David Matthews, JLT Ltd Bermuda

Tell us about your academic background?

  • School: Gonzaga College SJ, Dublin, Ireland
  • University: Auburn University, Alabama, USA (2006 -2008): International Business with French.
  • University of the Pacific, California, USA (2008-2010): BSc Business Administration, Hons.
  • Dean’s Honor Roll list for my academic results.

I studied in the US while also competing on the NCAA Division I collegiate swim teams as a swimming scholarship recipient. In 2008 I moved college and transferred my course credits from Auburn to University of the Pacific and changed my degree to focus on Business Administration with a core focus on Finance and Accounting.

Why accountancy? 

When I was moving from Alabama to California in 2008 the financial crisis was heightening and I decided that I wanted to pursue a professional qualification in Accounting so that I had an international business ‘passport’ which would serve me best if I were to make a career in finance or any wider part of business. I also saw it as the most valuable qualification I could have if I were to establish my own business which remains to be one of my big goals. I know that the ACA qualification provides an excellent foundation for the various aspects of running a business beyond the central accounting focus of the qualification.

Why Chartered Accountants Ireland?

I spoke to numerous people when making my decision as to which professional qualification I would pursue and in which country I should pursue it, because I had been offered a summer internship during my last year of university by KPMG San Francisco, but based on the advice I received from long-standing Fellows of Chartered Accountants Ireland, I determined that the Irish ACA qualification was the most suitable route for me.

Can you explain the Flexible Route to someone who doesn't know what it is?

The flexible route is the most accommodating route for anyone who wants to develop and expand their business acumen, particularly for anyone with an entrepreneurial mind set or personality.

What are the advantages to working and studying?

By working and studying, I think success in one area can have a knock-on effect into other areas of our life, and success in your work or study can have a positive impact on the other. You can also strengthen your footing in your job by utilizing some of the material studied throughout the qualification.

Where have you worked and what kind of roles have you been in?

I began my career and professional qualification on the Flexible Route because I missed the “milk round” interviews with the Big 4 firms while still attending university in the US, and worked my first year as a professional as a trainee accountant in an insolvency firm based in Dublin city, while sitting my CAP 1 exams on my own, as my employer had not registered as a training firm at the time.

Describe a typical day for you? 

I’ve rarely had a typical day in any of my jobs to date, and I’ve worked across various industries, organizations and functions.

Is it flexible?

Yes, in the sense that it allows you to take control of your qualification by holding yourself accountable for your own study, elective subject choices, as well as your own time management and performance in the exams. I think this benefits the individual because I found that working in a big firm or surrounded with peers also sitting the exams at the same time, can provide distractions and work/study frameworks that may not suit everybody.

The Flexible Route also allows you to align your career path with your future goals because you can look to gain experience in numerous companies and/or business environments which you already may be interested in.

I found that working in the Big 4 firms didn’t offer the same level of responsibility or encouragement to become your own individual within your own career because you are working within a very big system/company, which has an adverse effect on a person who is ready to move into the wider business world.

How was combining work and study?

It never caused me issues because I found the study leave breaks from work sufficient to study for my exams, but everyone is different.

Can you see how someone who is not an accountant might benefit from this qualification?

Yes, because it requires the candidate to assess a company as a whole rather than purely focusing on accounting. For an entrepreneur who wants to understand a company as fully as possible, the ACA qualification provides an excellent foundation to help understand the wider business considerations and potential issues, such as Tax, Ethics, Corporate Governance, Controls, Performance Management and Measurement, etc.

If you already have any interest in finance or running a business, then the ACA qualification is a great step, but is also a very individual decision to make and should never be viewed as a one-size-fits-all since it focuses heavily on accounting.

Would you recommend the Flexible Route to others? Why?

Yes, because it allows a person to align their professional experience with their future goals as well as their qualification. Bigger training firms can pigeon-hole their trainees more often than not in order to support their business needs rather than helping expand the breadth of the trainee’s business knowledge beyond accounting and audit.

What advice would you give someone who is considering the Flexible Route?

Try look ahead to see what kind of working life or business you desire, because by doing this you can look for jobs or companies who are a better fit for you, but also which ones can help round out your professional experience and knowledge by working across various fields, businesses and even industries.

What success are you looking for?

Success in life, by creating a balanced and sustainable life in my personal and professional life which allows me to support one with the other to be mutually beneficial, while making a meaningful and beneficial impact to my community.

What are your future goals?

Make positive and lasting impacts on redesigning an economically sustainable business model that can be applied so that businesses can benefit mutually by contributing to the direct development and training of the surrounding community which in turn creates more economic value for all.