Helping clients navigate change in Financial Accounting Advisory Services

Now more than ever, businesses need help understanding how new regulations, guidelines and changing cultural landscapes can work in their favour. Our growing Financial Accounting Advisory Services (FAAS) practice is more than just technical accounting, our team acts as a trusted advisor, helping clients navigate these changes with expertise and confidence.

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We spoke to Data Analyst James Smith, and Senior Managers Reanna Leitaker and James Roberts, in our London office about their experiences on the team and what excites them about their work.


You all have very different career paths, how did you start at EY?


James S: I joined three years ago as a graduate in our FIDs practice in forensic data analytics. I completed my accountancy exams, spent time in audit analytics and moved into FAAS.


Reanna: I worked with EY in Brazil to help start up a new FAAS practice. I was able to travel quite a bit and transferred to EY London four years later. I’ve been lucky to work on a variety of projects in and out of FAAS and recently completed a secondment in Ghana, consulting for small businesses.


James R: I was at another firm and was excited to join a team that was commercially focused and forward-looking. My background is in accounting and banking regulatory, so the role in FAAS was ideal.


How has EY supported you through your career?


James Smith: This October I’m hoping to go to Copenhagen for three months on our New Horizons programme. We’re really pushing future-based skills learning, so as part of my role in data, I’ve been put in charge of running the Data Ninjas programme. I’m training 25 people to be fluent with data and champion it for the rest of our team.


Reanna: They were very encouraging when I wanted to transfer to our London office. Last year I wanted to upskill in a new area and took a secondment in Ghana. While I was there I got quite ill and they were very supportive as I recovered.


James Roberts: Within weeks of joining EY, my wife gave birth to our child much earlier than expected. You can imagine my concern both for my family and my career, but as soon as it happened everyone was incredibly supportive. I was able to drop everything and know that my team would be there and they’ve continued to support me since. We work in a fast-paced environment but I’m encouraged to be home for bedtime and work from home when needed.


You’re all at very different career stages, can you describe the work you do at EY?


James Smith: I do a mix of accountancy-based and data-based work. Since I’ve joined, I completed a secondment in Yorkshire working internally as part of a client’s finance team to help with their year-end. I helped automate their processes by creating a model that consolidated all data into a single spreadsheet. I’ve also spent time with our Culture, Diversity and Inclusion team, providing assurance on diversity policies for different clients. I use data to identify diversity hotspots in different countries, departments levels and roles.


Reanna: I’ve had the opportunity to do a variety of interesting work since starting. In Brazil, I led my first transaction across five or six countries. My team helped me feel confident and ready to deliver for our client despite never having led one before. My secondment in Ghana developed my career in a completely different way. We were helping small businesses scale up and improve their capacity to grow. It improved my understanding of small businesses; how they start, grow, their concerns and considerations. Now I look at my work from a completely different perspective.


James Roberts: I’m helping two businesses combine their operations across 45 different countries. Naturally, I spend a lot of time collaborating with global offices. I help clients prepare for and undertake transactions. I guide them as they reorganise themselves and determine whether their structure is consistent with their business plans now and in the future. Our difference is that we design plans, shaping their business from the start rather than being involved at the end.


It sounds like you’re all working on incredible projects, why do you think it’s an exciting time to be in FAAS?


James Smith: From a data perspective, I’m excited about programmes that help people learn more about data and how to use it to inform and advise clients. I enjoy the mix of financial and non-financial work I get to do.


Reanna: It’s an incredibly exciting time to be in FAAS. We recently merged different departments so we have culture, sustainability, technology and core accountants driving long-term value in our department. It feels like we’re in the right place at the right time. There’s a much greater demand for corporations to be transparent so we’re helping them do so.


James Roberts: I like that our team answers clients’ questions rather than suggesting predetermined solutions. We look beyond pure financial accounting and identify the right people with the right skill sets to come to solutions.


How would you describe the people and culture at EY?


James Smith: My colleagues are great. One of the reasons I joined is because of the amazing people I met during the interview process. They kept me updated, plus they were people I could see myself working well with.


Reanna: I have to agree with James, the people are really supportive. During every move I’ve made between offices and countries I’ve found great mentors and a team that helps me get settled – even helping me find new flats and open bank accounts when I’m not familiar with the language.


James Roberts: What’s really impressed me is the commitment to diversity and inclusion. We don’t only talk about it but we follow through. For example, we were sent on an inclusive leadership outing to determine what it means for our teams on a day-to-day basis and how to put it into practice. A lot of other firms wouldn’t invest that kind of time.  


Have you had the opportunity to work flexibly?


James Smith: When I was in Yorkshire and had to be back in London for personal obligations, it was fine for me to work from our London office. If ever you want to work from home on a Friday they’re very supportive of you.


Reanna: I’ve always worked extremely flexibly. I play a lot of sports and attend many events, so I’ve always been transparent about things I want to do. One of the best things about working for EY is to have that sense of flexibility.


James Roberts: There have been many times where I’ve started work late to do nursery drops and I tend to pack up at 6pm so I’m home in time to put my child to bed. I appreciate EY’s demonstrable commitment to people working around their schedules.


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