By All Accounts...

Is accountancy boring?

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EPISODE 1 · 10 MAY 2024 · 21 MINS

This week, we sit down with ACCA members Angelika Cyrulinska and Remi Allen-Bond to dig into their creative careers. From making a real impact on big projects at Mercedes Benz, to advising on innovative strategy at Santander, they give us a glimpse into the range of exciting and dynamic ventures that accountants can get their teeth stuck into. Plus, we explore their unique journeys into accountancy and finance. As a school leaver, Angelika shares where she got the accountancy bug, and Remi describes the graduate program that got his career going after finishing his degree.

Maiki Lynch: Hey, there. I'm Maiki Lynch and I'm an accountant. I know, I know... I work with numbers but I like to think I'm a people person too. But unless you're an accountant, or working in finance, I bet I know what you're thinking, what do accountants actually do? Don't you have to be really good at maths? What does it mean to work in finance? Isn't it super boring, and stressful, and just lots of messing around with spreadsheets? I'm sitting down with some real life accountants and people who work in finance. We'll be cracking open the core of what it's actually like from the happy moments.

Angelika Cyrulinska: I cried, to be honest. I cried with happiness, I was really, really happy.

Maiki Lynch: To the bumps in the road.

Ravi Tanna: My confidence was really knocked, I just couldn't get back into it.

Maiki Lynch: And the silliness in between...

Shaun Fenwick: Going out to the tap room and drinking loads of free beer which is brilliant.

Maiki Lynch: Welcome to By All Accounts. Now, I did my accountancy training back in 2011, starting off working on the sales ledger and progressing through to becoming a management accountant. I'd say the number one thing that went unsaid was... isn't it going to be really boring? So I found two people who currently work in accounting and finance to ask, is your job really boring? First up, Angelika Cyrulinska. Welcome.

Angelika Cyrulinska: Hiya.

Maiki Lynch: And Remi Allen- Bond, hello.

Remi Allen-Bond: Hi, nice to meet you.

Maiki Lynch: So what do you reckon? Is finance really boring? Angelika, can I come to you first? Is finance really boring?

Angelika Cyrulinska: I wouldn't say it's really boring. For example, my current job, I'm involved in so many different things that you wouldn't typically think an accountant would be involved with. And I think that is what makes my job fun on a daily basis. And it's something, it's the reason why I will continue to be an accountant probably for the rest of my... until I retire!

Maiki Lynch: About say that's quite a commitment there!

Angelika Cyrulinska: Yeah, no.

Maiki Lynch: Til death do we part!

Angelika Cyrulinska: Yeah. Maybe not in the same position I'm at, but I don't think when I first started, I imagined I'll be an accountant forever. I think I wanted to get the qualification to open up a bit more opportunity for myself, but it wasn't until I started my current role that I thought actually this isn't anything I expected. And I think that my job alone now opens even more opportunities to things that are not typical accountant roles, I guess.

Maiki Lynch: And can I ask... you talk about what you perhaps expected it to be. Did you expect that it was going to be boring, potentially?

Angelika Cyrulinska: I did. I thought it was going to be a lot of data entry and Excel spreadsheets and that's all the job kind of entailed. But I think, well, when I first started my job as an auditor, it was a little bit of that, but it was more kind of just analyzing data, drawing conclusions from the data and then applying it to decision- making, which I obviously didn't expect. So yeah, I definitely thought it was not going to be the funnest job. And definitely when I tell people I'm an accountant, I get some funny looks like, oh, you must be a fun person to be around. I think people have an expectation of what you're like. But I wouldn't say that's true at all based off myself and my friends.

Maiki Lynch: Remi, if I can just bring you into the conversation about is it boring. Do you think finance is boring?

Remi Allen-Bond: Not at all, no. I think like Angelika was saying that it is massively varied. So my journey in finance, I've done three different roles in the past four- ish years, from your kind of day- to- day, corporate accounting reporting to working in treasury for a bank, to working in strategy, and corporate development. And all of those I've been able to do because I trained as an accountant. So I think there's a lot more to accounting and to have qualifications than just do an accounting necessarily. So even if accounting isn't for you, which it may or may not be because it is a profession like any other. Well, not like any other, very special, but it's the profession, there are still many, many things that you can do with it outside of core accounting.

