Declan Slattery - CFO

Motive 44 Declan Slattery

Talk us through your career journey so far?

After studying Economics at the University of Aberdeen, I took my first job as a trainee in audit. I then spent the next 5 years working for a couple of large OFS businesses in Project and Commercial accounting roles, in the UK (Aberdeen and Edinburgh) and US (Houston).

Since 2013 I’ve worked for private equity backed subsea businesses, going through 3 sell side and one buy side process.

I joined Motive in 2020. Its been fun; between 2020 and 2022, we did an acquisition, set up an operation in Taiwan, refinanced our debt, introduced an ERP system and tripled EBITDA…..that led to the PE investor EV realizing a good return in July '22 and now management have carried on the journey with H2.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Motive is a great place to work and I have great colleagues around the world who I enjoy spending time with and I learn a lot from. Dave and James who founded Motive have created a culture based on “People Values”. Lots of businesses pay that lip service, but at Motive its part of the DNA and the Leadership Team will call each other out for deviating from it.

Personally, I enjoy the PE investment model and like working in that environment. As a management team with PE investors, we are constantly pushing for growth and improving reporting and processes to prepare the business for a sale or investment process.

Balancing those 2 points isn’t always easy, and as a CFO in a PE backed business you have to be comfortable with that.

Lastly, I like the Subsea industry. The engineering and solutions that have been met in Subsea amaze me. It’s global and growing quickly, but at the same time it’s a good close community where I’ve made a lot of friends.

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

I wanted to go into banking after university and I thought a CA qualification would be a good route into that. But after a few months in Audit I realized I wanted to be on the other side, working in finance for audit clients……I've been here since.

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

Yes, 100%. My predictions….

Day to day transactions and book keeping will continue to become more automated.

Skill sets in Accounting systems, Data analysis, planning and decision support will become more valuable than management accounting which will be increasingly performed by ERPs as they increase the integration and use of AI.

Technical accounting skills will still be important but traditional accountancy qualifications and training will have to evolve to remain relevant where Generative AI such as ChatGPT is improving its ability to perform processes.

Has the COVID pandemic changed the way you view work?

It’s helped fast forward flexible working by 10 years, which has been good in my view.

Personally, my work pattern has changed. I still work the same hours but at different times and different locations.

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

I’ve always found it important to have a sponsor or supporter to help progress in more junior roles and then drive change as I’ve moved into more senior roles; that could be a line manager, investor, senior manager – someone influential who backs you.

When considering changing jobs, its useful to determine who and where that person is for you – current employer or new employer?

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

Buy shares in Apple and tribal tattoos won’t be cool in 20 years time!

On a serious note; keep taking risks and follow your instincts (I'm happy with how that’s worked out).

What do you still want to achieve?

I try not to look too far ahead. New opportunities have always come up and I’m sure there will be exciting paths in the future.

We have some specific goals relating to the growth of Motive which we are working towards right now, I’ll be happy if we achieve those and that’s where my focus is.

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?

Spending time with my wife Lucy and 2 kids (Oscar and Millie), we like to travel as much as we can together.

Lucy took an 8 year career break when our kids where young and we were travelling with my job. She’s started 2 businesses in the past year and I’ve been enjoying supporting her, but mainly learning from her ventures!

Plug 1: Moossh Nails and Beauty

I wish I had more time to golf… year maybe

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

Unlike Andrew, I'm not a runner (most people would know that). In Feb this year I could barely run a 5k…..but on the 28th May, along with a few Motive colleagues I’m going to (attempt) to run the Edinburgh Marathon. (Hopefully this interview doesn’t become an obituary next week 😉)

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