I joined Mercer & Hole in 1994 from a smaller practice. I hadn’t long qualified as an ACA and knew that I wanted different experiences; career progression, longer jobs, more variety and to work in a firm with more staff but I also knew I didn’t want to join one of the Big 4.
When I started in the Milton Keynes office, the team was growing, with about 15 people working there. It was a big step for me with more challenge, even though the environment still felt quite small. I liked that I wasn’t treated like a number.
Since then, I have been exposed to a lot of things and it certainly isn’t all number crunching! For instance, I am heavily involved in training and recruitment. It’s great when the ACA students get through their exams and pass at their first attempt but, from a personal point of view, if they struggle and you can help them make progress, it can be very rewarding. I am also involved throughout the whole graduate recruitment process, from shortlisting through to interviewing and deciding who we are going to offer to. I really enjoy it.
I have specialised in working with charities and took the ICAEW Diploma in Charity Accounting qualification. Charities are a different ball game; some of them might have accounting staff but some have people who help them out which mean knowledge levels vary. The same can be said of Trustees, who give their time freely; there is a lot to do as a Trustee, governance issues and keeping up with the constant changes in legislation. Working out in my own mind how I am going to try to explain information to the different personalities is one of the challenges of the job.
On the technical side, there is a lot changing in accounting and audit. I sit on Mercer & Hole’s Audit and Technical Committee, which makes sure that, as a firm, we are well informed.
Clients appreciate the depth of our knowledge. The expertise we have is often a bit more than they would expect for a firm of our size. If I don’t know the answer or need to check something, there is always someone here I can ask. I can always point clients in the right direction and everyone is always kept well-informed of outcomes and actions. For instance, I have just been working on some legacy work with Helen Price and am fully up to speed with everything she is advising. It’s good to be able to say that it’s not just an audit service we provide! We offer a personal service and are always on the end of a phone - I think clients appreciate that when we pick up the phone it gets dealt with.
Striking a good work / life balance is a case of give and take. Since working here I’ve had a daughter and, over the years, my hours have changed to accommodate balancing work with my home life. I appreciate that Mercer & Hole have always been flexible and together we have always struck a balance.
The culture here is friendly and inclusive; it doesn’t matter what level you are. For example, students don’t feel ill at ease if they need to speak to a partner. Certainly, at Milton Keynes, the partners’ doors are mostly open and if you need to know anything it’s simply a case of asking if they have five minutes. Everyone here works hard but we all like to stop and a have a laugh too.