Andrew Philp - Executive Director

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Talk us through your career journey so far?

I very much fell into my undergraduate degree in the subject due to the fact the department had the highest rate of employment! I found it to be very engaging, and it gave me a great insight into business, much more than the “bean counter” perception it's often labelled with.

I started my career at AAB and this is where I became a qualified accountant. They had a great peer group, some of whom are my closest friends, and a very supportive management for trainee accountants. It was a wonderful environment to cut my teeth and gave me exposure to a wide range of clients.

From there I moved to KPMG where I spent 8 wonderful years. KPMG provided me a great platform for international travel both within the UK team but also with a 2-year secondment to Sweden. I was able to expand my knowledge across multiple industries, geography and company types; owner managed to listed entities. At KPMG I progressed from a newly qualified accountant to senior manager in Audit and Assurance.

For the first time in my working career, I came to a juncture where I did not have a “plan” of where to go next. After some reflection on what I wanted from my career I was ready for a change and wanted to test myself as part of an Internal Finance Team. With the help of Vero I found myself at Activpayroll in March 2021, a business that had been acquired by a PE investor the year prior. This has been an exciting part of my career where I have had the opportunity to work on some of the most exciting projects, to date.

I started at Activpayroll as the Financial Controller but have now moved to the role of Executive Director of our APAC business unit. The new role will require me to lead our APAC Business Unit as we continue our growth. I will be required to leverage on my finance background as we scale the business in APAC region and my knowledge of professional service industry.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

One of the things I most enjoy about my job is the people I work with. I am fortunate to work alongside a talented and dedicated team of professionals who are passionate about what they do and strive to deliver exceptional results for our clients. I love working in a global business, but at the size you get to meet an interact with everyone globally. I really believe the product we have at Activpayroll helps solve complicated global payroll/tax challenges for our customers.

The variability in my role is also something that I find particularly rewarding; from the diverse range of accounting/finance matters that I am exposed to globally such as acquisitions, cash flow management, transfer pricing, international tax, compliance, providing commercial insights to the people matters of being part of a global payroll business.

The leadership team across Activpayroll has some of the most talented people I have worked with, and provides me with an environment to further develop my understanding of the industry, hone my accounting knowledge and really work on my own leadership skills.

Did you always want to be an accountant? If not, what did you want to be?

No, I didn’t.

Firstly, I just wanted a job and especially at the time of graduating University (2010) it was post 2008 financial crash. I knew I wanted a job that allowed me to travel, that was both industry and geographically agnostic. Working in a Professional Firm met all these requirements and still held good rates of employment post-graduation.

When I was a young 18 year old, I had played with the idea of being involved in a gym environment. I hadn’t given it much thought, but I did my level 2 gym instructor course whilst at Uni. Nothing came of it.

Do you see the job of an accountant changing over the next decade, and if so, what do you see?

Absolutely, I think there will be an Increased need for technical skills as a result of further automation and AI in the profession. Accountants will need to become more proficient in using new technologies in order to keep up with the changing landscape. This may require additional training and education to stay up-to-date with the latest tools and techniques.

The biggest change, in my opinion, is likely to shift from a focus on routine tasks to more strategic work that requires a human touch. I think automation and AI will disrupt the accounting profession significantly, as result of removing the large data processing elements that occupies accountant’s time currently. The world is becoming more data driven but its one thing creating data sets, it’s another thing interpreting it.

It will fall onto accountants to make sense of the data and communicate in a human way that its full of jargon to non-accountants, effectively becoming the Human ‘API’ between the data and the users.

Has the COVID pandemic changed the way you view work?

Yes, it was amazing to see long standing industries make radical changes to how a business operates overnight. It showed me that things that we thought we had to sacrifice to have a successful career, didn’t need to be sacrificed i.e. time with family, time to work out.

Again, how important the human element of the job is. I think having to interact more through a computer puts greater demand on consciously thinking about communicating with people and the way in which we do it. If we use 100% written forms this can become sterile and transactional. Having the mix of our communication is crucial to be both efficient in our jobs but equally empathetic with our teams.

What advice would you give to an accountant who might be considering changing jobs?

As an accountant we often have the chance of going through some sort of professional qualification. Often these professional bodies have some sort of network; use it for objective sounding board. I signed up to ICAS mentorship and it gave me access to hugely talented and experience people. I have used it as a sounding board on multiple occasions; from overseas secondments to moving companies.

There will be people who have travelled a similar path, reach out to them, and ask for advice.

If you could, what advice would you give your 18 year old self?

Life is challenging enough without being critical of yourself. Set goals and if/when you achieve them celebrate those successes. If you don’t achieve your goals, reflect on them but move on.

Despite meeting personal/career milestones, I was often acutely critical of my performance meeting these objectives. I would over analyse, and it often left me with a feeling of failure despite ultimately being successful.

What do you still want to achieve?

I am moving to Malaysia to help Activpayroll build something really exciting. When I am in this beautiful country, I want to take full advantage by really getting to know different cultures and experiencing new things. One of them is to hike up mount Kinabalu.

I would love to do some further education, MBA maybe or a completely different subject matter. Haven’t quite ironed out the details on this one.

Being an accountant can be a demanding job with often long hours. How do you like to relax and what do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I am a father to two beautiful kids and husband to an equally beautiful wife. I love life and always seek new experiences, both personally and professionally.

Spending time with my family outdoors, be it cycling or running behind my 4-year-old son on the Deeside railway line – I just love being in the outdoors and watching my young kids grow and learn new skills.

Lastly, tell us something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

Random fact is that I have ‘whoop’ strap that records physical activity. After reading David Goggin’s and discovering he trains every day I started to also train every day. I kept this streak going for 660 days. Who's gonna carry the boats!