Maiki Lynch: I love to hear that and I completely agree with what you both said about the breadth of roles that can be offered. Angelika, I wonder if I can come back to you. Where are you working at the moment and what is it that your job entails?

Angelika Cyrulinska: So at the moment, I work at Mercedes- Benz as a finance business partner. And my two areas that I look after is investments and facilities. So I basically look at kind of the projects that we invest our money into and also the costs of running our building and stuff like that. So I work with a lot of my business partners to kind of see how we can work more efficiently and save costs where we can so we still get the same quality.

Maiki Lynch: That's fantastic. And that sounds like a very exciting workplace. What reaction do you normally get when people ask you where you work and what you do?

Angelika Cyrulinska: People were quite surprised that I work at Mercedes. I think a lot of people expect you to work for an accountancy practice. I think a lot of my friends initially when I said I was an accountant, people come to me with tax questions quite often, especially this time of the year. So I think there's yeah, I think people don't necessarily take into account that you can work for so many different industries and if you're interested in something, you can work in that industry, whether that's music or fashion or cars, for example, you can go into that industry still and just yeah, work in the finance section.

Maiki Lynch: I agree. It's a really exciting industry to work in as well. And do you like it? And if you do, what do you like about it?

Angelika Cyrulinska: I do really like it. I like the people I get to work with, I get to work with and collaborate with many people throughout the business that are doing different things that aren't anything finance related. And I really enjoy talking to them and being able to have an insight into not just the finance sector, I guess, which I deal with, but also their challenges and what they're looking to do and then help them and have an input.

Maiki Lynch: So you're working with lots of different teams throughout the organization who aren't necessarily your finance function at Mercedes.

Angelika Cyrulinska: Yep.

Maiki Lynch: Remi, I'd like to come to you and just to hear about your job. Can you tell us where you work and what it is that you do?

Remi Allen-Bond: Of course. So I work for Santander UK in their strategy and corporate development team. So what that means, we have essentially three main roles. The first one is determining the bank's long- term strategy. The second part is corporate development, which is your typical mergers and acquisitions.

Maiki Lynch: Lovely.

Remi Allen-Bond: And then the third part is kind of strategic projects. That's kind of like your internal consultants.

Maiki Lynch: That's perfect. How did you get there? I know that so many people perhaps who are listening, they may be thinking, gosh, I would love to have that job. How did you get there?

Remi Allen-Bond: So most of my team have backgrounds in either investment banking or in consultancy for some of the names I mentioned earlier. The way I got there was a bit different. So I did a graduate program at Santander after finishing uni. So I went through a few rotations on the grad scheme and in my third year, my rotation was in that team. And I guess I impressed them while there because they decided to keep me when their scheme finally ended, and I'm still there now.

Maiki Lynch: Congratulations. So you got to try out different areas of the business. When you're saying rotations, you got to try out different areas and this particular area that you're working in, it was a good fit.

Remi Allen-Bond: It was a good fit. Precisely, yeah.

Maiki Lynch: And how do people react when you say you work in finance, that you are a chartered accountant?

Remi Allen-Bond: Like Angelika said, they asked me to do taxes for them. It's the most common response. But no, they're generally impressed because it is a recognized profession worldwide.

Maiki Lynch: And is that what attracted you to the profession?

Remi Allen-Bond: So what attracted me then to the profession was one, yeah, of course you have recognize there's a certain, I suppose, respect in having done it and recognition having done it. I think also just being wholly pragmatic, if we look at salaries and salary growth over the past few years especially, finance has been one of the few sectors in the UK that has seen consistent strong salary growth. So in terms of a long- term career, it's a very good one to be in.

Maiki Lynch: I completely understand where you're coming from there. Angelika, I wonder if I can come to you. What were your reasons for going into finance?

Angelika Cyrulinska: I guess I was a bit similar with the money aspect. That seemed quite attractive to me, but also I quite liked problem solving and it kind of all came about because I worked in retail during my gap year and I kind of did some back of house admin stuff and looking into I guess unusual transactions, et cetera. And that's what made me think that I would be good at audit, which was my first job doing accountancy I guess. So I guess a bit of both. I thought money and then I thought I would enjoy it as well.

Maiki Lynch: What is audit? I sometimes think of it as a little bit like detective work, but how would you define audit or what do you think audit is?

