• Name: Rowan Conn
  • Job Title: CFO
  • Location: London
  • University: Reading
  • Areas of Specialism: Audit and Assurance

In his finance career within the music and entertainment industry, Rowan has travelled the world. He talks us through his career so far, from qualifiying as an ACA at Saffery Champness to becoming Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of NBCU International.

What was it like to study for the ACA and work full-time?

It was a challenging time adjusting to work as well as studying, especially with all of the social activities London has to offer a graduate with money in their pocket. It was and still is important to learn to work under pressure; I still remember the pressure of having to sit exams like it was yesterday. When I was studying there was the risk of losing your job if you fell short on an exam and the day you qualified there was a real sense of achievement.

Some people know at the age of ten they want to be an accountant – was that you?

I think you have other issues you need to deal with if you want to be a chartered accountant at ten years old! I fell into the profession but I do have sympathy with the pressure on today’s students to build a CV at an early age.

Having worked at senior levels of industry, what has been your career highlight so far?

I’ve been lucky to work in fast-paced business environments. There have been many highlights, but if pushed to name one, it was being hired by NBCU. It was a company that when interviewing felt like a really good fit for me, so being hired was a special day. The best aspect of working for NBCU International is the culture of the company and its people.

How did you end up in the entertainment industry and what advice do you have for graduates wanting to work in this area?

I didn’t choose a career in the entertainment sector. After qualifying I went to a recruiter, who asked if I was open to a job with travel. I was and I got a job working for Sony across their Music and Film divisions in corporate audit, travelling the world. I saw it as backpacking with a Samsonite! At Sony I spent 70% of my time travelling for three years between Europe, Latin America and Asia and since then my career has involved business travel, but I have not had a permanent overseas placement. I would like that experience if it became available.

My general advice for those wanting to work in the entertainment industry would be to try and work for good leaders and don’t be afraid to move around to gain experience or be put off by a job because it isn’t in a particular sector. In your early career you can afford to move around accumulating knowledge and refining what you want to do in the medium term.

What are the differences between working in the music and film industries?

Both businesses have similar challenges, however, I have found film to have a much greater awareness of the challenges to the industry than music was at the time I worked in it.

How has the ACA qualification helped your career progression?

The ACA qualification is well recognised, but for me what differentiates the ACA experience from the other qualifications is the client focus. I still see that today and generally I can tell who is an ACA and who is not.

What are the challenges and opportunities the entertainment sector faces in today’s economic climate?

Entertainment isn’t recession proof and we are facing similar challenges to other business sectors. Southern Europe across all our divisions is in stress and in the UK the loss of traditional retail for our DVD business is challenging.

At our heart we are a content company and good content continues to connect with the consumer. Digital business is now more than an exciting growth opportunity: it is an area that is significant today and forecast to grow rapidly.

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