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Accounting knowledge helps with C-suite ambitions

by Stacee Smith
International business has long been the main pillar of Bermuda’s economy. But what is best pathway to take for those aiming to work in the sector?

Many believe that a grounding in accounting can lay the foundation for a C-suite career. Roland “Andy” Burrows, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, and Laura Taylor, president and chief financial officer of Nephila Capital, explain why.

At the BDA Mr Burrows supports the social development and economic growth of Bermuda by working to create direct investment into the island. He enjoys this role, which also allows him to work with a committed team of executives who cover all pillars of the economy, and interact with both local and international investors and business executives.

Mr Burrows previously served as chief investment officer at the Bermuda Tourism Authority for four years, for ten years before that he worked in senior roles at HSBC, including head of Commercial Banking and chief credit officer. He attributes much of his success to the foundation he received as a result of his bachelor’s degree in accounting at Georgia State University.

“While I never qualified as an accountant, my accounting degree was a solid base for my career as a banker and an investment professional,” Mr Burrows said. “The ability to understand, review and analyse projects, business plans and investment proposals was made easier due to my degree.

“Being able to analyse the pros and cons of strategic plans, especially the costs and benefits,” was a valuable asset, he said. “Every decision has financial consequences and being able to understand the consequences upfront is critical to success. C-suiters are making decisions every day that are based on financial capabilities, so being financially astute is a must.”

Mr Burrows believes “accounting is a solid base for any career as it touches almost all disciplines. I would encourage anyone to consider accounting as it will be useful in both your personal and professional life.”

Reflecting on her career, Ms Taylor, who runs the portfolio management group at Nephila Capital, said: “What motivates me is doing things that not only have I not done before, but things that I haven’t seen done before – whether it’s inefficiencies in the market or internal inefficiencies.”

She joined the company 15 years ago as chief operations officer, and went on to develop Nephila’s compliance programme and insurance strategy, followed by a period running their technology group.

Upon receiving a bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Victoria and obtaining the Canadian Chartered Accountant and US Certified Public Accountant designations, Ms Talyor spent four years working with KPMG’s Alternative Investments and Banking group, while also obtaining her Certified Financial Analyst qualification.

Both her background in accounting and auditing have assisted her greatly throughout her career. “With audit you get exposure to a variety of different businesses and see how they operate, and even at a very junior level you have the opportunity to speak with people at all levels of the organisation. At a very young age I was able to sit in the room of the CEO, CFO or other C-suite officers, and learn about their business strategy.”

Ms Taylor added: “If you can read financial statements and understand financial statement notes, it gives you great insight into the workings of a company.”

For those interested in following a similar career path Ms Taylor said: “I didn’t focus on achieving certain titles or climbing a ladder of any kind, I just focused on: ‘Where could I learn the most? Where could I help the company grow the most? And where could I add the most value?’ So I think if you focus on that you’ll be successful in whatever career you pick.”

She added: “Follow your intuition, go with your gut. If you’re looking outside yourself for too much guidance you can end up misaligned with your greatest interests and talents.”

This article was originally featured in the TOP TEN 2019 edition of the RG Business Magazine.

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