Andy Hardy, CEO University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust

Andy HardyAndy is the CEO of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, a position he has held for just over ten years. He is also the senior responsible officer for the Coventry and Warwickshire STP/ICS. 

Since leaving university, Andy has worked within the NHS. He was a trainee accountant, making his way up through many different parts of the health service. He became CFO of UACW in 2004. After four years he became the deputy chief executive, before becoming chief executive two years later. Andy has been a CIPFA member since 1994.

What led you to become a CIPFA member?

I went into accountancy by accident. It wasn’t something I aspired to. I went for a local role back home after finishing my degree in economics, and I was asked to interview as a trainee accountant.

When it came to qualifying, they were choosing between CIPFA and ACCA. I figured if I’m going to be working in the public sector, I should go for the public sector qualification. I can’t claim it was massively planned, but I’m very glad it happened!

When did you first become attracted to a career in the public sector, and particularly public finance?

It happened by accident – but all things happen for a reason. I very quickly discovered I liked the public sector ethos. There’s more to it than just turning up and earning a wage or making a profit. To this day, I have no aspiration to work outside of the public sector.  It feels like you’re working for the greater good, no more so than now during COVID-19.

What have been the highlights or biggest successes of your career to date?

Qualifying as an accountant. If there was one thing I was always good at at school it was Maths. My dad always said “become an accountant, you’ll have a job for life” and I always said no. But nonetheless I did become an accountant. Unfortunately, my dad passed away quite young, so he never saw me qualify.

Becoming a director of finance was a big moment, as was becoming chief executive. In terms of successes, I don’t have to look that far back. I’m proud of my organisation’s response to COVID-19. It’s been fabulous.

What have been the greatest challenges, both during your career and within the public finance sector as a whole?

It’s difficult to think of anything before COVID! Without a doubt, that has been the biggest challenge I’ve been part of. In some ways, it’s one of my most fulfilling periods, and that often comes out of challenge.

When I was a finance director, there was a period of financial difficulty when we had to pursue redundancies. That was very difficult. I always have a lot of empathy with people in that situation.

As a public sector finance professional, we’ve been through incredibly tough times following the 2008 financial crisis. Whilst many in the public sector will look at the health sector with some envy as we were partially protected, austerity led to the need to make some tough decisions. There are lots of services we used to provide that we don’t anymore. We want to provide the best for the populations we serve, and when you stop doing things, irrespective of what that decision is based on, it will hit someone – they see value in it.

I think the government will want to invest in the public sector off the back of COVID, having seen the value of what it does as far as managing a crisis is concerned.

How has being a CIPFA member supported you in your career?

One of the things I learnt very soon in the health service was the credibility of the CIPFA qualification – the professionalism it instils in you as an individual. That doesn’t leave you.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given? And by who?

It’s a piece of advice you’ll find in many places, but I remember it was specifically said to me – simply be the best at being yourself. I’ve been lucky – I’ve had some great bosses. Without them, I don’t know if I’d be where I am today.

I’ve definitely taken that into being a chief executive. I learn from others, but you’ve got to be yourself.

What advice would you give to people who are beginning their career in public finance?

Stick it out when the times get tough, because it’s always going to be worth it.

What book/film/podcast would you recommend to anyone working in public finance?

I don’t tend to read books unless I’m on holiday! When I do read, it tends to be leadership books. There are lots of great ones to take nuggets from. Whatever level we are in public finance, we’re all leaders of some sort. Leadership to me is a mindset.

Just before my interview for finance director, I read a book called Leadership by Rudolph Giuliani, after he’d just finished being mayor of New York. I was asked an interview question – use up to five words to describe your leadership style. I’d just finished reading the book, and most of his chapters were one-word headings, so I kind of recalled five of those!

What would you say to somebody thinking of becoming a CIPFA member?

Go for it! There’s so much to gain from having that recognised professional membership. There’s a lot more in it than the salary you get, and the networks are excellent.