CEO, Telefonica 02 UK
Self-proclaimed financial geek from his earlier years, Ronan Dunne managed his own small share portfolio and enjoyed reading the Financial Times; “It’s fair to say I’ve been fascinated by business from an early age,” he comments.
“I’ve always been a very practical person and what I loved about Chartered Accountancy was the chance to study but also to work at the same time and put into practice what I was learning. Chartered Accountancy really was seen as the passport to global business – much as the MBA was in the States.” Ronan had considered doing a law degree on finishing school, however this all changed after a senior partner in a large accountancy firm. This partner identified Ronan as a student who might be interested in following a career in Chartered Accountancy.
Ronan was sure that he wanted to be in business and not practice. Commenting on one of the great attributes about Chartered Accountancy, Ronan discusses how “you could start off with a broad training and then narrow down to what really interested you and work to your strengths.” Ronan found himself at the heart of business in Touche Ross in London when the financial market was transforming. Ronan went on to acquire a senior financial accountant role at BNP, a leading international bank. This fed into his desire to delve deeper into the fast-moving industry of financial services.
At the young age of 27 Ronan became chief accountant at BNP as result of his strong work ethic and natural talents. “That was symptomatic of the times…being a Chartered Accountant gave me credibility beyond my years. Sure – I had to back that up with capability but I doubt that any other qualification would have secured that position for me.”
The next step in Ronan’s career brought him into real banking business and away from finance. He was presented with an opportunity by newly appointed BNP CEO to move into the corporate division of the bank to aid the UK subsidiaries of global operations. Expectantly, one of Ronan’s own clients offered him a spot in its treasury function; he knew it was an opportunity not to be missed. “I quickly discovered that being in banking is a bit like having a Chinese meal. You do a transaction for a client but it’s not very satisfying for long because you only see the financing bit – you don’t get to see the exciting part which is what happens when that financing is put into action in the business. I wanted to help drive business change.”
Fast forward two years and Ronan was headhunted by NFC, the British transport business, to aid in a radical restructuring of the organisation. Ronan got the chance to prove his skills in business change as he embarked on what he later identified as one of his key achievements in his career to date. Ronan helped culminate a merger to form logistics giant, Exel plc.
David Finch, also a fellow Chartered Accountant, was a colleague of Ronan’s in NFC. Finch was appointed as CFO of what we now know as mobile operator O2, and requested Ronan join him. Ronan then became CFO of UK operations when the company was bought by Telefonica, a Spanish telecoms operator, in 2005.
As a result of his Chartered Accountancy background, Ronan accepted the role of CEO of Telefonica O2 UK in 2008. “No other skill set would have enabled me to achieve what was required.”
Logical and rational
Ronan explains how being a CEO he constantly calls on the qualities he gained as a result of becoming a Chartered Accountant – a deep-rooted sense of values and purpose to name but a few. Ronan has the freedom to focus on alternative issues in business having an intrinsic understanding of financials and a confidence around numbers.
So what does Ronan attribute his success to? The most important skill he developed from his training to be a chartered accountant is his ability to approach problem solving in a logical and rational manner. His capacity to combine analysis, facts and intuition has allowed him to contribute in a significant way to O2, the wider telecoms industry and furthermore the UK economy.
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