Career profile: Financial Operations Manager

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ACCA-X is developed by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). 

Doing the courses prepares you for the ACCA foundation level exams and achieving the certificates sets you on a pathway to becoming an ACCA member, a chartered certified accountant.

We have ACCA members working in a range of finance, business and accounting roles in every sector and industry from technology to fashion.

We spoke to ACCA member Lee Robert Harrison, a Financial Operations Manager for a leading global dental practice software company.

Lee chose ACCA because 'it is a well-respected international accounting qualification that I knew would provide me with the fundamental skills necessary for a successful career in finance. ACCA, in my eyes, has a strong brand image with a broad syllabus which balances the technical areas of the ICAEW qualification with the commercial focus of the CIMA qualification.'

Lee’s current role involves the daily management of the transactional (AR and AP) and reporting function within the business. He splits his time between managing a team of ten, improving and simplifying processes, producing the statutory accounts and assisting in the budget and forecasting processes.

We picked his brains by asking him seven questions about his career.

1.  What is your response to stereotypes about accounting and accountants?

'Accountants are often branded dull number-crunchers that do not understand the commercial aspects of the business - this is in most cases not true. The ACCA qualification along with on-the-job training provides you with the tools to add value to the business and become a business partner as opposed to a number-cruncher that sits in the corner.'

2. How did you start out?

'I studied a degree in accounting and finance. I originally enrolled on a business and marketing course, but in my first accounting exam received 100% and thought that this is good fun and my abilities seem to match what is required here - let’s give this career a go!'

3. What drew you to accounting?

'I wanted to work within a business, working on strategy, be involved with most of the confidential information, help develop a team, and also travel the world experiencing new cultures and different business practices. I knew that becoming a qualified accountant would help me on this journey and provide me with a seat at the table.'

4. Talk us through some elements of your typical day or week.

'Working in a small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) provides me with such a varied week. I have had weeks where I work on budgets, statutory accounts, meeting with the team to reduce the AR ledger, recruitment, product development, and then completing tax and VAT returns. I would encourage anyone who wants to broaden their knowledge of accounting and become a Financial Controller/Director to move to an SME - you gain so much exposure.'

5. What makes your job interesting?

'As I’ve already mentioned, I love the variety of the role - it limits the risk of boredom and stagnation. Also managing a team is incredibly rewarding when things work out.'

6. What makes it challenging?

'What makes it challenging reconciles with what makes it interesting. Working on so many different tasks at one time makes it difficult to juggle and prioritise. Also you find yourself having to know a little about a lot, so you’re constantly learning and developing. Although rewarding, it is a challenge.

Having your own duties along with being responsible for a team is also a challenge. Finding the right time to focus on the team and locking yourself away to get something done is a difficult balancing act. However, with all of that said, would I change anything? Nope! I love it!'

7. What one piece of advice would you give an accounting student who hopes to work in a role like yours?

'My advice would be to, along the journey, take on as many varying tasks as possible and accept the fact that you will make mistakes along the way. It is a steep learning curve, but it is the job of the CFO to - as I mentioned - know a little about a lot, and the more areas of accounting you have been involved in in your career will only help your cause when trying to achieve the top finance job.'

Thanks for talking to us, Lee. If you're feeling inspired and curious about a career in accounting, enrol on the free online courses Introduction to Management Accounting  and the Introduction to Bookkeeping, available on-demand to anyone, anywhere in the world.