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Catriona Early isn’t a programmer, but she’s recently developed a passion for disruptive technology in her role within EY’s Chief Financial Officer Advisory (CFO) Services. “In one of my current projects, I’m working alongside EY data scientists to advise a client that’s using machine learning tools to overhaul its current data analysis,” says Catriona, a London-based Senior Manager, in the CFO Advisory team, who specialises in banking, and covers the Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA) region. “It’s challenging but very interesting to find myself immersed in emerging technologies.”
Catriona’s assignment also reflects the wide range of work on offer within CFO Advisory, a multi-disciplinary consultancy team across the globe whose remit extends beyond technical accounting standards to cover sectors such as corporate treasury services, commodities markets, IPOs and M&As. CFO Advisory is part of EY financial services professionals across EMEIA. It employs about 220 people in the UK – mainly in London, but also in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Bristol – and EY plans to increase its UK headcount over the next year, especially from the mid to senior level.
The upcoming recruitment has been triggered by corporate clients demanding more help when navigating an increasingly complex accounting landscape. The pressures facing finance teams – from changing regulations (e.g. International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and US General Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to ongoing corporate restructuring drives – have never been greater.
“The type of work we do in CFO Advisory is both innovative and broad, so the teams need people from many different backgrounds,” says Catriona, who worked for a UK bank before joining EY in 2013. “As well as financial accountants, the EY teams already have colleagues with regulatory reporting, quant, technology and consultancy experience, for example.”
The diversity of people and projects within CFO Advisory means there’s “hardly a dull moment” when you’re working there, according to Catriona’s teammate Gareth Lake, an Accounting Advisory and Structuring Manager, “I typically work on a number of different transactions each week – such as providing technical accounting due diligence support, and transaction accounting and structuring advice – so there’s no monotony or repetition,” he adds. “And a project for a client will usually involve two or three other teams in EY, so I’m working across the organisation and getting to know a broad spectrum of people outside of CFO Advisory.”
Gareth describes the networking opportunities he’s had since moving to EY member firm in London from South Africa in 2017 as “second to none”. “I’ve been able to build up a great network, not just internally, but also in the wider London finance community,” says Gareth, who previously worked for three years at an investment bank, focused on private equity property and M&A.
Catriona is now developing her network beyond the UK. She worked with an entrepreneur client in Dubai for six weeks last year and is currently spending some of her time in Paris on another assignment. “I’ve met some amazing people and tackled some big business challenges while working abroad. And the CFO Advisory team is very well connected across Europe – most of the UK team has a lot of daily interaction with people in other member firm offices,” she says.
Chris Acheson, who also works in CFO Advisory and has recently been promoted to manager rank, says he’s been impressed by how his own managers have helped him progress his career. “EY is a great place to work if you want to move your career in a particular direction,” he says. “For example, I have regular opportunities to talk openly with the partners here about the type of projects I’m most interested in working on, with an eye to my future specialisms.”
Gareth has also had plenty of career-related discussions, both with his line manager and his ‘counsellor’ at EY. “Everyone, even the directors, has a counsellor. They help you look at your career over the long-term and make sure people across the division are aware of your objectives,” he explains. “But you must be very proactive to get the breadth of experience that will set you apart at EY. You need to take full advantage of the work and training opportunities here, and drive your career forward yourself.”
Chris says there’s a “huge amount” of formal in-person and online training available to EY professionals, on topics ranging from accounting updates to artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, the digital-skills-focused EY Badges programme, which upon completion can be displayed on an external site, allows people to display accreditations on their social media channels. “This means your clients and your external network can also see the new skills that you’re building,” says Chris, who worked as a finance business partner for a global telecoms company prior to joining the CFO Advisory services in 2017.
Ultimately, however, Chris says most of his new learning has come on the job. “The key to career success in CFO Advisory is being flexible to the new types of work that you get when working project to project,” he says. “And you have to enjoy working in an open and collaborative environment rather than in a silo.”
Although CFO Advisory is hiring across many different job functions, all new recruits must have “strong soft skills”, says Gareth. “These soft skills are just as important as your technical abilities. You need to show you’re adaptable enough to handle multiple tasks on the same day and to take on projects in areas you’re not an expert in yet,” he adds. “Above all, they want to hire people who are team players and know how to build lasting relationships with clients and with colleagues across EY.”
Senior Consultant, Domitilla, describes her journey within the CFO Advisory team and the global opportunities she has been involved in
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