John Summers, Corporate Finance, navigated an unconventional career path that led him to becoming a Chartered Accountant. Earlier this year, he wrote about his journey to date.
The feeling I experienced the day I received my FAE results was one of the greatest feelings to date. A wave of relief was quickly followed by excitement and this immense sense of personal accomplishment. The culmination of four years of hard work creates much anticipation for the start of a promising career as a Chartered Accountant.
My road to becoming a Chartered Accountant is far from the ordinary. Having studied Applied Golf Management Studies at the University of Birmingham, I achieved a Bachelor of Science Degree. As an avid golf player and fan, the course seemed like a natural fit for me and its varied subject matter from Sports Psychology to Metallurgy and Materials Science, in particular, appealed to me.
When you’re unsure of what you want from your career, it can be difficult to choose a specific path. Much of the course involved coaching and finance while also touching on the commercial side of running a golf club. With an enjoyable and character-building experience under my belt, I graduated as a Professional Golfer and followed my cohort into the world of teaching, starting at The K Club in Ireland.
As I had completed the first three Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) qualifications and had a growing interest in wine and spirits, I began working for O’Brien’s Wines, using this time to focus on what I wanted in my career. As my parents run their own successful businesses (my mum also has 16+ years’ experience working with Barclays), I started to come around to the idea of entering a Graduate program with a finance firm and joined Beechwood Partners as a Tax Trainee.
Passion for Numbers
During my time at Beechwood, I fully immersed myself in the world of finance. Specialising in the personal tax affairs of high-net worth individuals, I learnt to value the importance of positive client relations and how to communicate effectively and efficiently. The opportunities I was given in financial analysis and reviews were invaluable. I started to enjoy this side of the business hugely and realised where my passion lay.
Pursuing my goal in Investments and Corporate Finance, I took a leap and joined Baker Tilly and EIIS Management, as a Corporate Finance Trainee and Analyst for the Goodbody EIIS Funds, respectively.
A World of Opportunity
Almost four years on and I’ve never looked back. I am enjoying the role now more than ever and much of this is attributed to the opportunities afforded to me by Stephen McGivern, Partner (CF) and the Corporate Finance team. From the outset, I have gained first-hand experience in many exciting and often demanding corporate finance transactions. From restructuring and refinancing a whiskey company to the financial analysis and sale of a food manufacturing company (c. €30m turnover), I have really enjoyed financial modelling assignments and valuation projects.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have trained and become an intrinsic part of the EIIS team. From managing an EIIS fund, I get great experience in client facing interactions almost every day and am afforded the opportunity to work on business development.
Every December, I play a role in the annual fundraising of c.€10m and get to see and run the investment process in Irish SME’s from cradle to grave. Having led and aided in many investments, my highlights have included raising €11m for Powerscourt Distillery, my work with Gunpowder Gin and McArdle Skeath and reviewing financial models for a series of wind farms. After a number of years of hard work, I am very excited to be divesting money back to our loyal investors this year.
Balancing work, study and life
Working for Baker Tilly is enjoyable and rewarding. In addition to being surrounded by helpful, trusting and experienced colleagues, it’s especially refreshing working with market leaders in the EIIS sector from whom I have gained a wealth of invaluable knowledge.
The supportive nature of the firm around exams and exam leave really helped remove some of the pressures associated with the syllabus. Being the only person in the firm doing FAEs that year brought its own challenges. However, under the guidance of other newly qualified staff members – who provided plenty of useful tips – I kept my head in the game.
Leading up to the exams, study filled the gap in my days. It can be difficult trying to achieve the elusive work-life balance. When you factor in exams, there are days it feels tough. For me, developing a detailed study plan and a consistent routine worked wonders. While many students prefer to study early in the morning, my preference was to study in the evening, often staying in the office after hours to learn theory and go over case studies.
After celebrating my exam results, my future quickly shifted into focus. What was the next step for me?
I’m really appreciative of how my firm handled my qualification. Shortly after my results, I discussed my professional development with Stephen McGivern, I signed a new contract as a Manager in Corporate Finance; this nod from Management drives me to continue developing my skills and support Baker Tilly in everything I do and I look forward to contributing to the firm’s future success in a leadership capacity.
My advice to accountants-in-training? Find what study routine works best for you as an individual and stick to it. There’s no magic secret to success; just hard work, discipline and self-belief. Believe that, irrespective of the path you take, you will get there. Finally, always ask questions! The lecturers, other students and qualified members are all there to help you succeed.
If you are currently pursuing your qualification with Chartered Accountants or are considering it for the future, recognize that the hard work will ultimately reap plenty of rewards as you set out on a career. It is all worth it.
This article originally appeared in Accountancy Ireland Extra on March 2.