From Chartered Accountant to Managing Director

Posted April 26 2021 By Lynne Macdonald
 Leadership is clearly much more than just finance and figures – It’s about people and personality, too. So, a Chartered Accountant (and all the stereotypes that accompany those in the profession) might not seem to some like a natural choice for the position of Managing Director. Yet, there is a strong pattern of finance professionals making this transition, and successfully leading many major businesses. A report from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants suggests that major global brands – such as Shell, Unilever and Vodafone – have recognised the value of their finance function and promoted those in Accounting roles to Managing Directors. Why is this? Chartered Accountants already possess a good understanding of the business and its challenges. They obviously have a core competence in finance and are used to presenting their insights in a way in which those in management will find useful, insightful and interesting. ICAS/ICAEW, CIMA and ACCA qualifications now teach business and management skills hand in hand with accountancy fundamentals, making employees equipped to deal with strategy, teams of employees and risk management. Many qualified accountants pursue commercial and strategy-based roles, such as finance business partner or financial planning analyst. In such positions, you will operate across teams and departments, providing a link between finance and operations. An alternative is to look for financial management positions, such as financial manager or financial controller. These roles potentially put you on the path to becoming a finance director or CFO in the future. Around half of the FTSE 100 companies now have internal finance academies, whose objective it is to develop the finance team members to become tomorrow’s value-adding management professionals. The natural advantage that comes from years of studying finance and pursuing training is a real grasp of objectivity within a business. A further 83% of FTSE companies have a Chartered Accountant on their board. Most companies would leap at the chance to promote an individual who can make financially sound, proactive decisions with minimal risk to the business. Competent, commercially aware employees naturally make sound candidates for promotion. As most CA’s have already worked within a finance team, there is little to bridge the gap in terms of people management and presentation skills, as regular communication and teamwork with their colleagues is simply part of the job. Coming from a finance background often gives candidates a real advantage if they have their heart set on a seat behind the MD’s desk. The outdated stereotype of the grey-suited, solitary accountant is long gone. Finance teams are often now positioned within the beating commercial heart of a business, and Accountants are expected as a matter of course to make relevant presentations and regularly communicate with insight to senior members of commercial and operational teams. Possessing sound finance skills should ensure that any new ventures or product launches pose a minimal risk to the business and will generate added value for shareholders. Strategic decision making – in a modern global economy that is simply brimming with sociopolitical uncertainty – is an asset to any business. In the complex international markets, having someone who can navigate trends and make quick and ethical decisions based on solid understanding is surely something of a necessity? The opportunities and career paths for Qualified Accountants moving to Managing Director roles are certainly there. If you would like some guidance about potentially making the move into an MD or Board level role, I’d be delighted to speak with you. Click here to see my details and contact me for a confidential discussion.
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