An ACCA qualification can help unlock your entrepreneurial skills, explains Stephen Bailey FCCA.
Why did you decide to become an accountant?
I wouldn't call myself an accountant but an entrepreneur. I am a founder, investor and owner - I know how to build a brand, own it, market it, and then sell it. Being ACCA qualified has helped with all of that.
I wasn't academic when I was younger. I left school at 15 to work, at first, on a building site and then in a practice, going on to study at university at 21. I became an ACCA member in 1979 and gained my fellowship in 1984.
My ACCA Qualification and membership has moulded and shaped me, equipping me with knowledge, confidence and credibility.
It has also helped me develop entrepreneurial skills. I now have the versatility to be able to work in a myriad of sectors and organisations, and to also set up my own companies and help others to do so, too.
What would you say to someone considering accountancy as a career?
It's a career that takes you places and gives you skills that can be built on and developed.
I often talk to university students and I always advise them that, unlike a degree, a professional qualification will be relevant for a lifetime.
There's no limit to being an ACCA student. What I like about the route it offers is its flexibility. You can start with ACCA-X, the online learning programme, and then progress on to master’s level if you want. It makes you commercially viable, and you can study while you work.
What are the opportunities and challenges you've experienced in your career to date?
There have been lots of challenges from establishing start-ups to launching IPOs, but these have also been opportunities. The qualification and the networks I've established as a result of ACCA have allowed me to rise to the challenges.
I've had to focus on the opportunities. You can't afford to be distracted - that's one piece of advice I would definitely pass on.
I've worked for 25 years in the tech business, for large FTSE organisations, such as SAGE, Experian and Reed, at board level. I have also had the opportunity to act as an advisor for nine years with the UK regulator, the Financial Reporting Council.
But when you look at this in the round, one of the main opportunities has been working on a passion of mine - sustainability. I am not a tree hugger but do strongly support business adoption of sustainable methods and processes. Technology advances, CSR and analyst pressure now make carbon reduction strategies commercially attractive to many organisations.
Tell us about a career-defining moment.
The high spot for me was being involved in the tech sector and successfully launching six IPOs. It's been five years or so since I sold my own business - called Background Checking PLC - to Experian. Now I'm working as a non-executive director, investor and coach with a significant number of innovative organisations.
One of these is a company called Onfido, which offers intelligent background checking and has achieved staggering success in a very short timeframe, recently raising $25m for its series B funding round.
What does being a Council member mean to you?
I have pride in being on Council and being a member. I get a lot out of it. Sitting on Council is about giving something back in my career. It's also an affinity group, with great rapport.
As a member, it gives me a fascinating insight into how ACCA is becoming a world player. It has a long history but is expansive and aggressively competing in global markets. However, in many ways, it is similar to a tech start-up with the development of ACCA-X.
What's the most important part of your role on Council?
That I can contribute to the future development of ACCA. Also, that I can bring my skills and expertise to the group and help shape the culture and strategic direction of ACCA.
What is the biggest issues facing the profession now? What about in five and 10 years' time?
Sustainability remains a big issue and will continue to be a big issue in the future. We also need to think about how we communicate value in business. Value is not just about turnover - it's about intellectual property and intangible assets, so we need to have a broader vision of that. And we can't ignore technology and the ongoing impact this will have on the profession and, of course, society.
What's the biggest misconception about the work that you do?
That accountants block ideas and innovation by being too cautious. I strongly challenge that. We are value creators and also guardians of businesses' finances and their reputations.