My training and initial career as a chartered accountant was in general practice – the usual audit and accounting but also providing tax and business advice. I then got involved advising clients on buying and selling companies and loved that. Initially I was not sure if I would get the same buzz from working with charities – but oh, I do and more!
I love the challenge of working with charities. I might be contacted about a VAT problem, but actually the problem is much wider, and may involve other taxes or business management issues. I then work with the charity to find the best solution for them. It is great to be able to remove the jargon and confusion and explain complex issues in a straightforward way.
Charities are very business-like and have to cope with all the pressures and requirements of any business – but also with charity regulations, reporting and tax rules. So the more straightforward I can make this for them the better. It is also vital to consider all the differing requirements together – business needs, financial issues, VAT, other taxes and the Charity Commission – to reach the right outcome.
I have recently finished a six year term as the treasurer of the Institute of Fundraising where I helped ensure everyone understood the financial background to, and impact of, what we were doing.
As I am mostly sitting at a desk, I usually walk to the office and back rather than take the tube so that helps keep me fit, as well as walking the dog at the weekend.
What attracted me to accountancy? Initially, I guess the technical discipline, the fantastic symmetry of double entry book-keeping and the challenge of yet more exams. That was just the beginning. The opportunity to see clients’ businesses from the inside during my training at KPMG, both here and in Europe, drew me in. This really all clicked into place when I joined Sayer Vincent and started working with charities.
But it is so much more than balance sheets, systems and controls. What has kept me hooked is the connection with others – I get to meet a huge range of people in so many different organisations – management teams and trustees. At Sayer Vincent, our approach is that the people and relationships come first, not the fees. We are focussed on the interactions with both clients and our team here at SV. As a training firm for ICAEW, it is really rewarding to see our trainees move up through the firm. Some staff remain with the firm, becoming managers and fellow partners. Others have become financial leaders at charities.
As well as a portfolio of audit clients, I advise on matters including governance and risk, working with boards and committees on the development of governance practices, financial performance management and risk. I lead many of the firm’s training and facilitation assignments – tailored awaydays for boards or training for non-financial managers.
As a partner, I share the responsibility for managing the firm and lead on HR issues. Learning and development, both at SV and outside work, is a field I love. I firmly believe that, with the right support and training, we can master many things may be anxious about – numbers and finances are often such areas.
I am a trustee too. It is so important to understand how it feels to be on the other side of the table. My trustee roles have helped to bring different perspectives to the work we do and recommendations we make. I sat on the board of a grant maker, and now chair the finance committee of a learning disability charity as well as being the treasurer of sector infrastructure body.
Many accountants, when at a party or meeting someone for the first time, dread that question – ‘what do you do for a living?’ I welcome it as it gives the chance to explain that not only am I an accountant but that I only work with clients with a social purpose.
I believe that every social purpose organisation has an obligation to maximise its effectiveness – to be the best it can. This includes taking managed risks, being accountable to both beneficiaries and donors and transparency in reporting. Throughout my career I have brought my audit and finance experience to help my clients to do just this. Indeed, my first experience of charity finance was as an 11 year old helping my parents open the envelopes and count the proceeds for their door-to-door collection for Christian Aid week. Little did I know that some 30 years later I would be an interim Head of Audit for Christian Aid!
Sayer Vincent is a unique place to work – a properly values-driven firm where social purpose comes first. And even when you’ve left you haven’t fully escaped. Having worked at SV for 11 years I left in 2006 to work as a freelance internal auditor in the international development sector. Seven years later, and after a role with Mango setting up a new consultancy service, I was back – this time as a partner.
To do my job properly I have to understand the business risks and pressures faced by my clients. My internal audit experience helps with this. But I believe it is also essential to have Board experience. I have been a trustee for the last 10 years – currently with Y Care International where I am treasurer and chair the finance and audit committee.
Some say that my loyal support of Derby County and the England cricket team contradicts my belief in effective organisations. I see it as healthy escapism – alongside being a Dad to two young kids.
I have always wanted to work in a field that I was passionate about and was sad to leave the world of archaeology after graduating in Archaeological Science. But then I found the charity sector, another sector you work in because you love it, rather than for any financial motive. And it’s less muddy! Sayer Vincent was my route in to the charity sector and gave me a professional training as a chartered accountant. Over 15 years later I am still loving my work and I’m now a partner. I really enjoy working with charities and offering them financial expertise that they may not have in-house. This might be audit, accounting, tax, risk management or governance. For me, working at Sayer Vincent is great as it’s an opportunity to work with a large number of organisations who are very different but share values that are about people not profit.
