Episode 3: How To Become A Management Accountant

Female businesswoman excused from a meeting to take a phone call

This is the third episode in the Robert Walters ‘How To’ podcast series hosted by Tom Andrew, Manager within the Robert Walters Operations team. The episodes in this series will be punchy, short, sharp messages to candidates about the current job market within certain sectors.  

Joining Tom in this episode is Louise Tallboy-Wood, Senior Manager of the Walters People division. Tom & Louise discuss the Management Accountant market, how you can start a career within it, what skills make a good Management Accountant and what roles are in demand at the moment. Listen below to hear more. 

If you would like to get in contact with Louise or Tom please find their contact details below:

Tom Andrew - Tom.Andrew@robertwalters.com
Louise Tallboy-Wood - Louise.Tallboy-Wood@walterspeople.co.uk

 

Tom Andrew
Manager
Robert Walters

LinkedIn

 

Louise Tallboy-Wood
Senior Manager
Walters People

LinkedIn

 

Transcript:

Tom Andrew:
Hello and welcome to the third instalment of the Robert Walters ‘How To’ podcast series. Today we're going to be speaking about how to get into Management Accounting and with me is Louise Tallboy-Wood who heads up our Walters People division of the Robert Walters group. So tell us a bit about yourself, you’ve been with the group 4/5 years?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
Seven years! I'll take the four/five to come across as young. Seven years with the group. Always absolutely love and specialise in the non/part-qualified level and i've spent my time across Milton Keynes and in the last five years, here in London. It's busy, really busy.

Tom Andrew:
So you’re in a completely different market to me, I am in the operations team in financial services, you guys pretty much have every other industry you can think of.

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
Absolutely. anything from FTSE retailers, property companies, banking and finance. But across industry as a whole, me and the team specialise in placing your entry level finance assistants, accounts payable, right up to your CIMA, ACCA accountants. So the way I say it is 60% of your finance team, we’ll place you.

Tom Andrew:
Love it. So we're talking about Management Accountants today. Before we dig into the nitty gritty. What is a management accountant?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
The Management Accountant itself is an area of accounting. You are looking forward in a business, so you tend to be based in industry, so working for an organisation. Robert Walters themselves have Management Accountants. They are working with key decision makers to support them with their monthly accounting for that month. It's all about looking forward, so if you’re good with numbers, you're ambitious, you've got excellent communication skills. They usually are the skills that are associated, but you’re reporting on everything from financial forecasting, budgets. Trying to make it as simple as possible for Tom here. If anyone could see him, he's got a blank face.

Tom Andrew:
I was just actually thinking about who sends me the predictions for next year, the forecasting. Right, so how does one get started?, what are you looking for?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
The first thing I would say, it’s not essential to have a degree. If anyone were to google it, first thing that comes up, degree educated. Absolutely not. In fact, I think having an appetite to study towards an accounting qualification or perhaps already be on that route is more of the requirement. You could be a school leaver, going straight into college to study the AAT qualification for instance. Or you could go to university and study geography or English literature and have a real flavour and a love for numbers. You don't need a degree, it's a stepping stone, there are those three key qualifications of CIMA, ACCA and AAT. Have an interest in those and you could be on the right track.

Tom Andrew:
You're mainly working on part-qualified roles right? So they could have started it, or an interest in starting it, that is good enough? they don't have to be completed?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
Yes exactly that. You'll see a lot around on the Internet around you need to be a chartered CIMA accountant to go into management accounting and fact by that point, you may be thinking I want more. You can step into more of a managerial role. So you can have an interest in management accounting or a desire at the point you've collected your A-level results. You're on the stepping stone into management accounting if you like. So yeah education is a good way in The other area I would say at this point is you probably do want to have some sort of work experience. Again, you may look into the qualification, think this is something i've been interested in, it's about having some exposure to an accounts department. I've spoken to some fantastic candidates that started as volunteers as a treasury assistant in a local charity right through to shadowing a financial director of a small local businesses. Having some experience or exposure to accounts.

Tom Andrew:
Once your foot is in the door, how do you become a good Management Accountant?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
At this point, you want to get your foot in the door of probably the right room. You can go into any areas of finance from audit, even junior financial analysis, payables, receivables, credit control. You want to start getting exposure to month end tasks, so ask the right questions, ask your manager, ‘Can I shadow at month end?’ ‘Can I oversee you sign off the final accounts?’ ‘perhaps 'can I share the workload around reconciling the bank accounts?’ asking the right questions and gaining exposure are all the right things. What I suggest, and this is from my experience you'll very rarely see anywhere online say that starting in a transactional role will take you to management accountant. But seven years recruiting that, that's the right stepping stone. So if you are at this stage in your career in your process of purchase or sales invoices thinking my gosh Management Accounting is far into the distance. It's not, you're doing all the right things, you’re gaining the foundations. And one thing I really find, that any financial director, qualified management accountant, anyone that's got to that stage where they've already become an accountant would say is you need to have the fundamentals of debits and credits. This is knowing the ins and outs of a business. So for you Tom making sure you pay your credit card off on time, is making sure you're in debit with your credit, in the best layman's terms possible. Having exposure again, gaining that real base understanding of accounts from a transactional root is step one, it’s then about gaining the month end tasks, really kick starting with the qualification of CIMA, ACCA or AAT, you’re on track.

