Terry is a successful Finance Analyst in a Top 30 Law Firm. Ambition caught up with him to gain an insight into how he has progressed his career to date and what advice he would give anyone considering a career in this field.
How did you get into Finance?
Maths was always one of my strongest subjects at school and my grandad was an accountant. I did my work experience alongside my grandad in the accounts department of a small curtain & blinds firm. I really enjoyed the experience and felt I could progress in this area. I never looked back and when I applied for my first job, having some idea of what I wanted to do rather than a very broad outlook, really helped me.
Tell us about how your career has developed to date?
I am currently a Financial Analyst/Business Manager for a c.£100m revenue law firm that operates in 4 offices. The first company I worked for was a much larger firm in the legal industry and I was lucky enough to work across different areas of Finance due to building some strong internal relationships.
Having those strong relationships and being very willing and determined (e.g. studying in my own time) meant that people enjoyed working with me. I moved from the Cashiers team to a Junior Analyst role and really enjoyed that area of Finance and with lots of room for progression have decided to stay put in this space (for now at least).
What does your current role involve?
As a Financial Analyst, I share Key Performance Indicator reports with the relevant personnel and assist them in driving the correct conversations with people and pointing out reasons behind these stats.
I also offer a lot of support on the Pricing front; so assisting Partners and others with ensuring we remain as profitable as possible whilst ensuring we are still competitive against our competitors. As a team we deal with lots of Adhoc requests from the business, providing analysis and information about just about anything relating to Finance! On the Business Manager side, it involves a lot of support between the fee earning Division and the Finance department, acting as a link between the two and ensuring the information from Finance is consistent.
There is a large focus on Management Accounts and assisting Partners in understanding their financials and how they can be improved as well as reporting against budgets and re-forecasting to ensure constant challenging yet achievable targets.
What do you like most about your role and what are the key skills needed to be successful as a Commercial Analyst/Business Manager?
I like that there is the potential to make a real difference to the company. For example, on the Pricing front, it could be down to a conversation that I have had with a Partner that makes a particular client profitable for the firm. In addition to that, every day is different. No-one can predict what we will be working on tomorrow which makes the role interesting.
One of the main skills needed are strong communication skills. Being able to gather the information is one thing but sharing it in the correct manner is just as (if not more) important. I would also say a proactive approach is a key skill. Being able to identify something that somebody else is likely to want to know more about and providing them with the information either before they ask or just being armed with it is something that goes a long way.
How do you see commercial roles developing further in the legal sector?
There is a large focus on commercial roles in the legal sector so I certainly see this as an area that will continue to grow. I think people are understanding the value of having people in these roles and how they can really contribute to the business.
I see them becoming a lot more about face-to-face interaction rather than just producing a lot of reports, actually adding value to the reports and influencing the business. As the industry and the majority of firms move closer to self-serve reporting portals, there is less of a need for "Standard Reporting" and more of a need for value add from a Finance perspective.
What advice would you give anyone looking to progress their finance career?
I would advise people to really take on board the experience that others have gained in the industry and to learn from it. When I moved from my first firm to my current firm, I took with me lots of ideas and knowledge and that really helped me stand out and make a good impression in my new firm.
Feedback plays a big part and it is important to receive feedback the right way - if there is a better way you can do things, be grateful to people for pointing it out and helping you rather than being a bit reluctant or stubborn.