As a child, my father – a group CFO in retail and then entrepreneur – was my mentor, inspiration and the person who provided me with that ‘101’ introduction to finance. He taught me to be curious about everything, never to believe the first information you are given and, most importantly, to understand that there is always good work to do to help others become better. When I was five, he introduced me to FoxPro, one of the first spreadsheet tools on the IBM Osborne computer, which was as big as a suitcase. This is when my journey into data, systems and technology began.
Since qualifying in 2000, I have helped some of the largest banking and payment businesses solve complex problems in their finance, risk, financial crime, compliance and technology functions. Scattered in between, I have had the opportunity to be part of start-up and scale-up organisations. The key aspects of my roles are interim leadership, organisational and cultural change, and building data-driven approaches to improve customer experience.
Being an interim or freelance consultant requires you to be prepared for the unknown. Although business challenges are pretty similar from one project to the next, it is the organisation and culture that will decide how your skills will be used.
You cannot beat picking up the phone to team members just to find out how they are doing
Covid has had a significant impact on me, losing my father during this time. It has also served as a reminder that you cannot beat picking up the phone to team members just to find out how they are doing. The teams under my control are typically diverse in age, gender, culture, location and time zone, so it did mean working longer hours at points just to make sure everyone was okay. Working in a field that enables you to get stuff done from home has been a blessing. I believe that going in to work will become more about meeting up to solve problems together when required; otherwise, there will be a focus on being more flexible.
Being an ACCA member has provided an excellent grounding for me. It has helped me understand commerce, how finance works and how to put together a logical argument using fact-based data to support those around me. Every assignment I undertake is CPD, as it forces me to find out information about a particular subject area.
My ultimate goal is to complete a couple more long-term roles, with a view to moving towards being a portfolio non-executive director. At the same time, I am producing a set of simple leadership aids called the ‘Route to Zero’. This concept essentially strips back all of the buzz words, such as 'digitisation', 'agility' and 'lean', into a set of zero-based measures to support change management. This work will also form part of the mentoring and speaking opportunities I am involved in with ACCA, giving something back to members.