I am the audit partner for a portfolio of charities and social enterprises. My role here is to be a key contact for clients and ensure our work is of a high quality and adds value. I also have particular responsibility for technical and compliance – so I ensure that as a firm we are up-to-date with technical issues in audit and accounting and compliant with ethical standards and professional matters. I am also a tax specialist, particularly on VAT, so I am a member of our specialist tax group. I have experience of undertaking VAT reviews for clients, advising on VAT matters and corresponding with HMRC.
2016 was all about helping our clients transition to the new charities SORP and the implementation of FRS102, offering training to ensure they were fully aware of the new requirements. In 2017, I will continue to deliver training on SORP, as well as developing our “How to be a good trustee” session to mirror the updated code of good governance for the voluntary and community sector.
Outside work, I am a trustee of Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford, where I chair our Financial Governance committee. I previously spent three years on the audit committee of UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, where I enjoyed experiencing a different side of internal and external audit. At the weekend, when I’m not ferrying my three children to various things, I like to get out and enjoy the Essex coast and countryside.
Once I had qualified as a chartered accountant I knew that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my qualifications. I also felt there was a conflict between my personal beliefs and the work I was being asked to do – by day I was advising global companies that owned tea plantations in Kenya and at the weekends I was campaigning for fair trade tea. Finding the not-for-profit world was a dream come true as finally I was working with like-minded people. I have never looked back.
I get my energy from being with people, so training and facilitating brings out the best in me. I enjoy working on the challenges that organisations face and helping them to find the solutions. The best training I ever received was my NLP (neuro linguistic programming) practitioner and master practitioner courses which helped me to realise that each person and each organisation really has the solutions already – they just need help to bring them out into the open.
I am proud of the achievements of all the people who have trained and worked at Sayer Vincent over the years. What’s so nice is that we are still connected to so many people who have stayed in the charity sector and are now achieving great things for the charities they work for. I am quite proud of how we train people.
Looking forward, I am keen for more charity accountants to become truly great financial leaders, plus I think there is much more that could be done to make charities more effective and deliver fantastic results. One of the ways in which I am working on that goal is through pro bono training and I am an Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Management at Cass Business School.
I am a non-executive director of a not-for-profit company that does research and promotes transparency in all things to do with development aid. I am a non-executive director of Charity Bank. I also help out with an honorary independent examination for a small local charity. A couple of years ago I raised over £5,000 for a charity that an old friend founded 30 years ago by trekking 125 miles in the highlands of Vietnam. This year I managed to raise £3,500 for the same charity trekking 200km on elephants and whitewater rafting in Nepal. My next challenge is in the planning.
Currently, I am studying applied neuroscience part-time and to clear out the cobwebs in my brain I love sailing, gardening and walking.
For many years, I have worked with a wide variety of clients including charitable, corporate, legal and educational organisations. With so many rules and regulations to comply with, it struck me how critical it is to be fully aware of everything that is topical and relevant to my clients in order to give them the best possible advice. Over time, as my involvement with the not for profit sector increased, I decided that I would love to become a dedicated specialist. Moving to Sayer Vincent has given me a great opportunity to do that, it is fantastic to focus on a client base of only not for profit clients.
Working with charities gives me a such a positive feeling compared to any other audit or advisory work I have carried out and I find myself far more driven to support and work alongside charity finance and management teams. I get a real sense of satisfaction when I know that I have made someone else’s day easier having provided useful, timely and cost effective advice. I also firmly believe that everyone can ‘do better’ and that we can always take away from and reflect on our experiences.
The best part of my job is getting to know the people within each organisation and to make sure I understand what they need from us and how we can support them. There is no denying that the ‘numbers’ part of accountancy is important but the stories that sit behind those numbers are the far more interesting and challenging part of my role.
In order to give a bit back to my local community, I volunteer in two roles, firstly as a trustee and treasurer of a charity committed to helping victims of domestic abuse and secondly as treasurer of the junior section of the local cricket club. Both roles have enhanced my experience of current issues, particularly with funding pressures, and given me a great appreciation of the commitment and energy dedicated by all those who give up so much of their time for others.
In my own time, I love spending time with my family (which involves watching a lot of football and cricket), photography, walking, reading and holidaying in Cornwall.
I joined Sayer Vincent in August 2015 after a short career break to have a baby! I’m really enjoying my time here and am so pleased that I made the move. It’s not just the clients and interesting issues I’m being exposed to that I like, but also the supportive atmosphere at Sayer Vincent. People are always happy to help one another out as ultimately we all have the same aim of supporting the sector. Sayer Vincent is also a very family friendly firm, their flexible working policy means that managing nursery pick-ups or a sick baby isn’t a problem.
I decided to train as a chartered accountant back in 2006 so that once I had the ACA qualification, I would be able to use it to help charities. That’s what is so good about the ACA, it puts you in a great position to go and work for any business. The ACA, in fact, whet my appetite for professional qualifications, and I went on to become a bit of a qualification junkie, gaining the DChA and then the CTA. The only reason I’m not studying for a further qualification now is probably because I’ve gone through all the relevant ones!
