Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

Mike Driver CB, FCPFA, Interim Permanent Secretary

Mike Driver is the Interim Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Justice, Head of the Government Finance Function and Fellow of CIPFA.

His career in public service started when he joined the Department of Health & Social Security straight from school. He worked in operational delivery before moving into regional management and then into a series of policy roles.

Mike moved into government finance in 1999 and has held a number of roles including as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at the Department for Work & Pensions from 2012. In 2016 Mike took up his current role as CFO for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), alongside which he is now also Head of the Government Finance Function (GFF), HM Treasury.

Since taking up the reins as head of the GFF, Mike has been driving the agenda to substantially strengthen the finance function’s critical role at the heart of government.

In addition to his current work at the MoJ and GFF, Mike is the Accountant General of the Senior Courts of England & Wales and a Commissioner for the Reduction of the National Debt. Across government, he is a member of the Commercial Function Oversight Board and a non-executive board member of Shared Services Connect Limited.

In addition, he is a member of the CIPFA Board and Council and is currently the Junior Vice-President. Mike is also a member and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Why did you join the public service?

Like many people, I joined for altruistic reasons – I wanted to help other people.  Early on in my career I had the fortune to meet great people who openly encouraged me to be the best I could be. Managers, for example, were willing to coach and mentor me along the way as well as provide opportunities to see the value of the public sector to society. From this experience I realised that once in a professionally qualified finance role I would be able to have a greater impact and influence, as finance was seen by many as a well-regarded and trusted partner.

To this day my vision for the civil service finance function is for “finance to be at the heart of decision making. Driving decisions and not about keeping score”. In fact, to be a trusted finance business partner you must be offer more than traditional finance skills and capabilities. Today we need people who are well rounded strong business people, with an aptitude for big data and digital innovation, who can interpret the financial dynamics of modern government.

Why did you choose a CIPFA accounting qualification?

I reached a point in my career when I realised that if I was going to make a bigger difference then I needed to secure a professional finance qualification. I chose the CIPFA Accelerated Route for Executives. Whilst I had a certain degree of experience and knew a lot of what I needed to in order to do my role, I could also see gaps in my knowledge. I wanted to fully understand the language used in finance, for example, and felt that a CIPFA accounting qualification would provide the professional authority which I felt was missing.

Throughout my career I have worked to create opportunities and a CIPFA qualification has underpinned this. It’s important as a new graduate that you own your career development. Make sure you have a coach and mentor, and make sure you ask for opportunities otherwise you will miss them. Finally, throw yourself into volunteering as not only is it rewarding it will also help you to develop and lead.

What advice would you give new CIPFA graduates?

If anyone in your team wants to speak to you, always make the time as most people will have something on their mind that they need to discuss. Really this is about making yourself accessible particularly when you climb higher up the career ladder.

Secondly, if someone is looking for a volunteer put your hand up because life is a lot more interesting through volunteering. Don’t bunker down.

As the role and influence of artificial intelligence and technology grow, the future of finance is increasingly coming under the spotlight. Many jobs that exist today will disappear over time as certain finance functions become automated. Therefore, it’s important that new graduates help to shape, broaden and deepen our profession. Ultimately, government is trying to achieve a set of outcomes and finance should support this in terms of assuring value for money, advising on deliverability, and offering good guidance.

I would also recommend watching Steve Job's 2005 Stanford Commencement Address as it is still a strikingly impressive piece.