Amish Dudhia FCCA, a commercial financial controller for Poundland – Europe’s largest single-price retailer, draws an analogy between the great Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and an average Premier League manager to describe the decision to embark on the Oxford Brookes University (OBU) BSc (Hons) in Applied Accounting.
‘If someone were to ask me whether or not they should embark on the OBU degree,’ says Amish, ‘I’d ask them how they’d like to be recognised as an individual? Would they like to be known as a Sir Alex Ferguson? Or would they just want to be known as a run-of-the-mill Premier League manager, who’s happy to fight it out mid-table every season? It’s about inherent ambition.
‘You look at teams like Newcastle or Stoke, who are always in the premier league, but they are quite stagnant and have never been able challenge further up the Premier League table, they just seem happy to be where they are every year. You could argue there's a lack of ambition.
‘But with teams like Manchester United, Manchester City or even Tottenham, there’s an ambition, a desire to succeed in every game, every season, every year! I think this analogy sums up the value of the BSc degree – it can stand someone apart and clearly highlights an individual’s aspirations coupled with their desire.’
Ambition and desire are what distinguishes a leader, according to Amish, whose decision to enter finance professionally was determined at a young age.
‘Accountancy and finance has always been in my blood,’ he says. ‘I was always good at maths (although some may disagree!) and I think that gives you a strong foundation.
‘We’re surrounded by numbers on a daily basis, they’re everywhere, in everything we do. I remember one of my old school teachers used to say “If you don’t understand numbers now, you will never understand them and effectively you’ll always be on the losing side, and I don’t say that because I’m a maths teacher, it’s because you will struggle without grasping the basic concepts of maths”.’
For Amish, who began his professional journey 15 years ago, the OBU degree laid out the principles of accountancy and finance, and related them to the modules he was studying with ACCA, which are effectively what he would go on to put into practice in a professional capacity.
‘It was a strong platform,’ he says.
And, as Amish has gone through his professional and educational cycle, he’s matured and realised what the ACCA Qualification and the OBU degree can open up.
‘Nowadays it’s not uncommon for a CFO to become a CEO, or to move sideways into an operational role; it’s more about where you want to take your career,’ he explains.
Interestingly, he found that the most challenging and equally rewarding element of the BSc degree was the thesis, which is not a usual requirement when purely studying a vocational qualification.
‘You really need to put pen to paper; it’s not about rote learning, it’s about being creative, using your initiative to propose and see a project through,’ he says.
‘Looking back on it, that was the most creative part. It provides you with an overview and teaches you to approach a problem in a real-world way. You have to ask yourself questions:
- How do I structure a thesis?
- How do I construct a proposal?
- How do I perform a costing?
‘It’s not simply about looking at numbers and coming up with the answer, it forces you to view the wider picture, which I think, unfortunately, is often overlooked within many degree programmes.’
Seeing the bigger picture
The ACCA Qualification and the OBU degree have made Amish more mindful of the bigger picture.
‘If you’re dealing with business change or are trying to analyse a certain situation, having a qualification means you don’t purely have to solely rely on experience,’ he says.
‘I clearly remember certain points from the ACCA Qualification that help me understand the wider picture – for example, the Pareto principal, or PEST analysis. When you’re dealing with business change, you end up considering the wider impact as opposed to having a narrower view.
‘If we take Poundland, for example, we’ve just acquired the 99p Stores brand and are looking at ways to integrate the business. When we look at the overall integration plan, the impact on 99p colleagues and how we bring their employees across is absolutely pivotal in understanding the broader picture – if I’d not learnt how to do this in theory as part of the ACCA, I wouldn’t necessarily have considered the sociological impact of such a business change. I might not have asked how the 99p Stores employees feel having worked for the company for a number of years, to now be working for a competitor.’
Amish’s experience within finance teams is testament to the diversity of backgrounds within the profession.
‘Finance colleagues have come from IT, law, science and other varied backgrounds, and I think they’ve realised that such a diverse knowledge-base combined with finance will stand them in good stead for the future.’
Eventually Amish would like to be a board member as a commercial director, rather than a finance director.
‘The finance side can be quite process driven, while the commercial side has more contact with the outside world, where you really get to see decisions and their consequences in practice. I’ve always been based in commercial finance teams, which I think teaches you to engage more with operations and senior colleagues.’
Neil Johnson, writer