What does your role as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant mean within your organisation?
My current role focuses on the finance and commercial aspects of the Renewable Energy Investment Programme at the National Trust, the largest conservation charity in the UK. The National Trust has committed to reducing its energy use by 20%, halving fossil fuel consumption and generating 50% of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Generating income from our land with hydro schemes and using natural heat, or growing our own, to mitigate the risk of energy inflation isn’t just financially astute, it is common sense. The innovation may be in how we fund future projects, by considering the emergence of the social and alternative finance markets.
As a Finance Business Partner I provide accurate and timely financial information for the operational directors at our properties. This enables them to make objective decisions about the best way to manage their property, or build property business plans for the next decade. As a charity we hold our properties ‘for ever, for everyone’; to be able to do so, you need cash today and sustainable finances for the future.
What has been the most challenging moment of your career so far?
Taking the leap of faith with my career. I always wanted to bring together my interest in sustainability (my degree in environmental sciences) with my financial acumen (the ACA and banking experience). I also wanted to utilise my interpersonal skills developed through insolvency and restructuring. The role at the National Trust meant relocation and a significant drop in salary. As a result of the confidence I had built up as an advisory accountant I knew I could climb up the ladder again, especially with an extra dimension to my skill and knowledge set and the help of my close mentors.
How have your previous roles progressed your career?
Being a chartered accountant and a qualified insolvency practitioner, blended with a degree in environmental science, gives assurance to stakeholders that I can quickly grasp new areas and enjoy the intellectual challenge of a related field. Whilst working at Barclays as Associate Director and at KPMG as Senior Manager, I reported to director and partner level while managing multi-disciplinary teams.
Using my experience as an Associate Director in the Risk Control Units at Barclays, I am currently build funding models to present to the Trustees of how we structure raising a £35 million investment.
Tell me about your experiences earlier on in your career at KPMG?
During my 10 years with KPMG Advisory, my experiences included:
- a diverse range of advising corporate boards and lenders on business plans,
- conducting short-term cash flow reviews,
- managing and selling distressed businesses,
- implementing change management in the public sector, and
- options advice for trustees and corporates relating to pension scheme deficits.
Are there any interesting or surprising career moments you can share with us?
There are so many, from purchasing a pub in the Lake District, hiking mountains and viewing potential hydro turbine sites to receiving gifts from the staff at companies that through the insolvency system we have managed to save.
What are the challenges and opportunities the not-for-profit sector faces today?
Charities will need to be able to prove their effectiveness when seeking new sources of funding. They need to provide rigorous benefit analysis to investors who may offset in part a financial return for an environmental or social benefit.
What does next week look like?
Monday – Train from the Lake District to London. Review a purchase contract for a large piece of machinery (£0.5 million) we are buying and clear through lots of emails.
Tuesday – Our team present progress on the Renewable Energy Investment programme to a subgroup of Trustees who are helpful in providing objective questions and are supportive of the whole programme.
Wednesday – A ‘numbers’ day calculating the sensitivities of the return on investment of our renewable pilot projects, totalling an investment of £3.5 million. Philanthropy/ Impact Investment seminar 8pm.
Thursday – Contact people met at the Impact Investment seminar that may be able to help finance the programme.
Friday – Meet our regional ICAEW contact and introduce her to one of our beautiful properties (Sizergh), so hopefully there may be some ICAEW events being hosted there!