffee plantation with monkeys running around you

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She had been working with EY in London as a senior manager, looking after client relationships and audits for real estate funds and companies across Europe and Africa. In fact, she had been with EY all her professional working life, originally joining the firm in Mauritius, shortly after passing her ACCA exams, having moved back to the Indian Ocean island just after the financial crisis in 2008.

Mauritius to Europe

In 2011, still with EY, she moved again, this time to Luxembourg. ‘I really wanted to broaden my experience, but the move also gave me the opportunity to help fund my sister’s university tuition fees,’ she explains.

While in the Luxembourg office, she began auditing private equity funds, which had complex structures and various accounting frameworks, from International Financial Reporting Standards to local GAAPs across Europe.

But there was one final country move to make. In 2014 she came to London to run the audits of real estate clients around the world. Highlights included audits in Kenya and Ghana. ‘It’s not every day that you are sitting in an office on a coffee plantation with monkeys running around you,’ she says.

Fast forward to 2020 and Jugdhurry is now at Theta, joining as a senior manager.

Big Four challenge

Changes in audit regulation and ethical standards have meant that many companies are unable to buy the additional financial services they require from their audit firm. Founded four years ago, Theta aims to help clients with complex financial reporting issues, as well as transaction and post-deal support, system implementations and other transformation work.

‘Tighter regulation and pressure on audit fees were making the profession less appealing to me,’ says Jugdhurry. ‘I had always worked in a large organisation and wanted to move to something that was smaller and more personal. But I had seen others make the wrong move, so I needed to dig deeper.’

Among the boxes that needed to be ticked were a challenging role, a good team, an equally good work/life balance, and all with good support. For Jugdhurry, Theta scored highly in all these areas, as well as in its technical strengths.

New role in lockdown

The work/life balance aspect has been put to the test in recent months. Jugdhurry joined Theta just before lockdown. Living in Brighton, she managed to meet everyone before working from home. The firm focused on staff wellbeing, encouraging open dialogue and offering a supportive work environment, and organised non-working catch-ups to ensure everyone was coping well with the new conditions.

With the lockdown mainly over, Jugdhurry can see ‘real green shoots’ appearing, with projects picking up again. ‘There are definitely opportunities out there,’ she says.

Coming from a BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) background, Jugdhurry says she has never felt discriminated against and has always been assessed on her performance. But she is aware of the gender gap within the profession, with men and women progressing at the same rate until manager level, at which point women can fall behind.

‘This has a lot to do with managing one’s work with one’s life,’ she says. ‘We still see a heavier domestic burden falling more on women than on men, so the question is, how do you have a job that works around your family life? Much comes down to the support you receive from your employer.’

Giving back

Jugdhurry gives back to society by introducing girls and young women to the accountancy profession. A member of The Girls’ Network, she helps young women see there is a world outside their own environment. ‘As a mentor, I am helping them broaden their horizons, build confidence levels,’ she says. ‘Simply telling them what I have been doing can help inspire them.’

We still see a heavier burden falling more on women than on men

After finishing her A levels (the English school qualification for 18-year-olds), Jugdhurry decided to pursue the ACCA Qualification, as it is the equivalent of a university degree and could get her to her goal faster. ‘Once I had the qualification, moving from one country to another was seamless,’ she says.

Looking to the future, as a keen traveller she is disappointed that further travel abroad will have to take a back seat for the moment. However, she is enjoying spending more time with the family, keeping fit and exploring the UK.