Housing, energy and sustainability – a trio of topics that are rarely out of the news – are all talking points that ACCA Ireland chair Jason Murphy FCCA has a distinct vantage point on. As co-founder and CEO of Centrus Advisors, Murphy has helped facilitate funding for a number of significant housing and infrastructure developments over the past few years, among them the €51m funding secured by Circle Voluntary Housing Association in 2019; a €54m funding package for Clúid Housing in 2021; and around £200m of financing for the ‘Gas to the West’ project in Northern Ireland.
It is no coincidence that these are all projects where the power to transform lives and communities is central. ‘In everything we do with our clients, we always consider the social impact,’ Murphy says.
‘What we look for isn’t necessarily the cheapest source of finance or the highest return on capital, but how the advice we give is going to have the most impact in the long term.’
It’s an approach that recently saw Murphy invited to contribute to the 2022 Social Infrastructure Forum Global Summit in Berlin, where he addressed the changing nature of public-private partnerships in the post-pandemic world.
'What’s important is not that people say they are doing things sustainably but that we have standards that can measure this'
Chair, ACCA Ireland
Co-founder and CEO, Centrus Advisors
Director, head of public sector and infrastructure desk, Dexia
Director, corporate finance, Deloitte
Director, Infrastructure Finance Unit, DEPFA Bank
Assistant manager, international services division, corporate banking division and global project finance team, Bank of Ireland
Murphy appreciates that adding talk of sustainability to the mix might not prove immediately eye-catching. ‘I know a lot of people are focused on this area right now, and it is something of a buzzword,' he says. 'What’s important, from my point of view, is not that people say they are doing things sustainably but that we have standards that can measure this.
'Unless we have that transparency, there will always be questions around believing what you see. The International Sustainability Standards Board has set about establishing these and I believe they will become the focus of our profession and how it adds value to society in the years ahead.’
A sense of connection between society and the profession motivates Murphy in at least one other distinct, and very ACCA, way. ‘One of the things I’m passionate about is the core ACCA value of inclusion, and how that’s expressed in equality of opportunity,' he says. 'One of the really nice things about our profession is how attainable it is; whatever your background, you can be an accountant if you have the capability.’
Getting the message out there more fully is one of Murphy’s key goals for his time as ACCA Ireland chair. ‘I would really like to see us getting more and more into schools, and especially disadvantaged ones, so students better understand this message and the supports they can avail of.
'There are other professions where people may feel they need to have connections or a family member to support their career. Ours isn’t like that.’
'One of the really nice things about our profession is how attainable it is'
An ACCA member since 2004, Murphy first got involved in the Leinster members’ network in 2014. ‘I was at the point of my career where I could give time to advocating for the organisation and was keen to do it,' he recalls. 'I knew what the qualification could do for you. I also wanted to connect more with other ACCA members.'
A productive series of events in his tenure as the head of the Leinster members’ network included a lunch headlined by former Ireland football international Niall Quinn, which itself gained media headlines as the one-time chairman of Sunderland AFC took the opportunity to call for tax incentives to support the roll out of sports academies across the country.
The value of sport as social capital is not lost on Murphy, who plays a coaching role in a mixed junior team in his local community in Co Dublin. ‘You certainly couldn’t do it if you didn’t love it,’ he says. ‘When I see one of the team bring something they’ve learned in training into play, there’s a great sense of reward and pride in being part of that.’
'I’m passionate about the core ACCA value of inclusion, and how that’s expressed in equality of opportunity'
A seat on the ACCA Ireland committee in 2018 and a new role on the business leaders panel further whetted Murphy’s appetite to contribute. ‘I began to see the bigger picture and get a sense of the extent of the ACCA network,’ he recalls.
When the position of ACCA Ireland vice chair emerged, Murphy saw not only ‘the opportunity to really focus on some key objectives’, but also something of a ticking clock. ‘I was coming near the end of the time I could be a member of ACCA member panels, as the ACCA Ireland constitution allows a maximum of nine years on the panels/committees to give new members a chance to advocate, so this was effectively a last opportunity to bring forward the ideas I’m passionate about.’
The clock would, however, take an unexpected jump forward when, earlier this year, Philip Maher FCCA was elected to the ACCA Global Council. This required departing his ACCA Ireland chair role earlier than planned, passing the baton to Murphy in February.
Coming just as in-person meetings became feasible again, Murphy has relished the opportunity for fresh beginnings. ‘I do believe personal interaction is really critical and networking is really important to do face to face,' he says. 'I’m also happy to confess that I don’t really know what the hybrid model means. I don’t think it’s a fixed thing and I think everyone is going to have to figure it out over next few years.’
After two years of deep immersion in Zoom, Murphy equally recognises that ‘online meetings have a huge role to play. To have that flexibility, particularly in CPD provision, means we can reach so many more people and be more open to everyone.’
Reach and openness may be about making life easier, but they are also values and goals that will definitively guide Murphy in his time as ACCA Ireland chair.