Sir Jon Thompson CPFA, CIMA, Chief Executive of the Financial Reporting Council
As Chief Executive of the Financial Reporting Council, Sir Jon leads the delivery of the FRC’s regulatory remit over corporate reporting, corporate governance and audit of the UK’s largest companies.
The FRC is undergoing a huge transformation following the Kingman and Brydon reviews and is leading the delivery of the government’s White Paper, Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance.
Prior to joining the FRC, Sir Jon was the CEO of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, the UK tax authority, collecting more than £625bn, employing more than 65,000 people, and driving reform of the UK tax system. Sir Jon led the first wave of digitisation of the UK tax system, Making Tax Digital, delivering a much better service to customers, raising revenues and reducing the scope for error.
Before HMRC, Sir Jon was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, jointly leading the £36bn organisation with the Chief of the Defence Staff. Jon has had a lengthy finance career, including as Director General Finance at the MoD, Director General Corporate Services at the Department for Education and Finance Director of Ofsted. Before joining the Civil Service in 2004, Jon held a number of corporate services and finance roles in the public and corporate sectors.
Sir Jon is Chair of Crown Hosting Data Centres Limited and a non-executive director of High Speed Two (HS2), delivering the biggest infrastructure project in Europe.
Why did you choose a CIPFA qualification?
When I finished school with three A Levels in Maths, Physics and Economics, I applied to work at Norfolk County Council because I was attracted by their training packages which I thought were more appealing. I felt that we were to be given a great deal more time, support and funding to achieve formal qualifications in contrast to some of my peers working in other sectors. At the time, Norfolk County Council were offering entry to CIPFA certification.
What do you think are the benefits of a CIPFA qualification?
Firstly, plenty of opportunities. A CIPFA qualification provides you with a gateway to a multitude of roles, career paths and projects. You will not be limited in terms of career development and prospects.
Secondly, a CIPFA qualification is well respected at home and abroad. If you are prepared to travel, adapt to different circumstances and have the aptitude for taking on a challenge then there are many career opportunities with a CIPFA qualification.
And finally, CIPFA offers training which is wholly relevant to public sector finance and accounting. It is just as well recognised and valued in the private sector too.
What attracted you to a career in public finance?
In the early years of my career, I was given an opportunity to work in the private sector at Ernst & Young as an advisor to the public sector. It was here that my ideas were broadened in terms of what a career in public sector finance and accounting involved and could potentially look like.
I also came to understand the real impact the civil service has, and most especially that it would enable me to make a real and fundamental difference to people’s lives. At local government level decisions effect hundreds of thousands, and at higher levels of civil service the choices we make influence and shape millions of lives.
It was important to me that I try to make a difference to society, so from Ernst & Young I re-entered the public service.
What was a game-changing moment in your career?
It must be the first time I made Finance Director which was at North Somerset Council. Why? Because this role was the trigger that enabled me to secure higher level civil service roles including Director General, Finance at the MoD, and Director General, Corporate Services at the Department for Education and Finance Director of Ofsted.
Which challenge(s) do you consider the most difficult for future CIPFA graduates?
Like many other industries, pace of change and the implementation of technological advances are two of our biggest challenges. With all that is currently on the horizon, I encourage new graduates to be agile, willing to learn, and to exude confidence. In public sector accounting and finance, you will be playing an advisory role and people will turn to you for help and good counsel. It’s therefore imperative to display confidence even if you don’t always feel it.
What is your number one piece of advice to new CIPFA graduates?
A CIPFA qualification will naturally open many doors for you. It’s therefore important to take up the opportunities offered, plus be prepared to stretch and develop yourself along the way. One of the many benefits of working within public finance and accounting is the depth and breadth of roles available to you, so make sure you undertake a diverse range of tasks and jobs. These two combined will add fuel to your public finance career.