We spoke with a previous accountant for KPMG about her thoughts on and personal experiences with HR. This anonymised interview helps to provide insight into how HR teams within finance are potentially viewed by their employees.
Could you start by telling us a bit about your current job role and your employment history?
I am currently a contractor carrying out Real Estate consultancy work. My current role is as a Project Manager for a large bank, conducting financial reporting and analysis for the Real Estate department.
Prior to this, I qualified as an accountant (ACA) at KPMG, working in the KPMG audit practice in London for 3 years. I then moved to the KPMG Economics practice for 2 years, carrying out financial analysis such as profitability assessments of companies and cost of capital calculations.
What do you enjoy about working in finance?
I enjoy the mental stimulation that comes with my role each week. I am constantly challenged to learn something new or how best to find a solution to a problem.
I also feel like a valuable member of any team that I work with due to my financial background and accounting qualification. The people I work with tend to put a lot of trust in those with a finance background and the financial analysis that we do.
And what do you find most challenging?
Trying to explain to people exactly what I do and show that not everyone who works in ‘finance’ is a dull accountant!
Also, companies often make important strategic decisions based on financial analysis. This can make working in finance quite pressured; attention to detail is required in the majority of finance roles. Furthermore, it is an industry where the rules and regulations are always changing, so keeping up to date can be quite challenging.
Do you feel your employer cares about you as an individual?
The Real Estate consulting company I work for is fairly small and contractors comprise the majority of its workforce. I feel that a good contractor is a valuable asset to a contracting company. As contractors have the flexibility to easily leave, contracting companies do take care of their contractors.
Working in the finance industry is more pressured – but for the right reasons!
During my time at KPMG, I felt there was more of a focus on promoting a healthy work-life balance and encouraging individuality at work.
Glassdoor’s 25 Best Jobs in the UK list Finance Manager, Tax Manager and Audit Manager as within the top 5. Do you think finance and accounting is a good sector to work in? Why?
Yes, I think it can be. Many companies will support you in gaining further qualifications by giving you time away from work to attend college and will often pay for study leave and exam fees. These qualifications are well regarded within the workplace and can lead to a large variety of jobs across the UK and globally. In this regard, I feel it is a good sector to work in.
However, due to events in the past 10 years, the finance sector has come under a lot of scrutiny. This has led to many changes in regulations and stricter penalties if errors are made. I feel this has made working in the finance industry more pressured – but for the right reasons!
If you could have any job what would it be?
A Blue Peter presenter or a presenter/researcher for a sporting/wildlife/cooking programme! That aside, my current role as a contractor gives me flexibility, interesting work and the opportunity to gain lots of experience through working on a number of different projects with different teams.
Generally speaking, what does HR mean to you?
To me, an HR team deals with the ‘human element’ of working for an organisation. I feel that the HR team should make the process of joining and leaving an organisation smooth and efficient and ‘look after’ employees while they are with the organisation.
At KPMG, there were often communications and events to support positive mental wellbeing and flexible working.
This could be from dealing with personal needs (e.g. the main point of call for holidays, illness, working arrangements) to an employee progressing through an organisation (e.g. communication of company strategy and personal reviews). The HR team would also be involved in admin issues such as onboarding of new staff, salaries and possibly employment standards within the organisation.
How does your HR team support you?
Working as a contractor through a small company, I don’t currently have much contact with an HR team. However, KPMG had a large HR team that was very good. There was also a great intranet site so you could often find the answer to any general questions through that resource.
While at KPMG did you notice any new practices or technologies that were implemented by your HR team? If so, how did these impact you?
There had been increased awareness of good mental health practices at work; however, I am not sure if this had been communicated and developed by HR or a separate team. There were often communications and events to support positive mental wellbeing and flexible working e.g. working from home, shared maternity/paternity leave.
I feel this had a positive impact on the workforce as a whole and made it easier to have potentially difficult conversations with other people within the firm.