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Working for the taxman: a PQ profile
Matt Jones, External Financial Management Lead at HMRC, tells PQ what itís like to work for the high-profile agency and outlines his career path to date
What made you pursue a career in finance and accounting and why public services? Iíll admit, becoming an accountant was not my career plan. There is a misconception that it can lead to very tedious, technical work. I worked in a finance role for Somerset County Council after I graduated from university and found I enjoyed the work and enjoyed the challenge.
I wanted to work in the public sector out of a desire to make a difference and to contribute to society. The work done in public services is hugely important to everyoneís lives, which makes it a very challenging and highly rewarding career. Being able to be a part of ensuring the best use of taxpayersí money was hugely appealing to me. I also wanted to maintain a work life balance, while developing myself in a rewarding job Ė I didnít want to work to make money for a corporate entity.
Why did you choose CIPFA rather than another accountancy qualification? My primary ambition was to work in the public sector. When I came to choose my qualification, I wanted one which would help me in my job and which gave a breadth of learning. From the perspective of accountancy content, there didnít appear to be much between the main qualifications and CIPFA ensured that I would study how finance works in various areas within the public sector.
How was your study route funded? Were you sponsored by your current employer? I joined the Home Office on the Civil Service Financial Management Development Scheme (now the Civil Service Finance Fast Stream), a programme training graduates who will become the future finance leaders in the civil service. The scheme offered a wide variety of job placements alongside funding study towards a professional accountancy qualification.
After nearly two-and-a-half years in the Home Office I was promoted to a permanent role in HMRC, which I started as I sat my final Diploma level exams. As part of the transfer, HMRC agreed to fund my Strategic level studies.
Which entry route did you take to study CIPFA? I studied maths at university, so when I joined the FMDS I took CIPFAís graduate entry route.
Having two yearsí experience working for a county council before joining the Home Office and starting my CIPFA studies helped give me a wider view across the public sector, but it was not a level of experience to take any other entry route.
What do you actually do at work? I lead a team at the heart of HMRCís financial management. My team report the departmentís financial position to HM Treasury, work with HM Treasury and other government departments on funding issues and provide financial management information to Cabinet Office.
There is no such thing as a typical day Ė a lot of my work stems from the changing political and financial climate. In the last six months I have helped deliver an Autumn Statement, two Budgets and we are just entering a Spending Review. Itís varied work which is very challenging but highly rewarding.
Which aspects/modules of your course have you enjoyed the most? I particularly enjoyed engaging in debate around public policy and the impact for public finance professionals, and Financial Management, learning about investment appraisal techniques that are often so vital in the current financial climate when deciding how to utilise a very limited pot of public services money.
Would you recommend the CIPFA qualification to other students? If so, why? From an accounting perspective, from what Iíve seen of the unique nature and intricacies of local government finance, specialist study is very helpful. From a broader perspective, CIPFA covers a wide range of current, related issues that help obtain the wider skill set needed to advance within the public sector.
How does the qualification help you in your day-to-day tasks? Part of my role is taking complex financial information and presenting it in a concise and accessible way to non-finance colleagues, including senior leaders. Through CIPFA I have the knowledge and expertise to understand and communicate such information, as well as an appreciation of the bigger picture and potential viewpoints of those outside the finance profession, which allows me to tailor my messages.
What are your ambitions? I recently achieved a second promotion at HMRC to a grade where most staff have several years of post-qualification experience. Iíve also just passed my Strategic Level exams, so in the next few years I will be consolidating and expanding my skills at this level.
I can see myself staying at HMRC for the foreseeable future, gaining experience in a variety of roles and doing my part to help realise the organisationís long-term vision.
Looking further ahead, Iíll take things as they go, but would be interested in working in other government departments, with a view to becoming a finance director one day.
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