My accountancy career has been pretty varied with time at firms big and small, in tax, audit and general practice and even a stint in house at Teach First. I love working in practice, getting exposure to a wide range of clients and although I’ve enjoyed my time in audit, tax is my true passion. I enjoy the academic nature of tax, receiving a query from a client and then trying to work out how HMRC’s legislation and guidance applies to that particular situation.
I am Treasurer for the Her Centre, a charity which supports women affected by domestic violence, but my work there isn’t confined to checking the accounts, you’ll regularly find me busy face painting at community events. I’m also a keen fundraiser especially for heart charities, as my son had heart surgery at 3 days old, so I’ve benefited first hand from some of the great work these charities do. When I’m not busy working or volunteering, I’m getting used to my life as a new mum and all the challenges and joys that brings!
Accountancy was never at the front of my mind throughout my school and university studies. Moving back to North Wales after graduation I found myself working at a small youth charity. Despite having no formal training and only my degree in mathematics, I was responsible for getting the books in order! This was no simple feat and it really opened my eyes to the complex needs and requirements that charities faced. One of the key texts that supported me through this was A Practical Guide to Charity Accounting written by Kate Sayer. This was my first exposure to Sayer Vincent and the start of my journey with the firm.
That autumn I saw an advert for trainee accountants with Sayer Vincent and that then led me on my journey back to London in January 2007 to quickly develop from a trainee accountant through to my current role as audit manager.
I really enjoy being able to share my knowledge to support and enhance the work that my clients do. I also find that I am continually learning, picking up excellent practice from clients that I can share with others. Audit is often seen as a negative thing, my experience has shown that it is really useful and can often pay for itself. I get great joy in sharing findings which lead to increased income or simplified and more efficient processes.
I am keen to continue to develop and deliver fantastic service and advice to my clients. This is helped, in part, from my role as chair of the Sayer Vincent technical group. We are responsible for ensuring that both the firm and our clients are all kept up to date with all matters affecting audit and accounting.
Outside of work I love to travel, some of my recent trips have taken me to Australia, China, Iceland and Peru. Staying a bit closer to home, I enjoy the beautiful mountains the UK has to offer, especially in Snowdonia. Cooking is another passion, and something I find brilliant for unwinding after work, but it has to be vegetarian.
Having studied Accounting and Finance at Bristol University, I always knew I wanted to be an accountant. However, it never occurred to me that a firm like Sayer Vincent existed so I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a job advert for the firm – I knew it would be a great match for me. I’ve always had a keen interest in voluntary work and taking up opportunities for fundraising especially at university, so I grabbed the opportunity to train and qualify with a firm dedicated to working within the sector.
I left Sayer Vincent for a short while to work at the NSPCC as the Financial Accounting and Control Manager. That was a great experience for me as I gained more awareness of how our clients work internally. I missed the variety of working with different clients and their varying challenges so in 2013 I returned to Sayer Vincent! My experience “on the other side of the fence” has been invaluable for helping other fundraising charities implement and develop their procedures and assisting clients make the year-end process more manageable.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working in charity sector – having the opportunity to work with so many dedicated people, both colleagues and clients. Although, it is a hugely diverse sector, I feel all the organisations I have worked with share a common set of core values that I admire greatly. Helping some of my smaller clients to use their resources more effectively is definitely the most rewarding part of my job.
In my spare time, I love to do a variety of things including travelling and attending a muddy festival or two! I try to counter my slight obsession with food with some exercise – mainly running, swimming and trekking, with my biggest achievement being trekking through Patagonia.
Whilst studying maths at Warwick University, I knew I wanted a career that would involve working with numbers. Taking up the role as treasurer of my university RAG society gave me an initial taste of charity accounting, however through training and working at Sayer Vincent, I now realise how many things I could have done better back then!
Sayer Vincent has given me the opportunity to work with a wide range of charities and not-for-profit organisations. I enjoy the opportunity to assist clients that deliver work I can identify with and it is fantastic to see the value of the work they undertake. My job as a manager is not just about the numbers, building relationships is key to working effectively with clients and I’ve discovered that I enjoy interacting with our clients more than I would’ve imagined.
I love problem solving and dealing with technical challenges, especially if it involves getting my teeth stuck into something complex or that relates to tax which is one of my interests. Engaging with clients though leading training seminars is also something I really enjoy doing as part of my job and allows me to meet a wider range of people,
I’m a Crystal Palace season ticket holder and have always been very much into playing and watching all types of sports although I don’t have much time to squeeze playing sports into my spare time as I’m kept very busy by my young family.