Since training and qualifying at Sayer Vincent, Thandi’s finance career has been focused on social purpose organisations. She is currently Head of Finance and Operations at The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
Training and working at SV
I have fond memories of my time training at SV- it was a really great experience! Looking back, I think this was mainly because of the people. At all levels from the partners to trainees and everyone in between, people were very supportive, friendly, and approachable. This made SV an easy environment in which to learn and work.
It was also nice to be with a group of people who were going through the same training process. We all learned from each other. There is a focus on development at SV and we were offered a varied training experience. Even though all the clients are from social purpose organisations, each job was totally different- I audited clients of varies sizes across varying sectors and carrying out due diligence and other accountancy work. This enabled me to gain well rounded experience which was very positive.
Making a difference and working in the sector
A good finance leader does so much more than just working on spreadsheets and looking at figures all day. Organisations rely on finance professionals to provide key information to trustees, enabling them to make important strategic decisions. I see my role in finance as contributing to the overall health of an organisation. I provide a lot of support, and improve the financial knowledge of people whose focus is not finance. This is one of the rewarding aspects of my job as it allows me to interact with people throughout the organisation.
My current role is varied (I manage critical areas such as HR, facilities, relationships with our members and IT) and I often act as a sounding board for ideas as well as being involved in strategic planning and decision making. Developing processes and efficient ways of working is something we do on a daily basis in finance and this can be shared with other parts of any organisation. I have been involved in implementing change and new projects cross-departmentally over the years in my various roles. Working within finance enables you to have access to all departments and various aspects of a charity- this has been an excellent for expanding my understanding of an organisation.
“Having a finance background is much broader than just looking at numbers – you can really take it in almost any direction that you want to go.”
Top tips for becoming a charity finance leader
Demonstrate leadership traits
Even if you are not yet in a leadership position you should behave how you would expect a good leader to behave. Show your drive, integrity, enthusiasm and passion for your work in the role you are currently doing. In doing so, people tend to gravitate towards you. Show that you are trustworthy and reliable.
Learn, learn, learn!
Become a well-rounded individual by learning as much as you can in all situations and from everyone you meet. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. As a leader you will be called on to deal with a lot of unfamiliar situations which may be outside your remit. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in various projects away from what you normally do- this will enable you to understand the organisation better and therefore make better finance decisions. Working on other projects internally may also help to develop a wider network within your current organisation and develop your leadership skills.
Be open to change
Although I have always worked within charities, changing roles within the sector has taught me to be an adaptable person. I have developed skills which have helped me to be comfortable with running major change projects. Working within various organisations and teams brings learning which is invaluable when you reach a leadership position.
Why did you originally decide to become an accountancy trainee?
As a maths graduate, I’ve always enjoyed working with numbers. The fact that there is a need to continuously learn also attracted me to the role. When I attended my interview to become a trainee, I felt that SV was a very different firm to the others I had been to. I felt that I could fit in naturally and I loved the working environment and culture.
Why have you decided to stay within the charity sector?
I believe the charity sector attracts bright, hardworking people with a passion for helping others. In every role I have had, I find there to be a positive atmosphere. I enjoy the work within social purpose organisations, there are challenges but I feel like I’m making a positive difference every day.
What are the lasting skills or experiences that you took from your training at Sayer Vincent?
At Sayer Vincent we were given lots of responsibility at a very early stage in a very supportive environment. This allowed me to build up my confidence across the board and has been invaluable in my roles since leaving the firm. Going to clients and working with organisations of varying sizes, cultures and working styles has enabled me to become highly adaptable and really helped me in the various roles I have had throughout my career.