Shaer Halewood, Director of Finance & Investment
Shaer is the Director of Finance & Investment at Wirral Borough Council. She delivers the finance service for the council, from strategic financial planning, budget and financial management, to financial consultancy and critical business systems. She also provides a finance service to external clients including VAT, Treasury, Accountancy and Exchequer functions.
She started her career in local government as a trainee for Alyn and Deeside District Council in Audit and Accountancy, before being promoted to Accountancy Assistant and then Senior Accountancy Assistant within central accountancy.
Following the Welsh Local Government Restructure in 1996, Shear transferred to Flintshire County Council as a Senior Finance Manager in the Housing and Property Department. Upon qualifying in 2000, she moved to Cheshire County Council as a Senior Accountant/Auditor in a number of services.
In 2005, Shaer joined Denbighshire County Council as a Directorate Finance Manager for Lifelong Learning. In 2008, she spent 18 months in Consultancy before being appointed to her current role in Warrington in 2010.
Why did you choose to work in public services?
Other family members worked in public services, including my mother, and siblings, so I guess it goes back to the fact that my mother encouraged me to work in this sector.
Why did you choose to become CIPFA certified?
As I was working in public services it was the natural choice as it linked into the work I was doing. By the time I started CIPFA I had been promoted and moved jobs quite a bit. I also took a B/TEC in Public Administration and did the public sector route on AAT beforehand. I felt that it was a very prestigious qualification, and was the mark of a Director of Finance opportunity. CIPFA also stood out from the other CCAB qualifications and I wanted to be a part of that.
How does the CIPFA qualification help you in your day-to-day tasks, and long-term?
Day to day I have retained more or less all of the knowledge I learnt on CIPFA – even though I qualified in 2000, that learning is still relevant. The techniques I learnt when studying – leadership, report writing and time management help me in my day-to-day job. In both the immediate term and long-term, being a CIPFA member means I can gain access to a whole host of data and advice that can help me with issues and opportunities that arise.
Do you believe that your CIPFA qualification created opportunities for you that would have otherwise been unavailable?
Yes, absolutely. I am fairly certain that I would not have been employed by Cheshire County Council had I not been CIPFA qualified. The grounding and learning that I gained from CIPFA enabled me to understand much wider aspects of the public sector to enable me to easily translate this into previous and current roles.
When I worked in the Audit Team in Cheshire, I did a lot of service improvement type work and the experience I had gained from the project and the case study massively helped with this. My role in Denbighshire was also quite autonomous and the skills I had learned while undertaking CIPFA at the same time enabled me to lead a very effective team – I’m not sure I would have achieved this if I hadn’t done CIPFA.
What do you like most about your CIPFA membership?
Knowing that I am part of an elite group of like-minded people. I recently attended a sporting event in Birmingham and spotted a CIPFA pen on one of the stands that the organiser was using, she was an accountant for Oxford Council and we chatted for quite some time about CIPFA. It’s great knowing that we are like a big family and can help each other out when needed.
What advice would you give current students who are looking to pursue a career in public finance?
I would encourage all students and members of CIPFA to get involved with volunteering for CIPFA activities, whether on a regional or national level. Volunteering activities enrich your career and personal development experience and provide a huge amount of satisfaction. Time spent on volunteering activities can be as little or large as you can manage and it opens up a whole new level of access to networks.