Angelika Cyrulinska: I guess it is a bit of that. It's basically just going to a business and making sure their financial records are reflecting what they should be reflecting and the figures are correct and accurate. And I guess a lot of it is kind of questioning some of the judgments that the finance business, the finance department in the certain business, have made. And I think it was a little bit daunting at first going into a business as a audit junior and questioning people that have been an accountant for 20 plus years, being finance directors and questioning them on, I guess their judgments and what the figures are representing, et cetera. So yeah.

Maiki Lynch: So you came out of retail and you moved into audit. Can you tell us a little bit about what you did at that particular point as your entry role into accountancy and perhaps any study that went along with that?

Angelika Cyrulinska: Yeah, sure. So I started on a school leavers program the same as an apprenticeship I guess for an auditing, well, for a practice, they did audit and accounts, but I was mostly in the audit department. I left the practice because I wanted to focus more on some accounts and tax work, which I wasn't exposed to very much at the time. So then I moved into a smaller practice to do just that. And then when the time came up, I built up my confidence dealing with clients, et cetera. The job at Mercedes came up as a financial accountant, which is what I originally started with. And then obviously now I'm here in my current role. I then started my ACCA and then it took me around three years to do ACCA. So all in all, it took me about five years to go from nothing to being qualified.

Maiki Lynch: So you qualified?

Angelika Cyrulinska: Yes, yes - I'm qualified.

Maiki Lynch: Qualified!

Angelika Cyrulinska: Recently. Not too long ago. Actually, I got my results in October.

Maiki Lynch: Oh, congratulations.

Angelika Cyrulinska: Thank you.

Maiki Lynch: Congratulations.

Angelika Cyrulinska: Thank you.

Maiki Lynch: How did you feel when you passed, when you'd realized that you completed that after five years of study, it's all done? It's all done, you're chartered!

Angelika Cyrulinska: So I wasn't as cool about it. I wasn't very confident. I cried to be honest. I cried with happiness. I was really, really happy because I wasn't expecting to pass my last exam. I have passed all the other ones first time luckily, but the last exam I felt was so tough. I really wasn't expecting to pass. And when the results came through and I actually did quite well, I just felt just all the relief and just five years of work just paid off in that moment. I just felt really, really good.

Maiki Lynch: That's fantastic. And I can see you just glowing, just reliving that moment right there. And now that you're qualified, do you feel it's turned out how you expected when you think about your journey as a, well, not just as a school leaver, but in leaving that role of retail, going to be an audit junior, now that you're the other side that you're qualified, do you feel like it's as you expected it would be?

Angelika Cyrulinska: Yes. I guess yes and no. I guess, I don't know. I built it up in my head so much that I didn't really know what to expect. I was just looking forward to the end of my exams and just having all that extra time because I feel like after school I had my gap year and then I went straight into studying again. But then in the other aspect is I feel like I'm more confident in my role now. I feel like I have got more knowledge than I did before. Thinking back to the audit junior days where I was a little bit clueless now to actually being able to do and explain what I'm doing to others.

Maiki Lynch: And your journey. So you've moved through so many different bits of the various roles that you can have within accounting, finance, even within such a short time. Do you feel that there's room for creativity? I don't want to say creative accountancy, it's not what I'm saying, but do you feel that there's room for creativity in your role as a finance business partner in what you are doing in Mercedes and working with all the various teams that they have?

Angelika Cyrulinska: Yeah, definitely. I think we always have to think outside the box of how we can be the most efficient we can and cut costs. And I guess when I collaborate with my business partners and they have ideas of how they want to carry out the business, I can then look into the financials and we can consider multiple options, compare how much is it going to cost us, what benefits are we going to get? And sometimes it takes a lot of outside the box thinking to come to a good conclusion and good, I guess, outcome for everyone.

Maiki Lynch: I think that leverages in some of the things that you mentioned that you enjoyed earlier on in your career and that you realized that you had those skills for problem solving essentially and coming up with those ideas and sharing them within the business. Remi, I want to come back to you. Has it turned out as you expected?

Remi Allen-Bond: I would say so, yes. I didn't really go in with a vision of how it would be in the end. The kind of role I'm doing now is what I wanted to do when I first joined them. I didn't know it actually had name, didn't know that my actual current role was actually a role that existed. So it turned out as I hoped it would, but not really as I'd expected it would.

