Billy North Financial Controller
ICAEW route: Graduate
Industry: Financial Decisions and Analysis, Audit and assurance
Location: United Kingdom
Heading into University I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, my passion has always been sport and I have always been good with numbers so I chose to study Maths and Sports Science at Loughborough University. I then attained a year-long industrial placement in the Finance team at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) after my second year. This was a great introduction to working life and taught me a lot about myself and the direction I wanted my career to take. Upon graduating, I returned to HPP and have worked as a Financial Controller within the Formula One team for the past three years, during this time I completed the ACA course.
Winning 7 consecutive world championships requires the whole workforce to operate efficiently and fluidly so it’s very rare to have two days that are the same. My role involves working with stakeholders across departments, such as programme management and engineering, to ensure the Power Unit development budgets are maximised in order to bring more pace at the track. Our team plan budgets, analyse spend and report to the senior management team which provides a nicely balanced and varied workload.
Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications?
When researching professional qualifications, the ACA appeared to be the benchmark for finance professionals and provides a well-rounded syllabus that I felt would benefit me during my career. The technical knowledge drawn from exams has given me a deeper understanding of the impact of my work as an accountant and the professional development section of the qualification provided a great opportunity to regularly reflect on the work that I was doing and stretch my role to cover technical points which I otherwise may not have had the exposure too.
Who or what inspired you to become a chartered accountant?
I thoroughly enjoyed my placement year at HPP and this confirmed that I wanted to pursue a career within management accounting. In order to progress within my career, I decided to study and become a chartered accountant.
Do you think there is such a thing as a stereotypical accountant? If so, how do you challenge this stereotype?
Yes, I think there is a strong stereotype of accountants. However, I am yet to meet an accountant who fits such description. The times of accountant’s quietly crunching numbers seem to be over and from my experience the role of a modern accountant is much more than that. Linking business functions and providing clear summaries to management are core competencies. We have a relatively young team at HPP and innovation is the cornerstone of our company, this translates to finance so coming up with new ideas and process improvements is also of particular focus. These tasks go beyond the role of the stereotypical accountant and create a very interesting and diverse job role.
What advise would you give to aspiring accountants?
I’d definitely advise anyone, aspiring to be anything, to try and gain as much work experience as early as possible. Whether this is through volunteering or internships, I think the experience I have gained was invaluable. Throughout school, I wanted to study medicine, until I spent two weeks working in a hospital which completely turned the tables. Equally, I had never really considered accountancy as a profession until I began networking at university, perhaps as this challenged the stereotypes discussed previously, but the experience I gained during my internship at HPP confirmed that accountancy was definitely the route for me to take. Other than helping you to realise what you want to do in life, the experiences gained will inevitably make you more employable in the future.
Another piece of advice I would give is to speak to people within the profession, accountancy is such a broad field that every accountant will carry out a slightly different role. Connecting with people on LinkedIn or attending networking events will help you to discover which part of accounting you would like to specialise in and may also raise awareness of roles you had never associated with accounting.
What do you love the most about what you do and why?
My role has given me the opportunity to link sport with numbers, two of my passions. Due to the pace of F1, every day is different as the workload evolves based on results from the last race and challenges of the next. This means I am constantly working at a fast rate and there is no room for errors which keeps me on my toes and I find these challenges very motivating. Additionally, working in an environment where the whole team is pulling towards one common goal of winning world championships makes HPP a very special place and seeing tangible results of the work we do during race weekends is very satisfying.