Tom Andrew:
So obviously you kind of touched on it there, you said gaining the qualifications of CIMA. Is that I suppose the theoretical or the textbook version of becoming a great accountant? Is that finishing your education, or is there more to it? What for example, are the key strengths outside of that might you want to see?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
100%, I don't want to swerve away from, you don't need to be educated as that will help. Especially at the point of signing off accounts, you need that qualification. But aside from the textbook requirements, something that any successful management accountant needs to be able to do is speak in plain language, and what I mean by that is being able to talk to finance, commercial and accounting in the most simplistic of languages. And that is a skill, being able to do that quite easily and being able to translate that is really skilled.

Tom Andrew:
Especially across different industries because they’re not all going to be financially savvy in every department. They would probably be more savvy in an investment bank rather than in retail or in a construction firm. You have to translate that accountancy language for everyone else around you.

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
Exactly, to give you an idea let's just say the restaurant & hospitality industry, one of our key clients and if you're in management accounting within that one of your key stakeholders are the area managers of the restaurants. So again taking a very different education and career path to get to that stage, so they want to know how profitable is their restaurant? And again, you could really go line by line with the accounts but they want to know, are they up?, are they down to the last month?, what are the reasons why. Give them the key headline information in the most simplistic of terms and communicating that is really key. That is something you will never see on the job description, never see anywhere in terms of academics but that skill is perfect.

The other one I would suggest is that confidence and personality, and the reason I mention that is usually with accountants there are many stereotypes, you think much more introvert, really good with numbers and logical thinking. All of that is absolutely right, but when you're at that point of your career and starting out in your career, thinking what's the root for me? If you're someone that's confident in yourself, you enjoy presenting information, working with lots of different people, different backgrounds. That's a fantastic skill for management accounting. Back to the point of the stakeholders you’ll be working with aren’t finance, so being not too serious, having a bit of fun actually will really benefit you in the career of management accounting.

Tom Andrew:
And that’s the difference between good and great?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
This is good and great. The last thing to be from great to spectacular, is collaboration, this is where as an accountant you think, do I need to be siloed head down into the numbers? There are times at month end and periods throughout the month and at year end and so forth where you need this but you need to be able to work as a team and collaborate. Because to prepare a set of management accounts usually you're working with the accounts payable, the receivables you're working with the finance director, you're working with us recruitment managers of sharing information, find a bit of backdrop to why numbers are up, numbers are down. So being able to work collaboratively and understand everyone else’s end goal will really see you as a successful management accountant. Usually they come to you as opposed to you chasing them. Which, in any accountants world, that is a dream. It's not always about the numbers, again having the excel, the numbers, being logical of learning and thinking, of course is alright but there's more to that. I think those softer skills, in my experience that's what usually edges in an interview, if you demonstrate those. But also put them on your CV, if there are ways that you worked as a team or you've had to present to someone that is outside of that peer group or stakeholders, mention this. These are the things that hiring managers and even line managers will be looking for.

Tom Andrew:
So obviously the point of this podcast is not just for us to talk to our team members, but to talk to our candidate base because, we always want to get to know our candidates it's our DNA. We want to give the candidates a chance to get to know you as well, and so I will ask a question now that you haven't prepared for. Would you rather have a full suit of armour or a horse?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
I'm going to pick the horse. The reason being, either one isn’t probably keeping me alive in battle. This is how I am visualising this, i'm going to battle, but I would love to just be, my last five minutes in battle be riding on a horse taking it all in, above everyone else thinking let's have a good time while we’re here. Maybe i'm visualising a Disney film right now, riding through the forest on a horse. That’s much more visual than me not being able to walk 2 metres in armour.

Tom Andrew:
Ok, so who are you going into battle for? Who do you want to reach out to you on the back of this podcast?

Louise Tallboy-Wood:
I am battling with the busiest job market, I need my troops. My troops are my candidates, and right now, if you are someone that is either starting out your career, perhaps a recent school leaver that's got an interest in accounting, recent graduates, those that are a couple of years into their careers and studies and is looking for a move. The clients that we're working with are very much looking for you, they're looking for ambitious, eager, not ticking all the boxes, this is why I specialise at this level you’re not qualified as of yet, but you've got the foundations. If anyone is looking for roles from very much junior accounts assistant, assistant accountant, through to part-qualified management accounts across an array of industries here in London, there are opportunities, and if there aren’t right now, we want to get to know you so we can very much be aware of you if an opportunity presents itself.

Tom Andrew:
Fantastic, enough said there, thanks alot for coming on. Everyone listening please like, share, tell your friends and thanks for listening.

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