Maiki Lynch: That's interesting. Would you say that there's space for creativity in what you are doing?

Remi Allen-Bond: 100%. My role is so massively varied in what we do. No two projects are going to be the same. No two M& A things are going to be the same. Every year the strategy evolves. The thing I like about it most is the variety involved in it and the need to adapt. I didn't want to have a role where it was monotonous or where there was too much routine involved. I wanted a role that challenged me to come to work each day and not quite know what's going to happen, which is what I get now. Don't get me wrong, that there are roles and people do enjoy roles where say it could be monthly cycles or that kind of stuff, or a lot of BAU work and that is fine. I've done those as well and they were fun in a different way because you were able to perfect a task. But I personally like the challenge of the ad hoc nature of my current role.

Maiki Lynch: I really like the way you explain that, the point in your career when you're acquiring those skills, particularly when you're doing BAU work, you are perfecting that particular task. You are acquiring that skill. And I guess you're at a point now where you've moved on and you're able to deal with change, basically, change that's happening and change that's happening faster than perhaps it's ever happened before. I want to ask you, are careers in accountancy and finance boring and uncreative, therefore? How do you feel?

Remi Allen-Bond: I feel like that is a wholly undeserved stereotype. And I say that because if you look at even just Angelika and me, our roles are both in accountancy and finance, but are wholly different roles and both require creativity to do them.

Maiki Lynch: Angelika, can I come to you just to be your thoughts on that question?

Angelika Cyrulinska: I completely agree. I think there's so much variety in what accountancy and finance is and you can pretty much make of it what you want. You can definitely personalize it to yourself and what you're interested in.

Maiki Lynch: I agree. And I think you both work in some very exciting industries and I like that you've also recognized that there's the opportunity to move about, to move from one industry to another, from banking to cars. And so I guess my last question for you, Angelika, what advice would you give someone perhaps who's listening now who's considering a career in accounting and finance? What advice would you give them?

Angelika Cyrulinska: I would probably say to do a bit of research into what does interest you the most. And if you don't have a complete plan of where you want to end up in a few years time, that's fine. But I think looking into the type of accounting and finance that you want to do helps. And I think then if you know any accountants, then also talk to them and what they've experienced in their life. But also there's so much stuff online that you can find nowadays of people sharing their experiences and career fairs and stuff like that. And I know ACCA did one not that long ago as well. So just attending them and finding out, I guess more about the profession because I think it does take a lot of commitment to get to a qualified position, I guess. So that's what I would say which just probably do a bit of research into where you'll be interested in.

Maiki Lynch: Thank you. I think that's really sound advice. Remi coming to you just with the same question.

Remi Allen-Bond: Yeah. So again, I'd echo first of all, do bit of research. Speak to someone who's in the industry and see do they like it? I think that if you can join a rotational scheme, like a grad scheme, that's a great option because it gives you, it's built in that you'll have opportunities to look at different areas within accountancy and finance as part of that program. So you'll have the chance to see, to try this and try that and say, oh, I like this, not that. And that can help you decide where you want to end up in the long term. The second thing I'd say, or I suppose third thing now is if you can join, then even join, doing something that's quite straightforward or more entry level, like say just financial reporting or financial accounting, because that will give you a good basis of what the industry actually is. It'll introduce you to other business areas within either your organization or elsewhere and how they work and will allow you then. So if you want to move elsewhere to grow your skillset and then move elsewhere. I think the thing that's helped me most in my current role is having done financial reporting for a year. I use that knowledge today, even though it's an entirely different job, the skills that you learn in it are useful anywhere.

Maiki Lynch: I agree. And I think having that background in financial reporting does help. And you were mentioning Angelika, that your auditors are going to come along. You're going to need to justify your figures potentially to them. Your strategists perhaps within the business going to come and ask you, well, where are we at the moment in order to then plan ahead. So you're right that you would get that exposure to working with many different people within the business.

 So that's it from this episode of By All Accounts. Thank you Remi and Angelika for chatting with me today. With skills and accountancy and finance, you can work in any business anywhere and turn your passion into an exciting and rewarding career with an ACCA qualification. You can sign up to find out more by heading to accaglobal. com/ beyouanywhere. That link is also in the show notes. See you next time. I'm Maiki Lynch, and this is By All Accounts.


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