Jamie Wilson - VP of Finance

Jamie Wilson pic

Talk us through your career journey so far?

I was hooked as soon as I had the opportunity to study Accountancy as a subject in secondary school; I liked the concept of double entry and balancing, it suited the way my brain works. Ironically, I was never great at maths. Most people think you have to be good at maths to be an accountant. This is false, fortunately for me!

I then studied Accountancy and Finance at RGU in Aberdeen, which included a full year’s work experience (the opportunity to gain work experience as part of the degree was appealing to me and it also meant exemptions from some professional exams later).

After graduating from RGU, I commenced a training contract with a medium-sized local accountancy firm Hall Morrice. Over the three years I was there, I spent time in corporate finance, business advisory and the accounts department while gaining my ACCA qualification. I’m very grateful for my time there - I gained wide ranging exposure, and it also opened my eyes to how much I had to learn...which was a valuable lesson!

Upon completion of my professional qualification, I secured a role as a Senior Financial Analyst with CHC Scotia in Aberdeen. There, I got a taste of working in a global MNC and developed my Excel skills from what I now understand were basic, to advanced intermediate. This really gave me an edge when it came to analyzing data and best of all, it was something that interested me. The power of Excel was endless at that time, and I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to make it work for you through utilising knowledge and researching to maximise capabilities.

I then moved on to LR Senergy, an entrepreneurial engineering consultancy that was in the midst of an acquisition by a historic well-known company – Lloyd’s Register. This was a really interesting time and through the acquisition I was able to get involved in a number of different projects around Systems and Processes, with many opportunities to travel to the US & London.

Next, was my move to my current employer, TWMA. I was keen to try a small/medium sized company where there might be more opportunities for progression. I joined as the Financial Planning and Analysis Manager. At this time, TWMA was being bought by a private equity firm, and had made another acquisition in the US...it was a very exciting time to join the business! After spending a large portion of my first year helping with a distressed part of the business, the entire executive leadership team had changed and the new CFO asked if I would be interested in becoming an Operations Manager. I jumped at the opportunity and spent the next three years in charge of the onshore facilities in the UK which was the best management experience I could ask for. After previously business partnering with a number of Operations Managers/Directors, It was rewarding to be making the decisions myself and see them impact the performance of the business.

Following award of significant contracts in our UAE business, it was deemed necessary to have in-country finance to support with this growth and so I relocated to the UAE in February 2023. I'm now VP of Finance for TWMA Middle East, based in Abu Dhabi.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I have always liked the variety; in my current role, I’m responsible for all financial aspects of the business. One day it’s cash flow, the next it’s month-end, the next it’s forecasting, then audit. In addition, I have general management duties and responsibilities on top of that.

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

Fortunately, I always wanted to be an accountant.

I considered joining the army at one point in my early 20's when I was very into exercise, but in hindsight I would have been hopeless, so everything worked out ok.

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

I think, as with most jobs, it's constantly evolving.

New/changing technologies and varying business landscapes are ever present and affecting how we operate as businesses and individuals. Ten years ago, FP&A was really just Accountants who were very capable with Excel and had some experience with data dashboards. Now a lot of FP&A specialists I meet are fluent in code such as Python, and are using bespoke software to leverage and report on enormous amounts of data. It’s impressive!

There is also a common trend of CFO's becoming CEO's. I think this is true in both SME's and MNC's. Therefore, I would suggest accountants look for, and take an opportunity to gain, real business management experience in a way that may benefit them (if that’s something that they aspire to be).

Has the COVID pandemic changed the way you view work?

I quite enjoyed certain aspects of the pandemic; I liked working from home and I enjoyed how all of a sudden Microsoft Teams took over, and the structure that gave to your day. Although, I found it very difficult to switch off from work during that time as there was no separation between work and home.

There’s definitely value in the flexibility afforded to employees post-pandemic in terms of the structure of the working week and how that supports the work-life balance.

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

Obviously it all depends on where you are in your career.

In my earlier days, I felt I was changing jobs too frequently, but I didn’t really feel fully settled at any of them, and I was always thinking about the next thing. At TWMA however, I feel very settled after being here for five years. I believe that’s down to the people, the culture, and how I’m viewed in the organisation.

Changing jobs is no small task and the grass isn’t always greener! Fortunately, I’ve had good opportunities that I’ve always grown from, but its critical to ensure you are comfortable with why you want a new job, and that you are confident you are going to get what you are looking for from your new role. Whether that is different experience, a culture change, improved work/life balance, international experience etc.

I would also say speak to your friends/colleagues/mentors to glean on their experience. Consulting with a good recruitment specialist is critical. There’s a lot of people out there who may try to oversell jobs and you really need to trust your advisors. I have worked with Andrew to secure two out of my three role changes, and his honesty and integrity are truly first class!

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

Not to worry so much and focus more on the present. Keep learning.

Look after your body, you only get one!

What do you still want to achieve?

TWMA is a private equity backed business, and the owners have been in for around five years. They will likely be keen to divest soon, and I’m very excited to go through my first sale process and see what TWMA looks like after that...and what that brings for me.

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?

Golf is my passion, skiing is a close second. I also like exercising in the gym, trying new restaurants and binging a good TV show.

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

I played ice hockey all my life, from when I was 5 years old to around 21. It’s quite a niche sport, but we travelled around Scotland, and the UK and Europe at times to play matches. I also played for the national team at various points. I loved the game, the team spirit and how it made me feel.

I remember my dad telling me to cherish those moments as they are the best days of my life – at that time I took them for granted and was desperate to start a career and carve my own path. 15 years later I often reflect and realise he was right!