What is your role within RG?
I have two main roles, one as an accountant acting for a number of businesses and the other as a financial adviser acting for the clients of our wholly owned subsidiary wealth management company, Portland Financial Management (PFM).
Tell me about your career to date and how you ended up in your position…
My first job saw me working as a lawyer in London for Allen & Overy from 2001 to 2005, including a 6 month secondment to the firm’s Prague office whilst I was a trainee. Having studied law at university, I felt I should carry on and qualify as a solicitor but despite working for an excellent firm, the prospect of spending my entire career in law wasn’t appealing. The trouble was that I didn’t know what else I wanted to do instead. I contemplated following in the footsteps of a number of my friends who were leaving law to study for MBAs but decided that obtaining an accountancy qualification would potentially be more useful. It was difficult to bring myself to make the leap from being a qualified lawyer to start all over again at the bottom as a trainee accountant but fortunately it worked out as I am still here nearly 14 years later! With hindsight, making the move out of London in 2005 when I was (only) 28 was the right thing to do as it gave me time to establish my career up here while I was still relatively young.
What makes PFM, RG’s Wealth Management business, different?
My understanding of legal, tax, and investment matters, and my co-adviser Heather Beresford’s pensions expertise, gives us a very wide toolkit to advise on all aspects that a client needs to consider, from cradle to grave. Whilst we engage specialist private client solicitors from other firms, and the personal tax team here at RG, to deliver legal and tax advice respectively to our clients, I have enough practical experience of what the solicitors/tax advisers do to make sure that everything is carefully co-ordinated. Although it has been an unplanned co-incidence that I have practiced all three disciplines of law, accountancy and financial advice, the ‘catch all’ oversight we are able to provide our clients as a consequence is unique in the marketplace as far as I’m aware.
My 3 most notable achievements to date would be….
Embarrassingly enough there is nothing that I have done in my 41 years that I would count as notable achievements. However, given that I have to offer up something, here goes:
- Back in 2003 I woke up one morning to find that I had completely lost the hearing in one of my ears. I was born with a significantly reduced hearing capacity in both ears in any case (about 5 – 10% of what a normal person has), but this was mitigated significantly through the use of hearing aids which allowed me to have a normal schooling etc. What I hadn’t appreciated until I lost the hearing completely in my left ear was that the two ears work together to the extent that 1+1 actually = 3. Losing my left ear’s hearing didn’t just halve what I could hear, but instead reduced it to effectively a third of what I previously had. It took my brain over 2 years to ‘relearn’ how to cope with just one ear and it was a real blow to my confidence to find that I was struggling to hear in social settings. Having said that, given I had recently qualified as a lawyer, my increased workload meant that my social life had to mostly be put on hold for the next 2 years in any case! I am pleased now to be able to look back at how I managed to navigate what was a very difficult period – and thanks to the brain’s remarkable plasticity, I feel as though my hearing today isn’t too far off where it was originally.
- Teaching myself to water ski barefoot at the age of 17 during the Easter holidays in the North Sea off Holy Island, with the aid of some step-by-step magazine pictures of some lucky sod showing off in the Caribbean! I can still picture the snow on the Cheviots as I sat on an early prototype wakeboard waiting for the speedboat to reach a fast enough speed for me to jump off the board onto the freezing water.
- Forcing myself to keep sitting exams until my early thirties to obtain my various qualifications: a triumph of misguided willpower over common sense.
Tell us about your day so far….
My days are hugely varied, with any combination of client work and meetings, internal management tasks and ad hoc matters needing to be addressed from one day to the next.
Yesterday was fairly typical of my normal working day:
6am: I started the day at the gym, a 5 minute run from my house. I do some form of exercise every morning, either in the gym or at home – or wherever I am if I’m travelling. It’s the one thing I don’t allow any flexibility on as I’m determined to maintain the same waist size from leaving school through to retirement and I’m also determined to eat whatever I want!
7.30am: Back home for a shower and breakfast with my family before walking our oldest son to nursery which is conveniently located in between our house and the office.
8.45am: Weekly catch up meeting with the partners in charge of our Personal Tax and Business Tax service lines, Claire Charlton and Simon Whiteside. We cover any matters that require co-ordination across service lines, from tax briefings and staff resource to events and marketing.
9.30am: A quick run through my email inbox to make sure that any queries requiring immediate action were dealt with, before switching my inbox to its ‘offline’ mode to avoid distraction from incoming emails while I worked on a relatively complicated client matter.
10.30am: Meeting with a client of both RG and PFM to discuss their company accountancy matters and their personal investment affairs, alongside colleagues from our Business Tax and Audit & Assurance service lines.
12.30am: Back at my desk for an hour, contacting a number of clients to obtain their authority to make some changes to their investment portfolios.
1.30pm: Meeting with Kim Maines and Sara Farrey, who run RG’s events programme, to discuss and agree the venue, logistics and potential dates for our September drinks party.
2.00pm: Back at my desk to deal with a combination of client and office management/admin matters.
4.00pm: Coaching session with a member of staff, focusing on short and medium term personal development plans.
5.00pm: Walk over to Northumbria University for a meeting of their Financial Advisory Board: these are held 6 monthly and provide employer feedback on the accounting and investment undergraduate/graduate courses run by the university.
7.00pm: Return to the office to address the last of the day’s emails before walking back home for supper.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
Truth be told, with two young sons (a 4 year old and a newborn) my greatest pleasure right now comes from finding some all too rare quiet time to put my feet up and read.
Whilst I am keen on skiing and water skiing those are (by necessity!) sports confined to holidays abroad rather than weekly activities: I’m nowhere near tough enough to water ski in the North Sea anymore and the hills of Northumberland don’t exactly compete with the Alps.
And finally, leave us with one interesting fact about yourself…
As an accountant I can’t recall the last time I was asked that question!
If the mood takes me I enjoy writing what is intended to be entertaining poetry for family and friends’ parties. Those forced to listen to it might take a different view though: I’m certainly not giving up the day job anytime soon.