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My ACA experience: Henry

The ACA qualification is attainable to all, and whilst yes, it may be difficult and stressful at times, the payoff will be worth it! Also, make sure you take time to yourself, and a great support network is always very helpful.

Henry Dense

Henry Dence Counter-Fraud and Compliance Lead, Cabinet Office

ICAEW route: Graduate

Industry: Public sector

Location: London

Henry's story

Tell us about your career journey and what you do day-to-day in your role.

My working life started at McDonald’s when I was 16, where I stayed until I was 21. I then started my career in the Civil Service straight out of University as a direct entry to HMRC, where I worked as an analyst in the Custom’s and International Trade Directorate. It was there that I realised I wanted to work in finance, and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work in the central finance team within HMRC. 

I currently work for the Cabinet Office, where I lead on counter-fraud and expense compliance. My day to day role consists of designing and implementing strategies to drive down expense non-compliance and counter-fraud within the Cabinet Office.

Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications?

There are a few reasons – having worked in Customer Compliance in HMRC for 9 months, I had a keen interest in tax, in particular overseas aspects. The ACA tax modules stood out to me, so that definitely had an impact when choosing!

I also liked that the ACA has links around the world. It is a prestigious qualification, and coupled with the right mind-set, will hopefully open doors around the world to new experiences and adventures!

Who or what inspired you to become a chartered accountant?

There are actually no links to accountancy within my family. I really like the idea of providing value to people in the most efficient way possible. So I guess my inspiration to become an accountant would be that I want to make real changes that will benefit real people!  

Why should more people consider becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant? Do you have any advice on what they can expect?

My advice would be, try it for yourself. Don’t be put off by daunting things you read on online forums/hear from other sources, as only you know if you are capable. The ACA qualification is attainable to all, and whilst yes, it may be difficult and stressful at times, the payoff will be worth it! Also, make sure you take time to yourself, and a great support network is always very helpful.

Do you think there is such a thing as a stereotypical accountant? If so, how do you challenge this stereotype?

I’m sure there probably are stereotypes (abacus etc.), however I have never actually seen one live in the flesh! I’d say I challenge that stereotype as I am not a conventional accountant. Working in finance is much more than just putting accounts together… that, and I don’t own an abacus!

What do you enjoy about working in the public sector?

The people, I think they are really what makes any job worth doing. I have learnt a lot from colleagues, both past and present and it has really changed the way I approach situations. Aside from the people, I really enjoy the opportunities that are available, working on projects that are linked to current affairs (for example Covid-19 based projects) and applying my knowledge from studying to a professional setting.

What do you love the most about what you do? 

I love being able to bring change and improvement to processes to ensure value for money for the tax payer. I think that actually being able to make a difference to a project or a process which then leads to efficiencies, is very rewarding, and something I take great pride in doing! 

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