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My job explained: Financial director

financial directorWant a surefire route into a range of businesses? Jim Heron explains why a training in accountancy will make employers sit up and take notice.

What made you choose this type of work?

Although I studied a science subject at university, I always planned to pursue a career in business. I knew a couple of people who had become Chartered Accountants and realised that this training would give me a great business education and a route into a commercial financial position within a few years.

How long did it take to train?

With a non business degree, the training took another three years after graduation. This may seem like a long time, but I was able to work and earn while I was learning and I was given some study leave from my job to do my exams each year.

Can you describe a typical working day?

I like to get into the office fairly early to plan the day and catch up on emails from the previous day. After this, much of my time is spent working with the finance team, this can involve preparing and reviewing management accounts, forecasts and other financial reports. I also have responsibility for the IT and HR departments so some of my day usually includes catching up with people in these teams to discuss current issues and projects.

What's the best thing about your job?

I love taking an active role in running a business with my fellow directors. Making tough choices and seeing the results of those decisions is very rewarding.

Have there been any challenges in getting to where you are now?

The main challenge early on was to pass my Chartered Accountancy exams first time The exams are very hard with a success rate of less than 50% at each stage, so you have to pay attention and be prepared to give up some of your spare time to get through. Working and studying at the same time is a challenge, there are many distractions when you start work in your early twenties, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.

What qualities and skills do you think are important for your role?

Numeracy skills are very important - you don't have to be a maths genius, but you do need a good understanding of numbers.

Good communication and interpersonal skills are also essential, especially if you want to get more into managing other people. Although the job involves a lot of numbers it is vital to be able to communicate the information effectively and to develop strong relationships with all members of the company.

What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?

If you have an interest in business and are good with numbers, the accountancy profession is a great career because it opens up many different opportunities in a range of organisations. Work hard for the professional exams and aim to pass them first time; this not only looks good to current and future employers but also means you are not wasting time re-taking exams rather than moving ahead with your career.

Go for a science/engineering/maths degree as graduates from these areas tend to have higher success rates in the professional exams or for a business/accountancy degree to avoid the foundation level exams.

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