Member profile: Kalum King

I think my career path to date could be deemed as somewhat unorthodox, in that I initially pursued a degree in ‘Psychology’ at Queens University.  As I progressed towards the final year of my degree I decided to pursue a career in accountancy and was able to do so through the ‘Chartered Accountancy Training Program’.

I applied and was accepted into an excellent medium sized Belfast practice (Goldblatt Mcguigan).  During my training contract I was able to gain experience in personal tax, forensics, audit and accounts preparation. As I progressed through my training contract the practical experience gained in the various departments complimented the theory we had learned in class and my knowledge and practical ability improved significantly thereafter.

An interesting period of time I can recall was during my training contract when I was preparing for my FAE’s.  At this time I was playing for the Down Senior GAA team, and we had progressed to the All-Ireland semi-final (2010) which was due to take place the day before my FAE’s.  Through good time management and a lot of hard work we were able to win the match and I was able to pass my exams. Unfortunately, we were beaten in the All-Ireland final but in my view the most important ‘final’ was that of the ‘Final Admitting Examination’ which I was thrilled to have passed!

As I neared the end of my training contract I applied and was successful in gaining a ‘Financial Accountant’ role within JP Corry.  JP Corry is in fact a trading subsidiary of a huge French publicly listed company known as ‘Compagnie De Saint-Gobain SA’.  The group as a whole has a turnover in excess of €41 billion, with over 180,000 employees and operations in 64 countries. After three years in this role I was promoted to ‘Financial Controller’ which is the role I currently operate in.

From my experience the key aspects of an accountant operating within industry are 

  • Risk Management – Implementation of internal controls within the business.
  • Financial Reporting – Monthly, Quarterly and Annual Financial Reporting of the entity.
  • Management Accounting – Providing information to the individual branches ensuring they understand the strategic direction of the company.

Additional to the above, I would say the three biggest challenges for any accountant transitioning from practice to ‘industry’ would be in relation to the following areas of the business–

  • Business Support Function – in practice the accountant would be considered the main ‘fee earner’ or main turnover/profit driver for the business. This is slightly different within an ‘industry’ environment in that the finance department is viewed as the most significant ‘business partner’ to the business i.e. the sales department drive the turnover and profit for the entity with the finance department supporting them, as well as, shaping the strategic direction of the company.
  • Ad Hoc Tasks – within a publicly listed company the range of tasks/projects that you can be involved with can be wide ranging and varied.  It requires you to get involved in all aspects of the business and is a fantastic learning opportunity.  One such request I can recall was relating to the energy consumption at our branches. This involved me analysing the electricity usage of our branches, and subsequently negotiating electricity tariffs with our supplier!
  • Personnel – Finally, within ‘industry’ a significant proportion of your colleagues will not have an accountancy/finance background than would be the case in practice.  Therefore, it is vital that you develop your ‘softer skills’ in order to be able to effectively communicate financial information to non-finance personnel. Effective communication and listening skills are critical for an accountant operating within ‘industry’.

I have been fortunate in my career year to date to have been able to gain experience in a practice environment where I completed my training contract and then in an ‘industry’ environment where I currently operate as a Financial Controller.  Industry is very interesting, challenging and requires full use of not only your accountancy skills, but your ‘softer skills’ as well.  Ultimately, I have felt that the ‘Chartered Accountancy Training Program’ has equipped me tremendously well for working in both environments.