Will works as a graduate finance trainee, and is currently rotating onto a placement in adult social care. He has been studying with CIPFA for three years, and is President of the South East CIPFA Student Network, as well as the Vice President of the National Student Network.
Why did you choose to train with CIPFA?
If you go into the public sector, it really is the gold standard for public sector accounting, so that was the main focus of my decision. It is CCAB certified and was specific to the kind of work I would be doing.
What have been the highlights/biggest successes of your career so far?
My biggest success so far is somehow managing to get my 2:1 in Mathematics from one of the top Mathematics universities in the world! That was a big highlight for me. In terms of my work with CIPFA, I’m very pleased to have secured these roles with the South East CSN and National CSN. It's a big challenge, but also extremely rewarding at the same time.
What’s been the greatest challenge?
I undertook a short three month placement in management accounting just as we were beginning the budget setting cycle. That was a tricky one - I had to learn as I went and after three months I had completed setting a £30 million budget with next to no prior experience of that area. That was probably the biggest work challenge for me!
What’s your typical working day like?
I have quite an untypical typical work day. I bought a flat very close to work, so I can move between work and home quite regularly. I wake up early and check emails at home, and plan out my day. I normally come into the office between 10 and 11, and then end the day playing table tennis with a colleague! Not having to commute means I can use that extra time to do lots of other things.
When did you first become interested in a career in public finance?
Both of my parents trained as social workers, so it was really instilled in me throughout childhood doing something more than just delivering a profit. Although I didn’t know it, I was probably always going to end up in the public sector. My mum worked for a charity helping disabled children and my sister is in a wheelchair, so I've always sensed the need to protect the most vulnerable in society. When the job came up, I thought it really fitted what I'd like to do.
If you didn’t work in public finance, what kind of job would you be doing?
My ideal job would be working as a crew member on a yacht in the Med. I learned to sail as a teenager, and for our family holidays we used to rent yachts for a few days and travel around the south coast. It’s always a bit wet and windy there, so going somewhere where it’s nice and warm seems nicer!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? And by who?
The piece of advice that stuck with me the most was given by Sir Tony Redmond. I was at the CIPFA South East Summer Conference and was seated next to him. I eventually plucked up the courage to ask him what kind of advice he could give me. He told me that although it's worthwhile having a long term goal, you should really focus your energy on the next step. You need to strive for that, otherwise you won't end up getting to the end result. Having a short term focus with incremental steps is really important.
If you were given one million pounds, how would you spend it?
I would end up being extremely sensible and accountant-like! I'd probably take 90% and invest in some property and some other funds to diversify a bit. I'd try and set myself up for the future. It would be quite fun to go on some holidays with the remaining £100,000!
If you were Chancellor for the day, what would be the first change you would make?
Because I work in local government and am passionate about it, it seems to me like we've been hit quite hard in austerity. I'd immediately increase levels of funding for services such as adults and children’s social care. The NHS got a pretty big cash injection of 20 billion recently, so I think I’d try and do the same for local government.
What book/film/TV programme would you recommend to anyone working in public finance?
A colleague lent me a book called Freakonomics – I read it recently and it really changed my perspective on serious questions, but all with a light-hearted approach. It helps you think about problems you face in your day to day work, by viewing it from a different angle. I thought it was really useful.
Who would be your ultimate dinner party guests?
I've always been fascinated with Alan Turing - I have a relative who passed the legendary crossword and went to Bletchley Park and worked with him. She would never tell us anything about what went on, so it would be interesting to hear his side of the story. I love Science, so I’d include Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, and a games designer called Dave Haywood - he's a personal favourite of mine.
What would you say to someone thinking of becoming a CIPFA member?
There's something a little different about CIPFA which I don’t think the other accountancy bodies do quite as well. I think CIPFA really tries to look after its members and make them feel supported and welcomed into this community. If you're hesitating, I would say take the leap and join the CIPFA family!