This article was first published in the September 2018 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

In a ruthlessly competitive sector, clothing retailer Primark has carved out a distinctive position, and attracted a huge customer base and the plaudits of fashion writers.

Employing over 75,000 staff in 355 stores across 11 countries, Primark has, for all its international focus, remained loyal to its roots. The group’s HQ remains ‘above the shop’ in Dublin and is home to the 200-strong finance team.

Primark has now selected ACCA as the qualification of choice for its finance trainees.

‘Our offices in Dublin are very young, diverse and energetic,’ says CFO David Paterson. ‘That reflects our customer base and their changing demands in very competitive markets. The really exciting thing is the role the finance function plays in that.

‘There’s a real demand from the business for us to do the basics very well, but they are also looking for finance to add value in areas such as decision-making, capital investment and risk management.

‘As Primark continues to grow and strategic opportunities emerge, a very strong finance business partner is needed to help make sense of those opportunities,’ Paterson continues. ‘It’s really important to have a qualification and skillset that enable our finance people to do that.’

Paterson says that ACCA addresses all those issues. ACCA’s new Strategic Business Leader case study was a big influence. ‘That was something that really resonated with us. As a business that’s doing some €8bn in sales annually, we are looking more and more at strategic options. It’s really important that we have finance professionals who are comfortable getting into the details but also at widening their perspective and considering the implications for the wider business.’