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My ACA experience: Laura

Laura was able to apply the skills gained in astrophysics research to studying the ACA qualification. It was during her training that Laura realised she liked working on charity accounts and helping a business adapt and ensure sustainability. Her current position at Belu Water combines exciting numbers and profit margins with a charitable end result.

Laura de Poiitiers, Finance Manager at Belu Water

Laura de Poitiers Finance Manager, Belu Water Ltd

ICAEW route: Non-finance degree

Industry: Social enterprise

Location: UK, London

Laura's story...

Once I realised I didn’t want to go into astrophysics research I realised my skillset may not exactly fit any prospective employer’s requirements.

I thought the most sensible thing to do would be to get a professional qualification and my background in numbers, data analysis and problem solving made accountancy a good choice. I chose the ACA as it was the highest regarded of the accountancy qualifications.

I started working at a small five-partner firm as an audit trainee. As part of this role I got to work with loads of different clients and realised that the bits I loved best were the bits where I had to talk to the client and understand their business, going concern and how they were going to adapt to change and ensure sustainability.

I also loved working on charity accounts and seeing how the money they raised could do good. Therefore I decided to I wanted to go into a small business (so I could have a real impact and not be a small cog in a machine) or a charity (where I thought my work would make a difference).

Finding that something called ‘social enterprise’ existed that was a perfect hybrid of both was the cherry on the cake.

Belu was the perfect blend of profit making company with margins and lots of exciting numbers and yet the end result is a charitable one that makes all the number crunching really mean something. The fact that it is a carbon-neutral company that is constantly innovating to reduce its environmental footprint was just amazing.

We are an eight-person team meaning I regularly get asked for input in every area of the business.

I can find myself doing everything from calculating margins on a prospective new customer to dealing with the contracts for a new project, assessing the financial impact of a change in our logistics or pricing or creating an update for the board on financials. Obviously I can’t forget monthly management accounts, full- and half-year budgets and the yearly audit!

I started at Belu four years ago, and I am now the Finance Manager and Company Secretary, as well as administer the Belu Foundation.

I have also taken on a committee member position with the ICAEW’s Faculty of Business and Management and become the treasurer of a small arts charity in South London.

The best part of my job is seeing the work I do have a real impact on the profits we can make, the carbon savings we can deliver and the transformations these actions can effect on the world and its inhabitants.

To date we’ve given £1.5m to our charity partner WaterAid which has transformed the lives of over 100,000 people in the world’s poorest communities by providing access to clean water and sanitation.

I’ve had two real highlights so far in my career. The first was applying for and winning the Finance for the Future Award.

That pitch was one of the scariest things I’ve done and I loved every minute, because it turns out, standing up in front of people and talking is so much less scary when you’re talking about something you really care about.

The second, was when our Financial Direct said at one of our events that his biggest achievement at Belu was hiring me. It’s a total lie, but I’ve never forgotten it.

Completing the ACA developed my key accounting knowledge, which allows me to create and manage our accounts, but also the ability to take and manipulate data, problem solving and the desire to ask questions and not take things at face value.

In five years’ time I want to be at Belu. It’ll be huge by then and we’ll have transformed even more lives. We are all working towards giving £1m a year to WaterAid by 2020 and even further afield we’re working towards eradicating water poverty by 2030.

I’m one of those irritating people who has found the job they love and want to stay in forever. My career plans are focused on learning, growing my skillset and training my fantastic assistant, Roksana, so that we can be the best finance department we can be and help Belu achieve its goals.

Wouldn’t it be great if the bottled water market was entirely carbon neutral and gave all its profits away?

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