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Newly Qualified Accountants

An interview with Grant Fraser

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Grant Fraser, EMEA Regional Finance Director, Honeywell

 

Career to date:

I completed my CA training at a small firm in Edinburgh before moving to KPMG in Guernsey, specialising in Financial Services Audit and Assurance. I then moved in to industry with Thus plc as Group Corporate Accountant, before taking up a Group

Financial Controller role with Incline, a VC-backed business in the electronics industry.

From there I moved to CIGNA International, a large US-owned global health insurance service provider where I progressed to be Head of European Accounting, before moving to Honeywell as Finance Director for their Automation and Control Solutions division.

I am now the EMEA Regional Finance Director, having responsibility over all 4 Honeywell divisions, covering revenue of $2.5bn across multiple locations.

 

Why did you think you would suit a career within finance?

Having strong numeracy skills is the starting point, but adding a logical mind as well as an interest in business made my choice fairly easy (although I did have 1 of 12 places in the country to study Forensic Medicine as I also enjoyed science – so I do sometimes wonder what might have been!)

I followed the traditional degree route of the BAcc at the University of Glasgow before making some good job choices after that which have helped me get to where I am now in my career. 

 

What attracted you to a career in finance?

Finance is at the core of any business and is key to any decision-making process.
It is a function critical to the success of a business, and is of great importance no matter what stage of its life a business is at, or how it is performing. The finance function is as important to a struggling business as it is to a successful one – it is a case of adapting your skills to suit the situation.

Also the variety of roles finance offers is unique - you will not find any two Finance Directors doing the same job.  

 

What do you enjoy about your current role?

Without doubt the variety – from acquisition work to statutory accounts, the full spectrum is covered. No day is the same which can have its advantages and disadvantages

Honeywell is currently undergoing major transformation and transition projects, creating a global Finance Operating Model, leveraging global finance centres in India – being at the forefront of these major projects as the pilot region is really interesting, and challenging, as I have the ability to help with the design and future roll-out of the model across other countries.

The business is also going through a major acquisition drive, and has recently acquired a $5bn company in  a new sector, so the integration at the front-end and in the back-office functions will be key to its success for Honeywell.

 

We find some of our newly qualified candidates are put off by Global organisations and don’t want “to be a small cog in a big wheel”.  How would you counter this?

The main advantage of global organizations is that they can offer you many opportunities so you can sample different areas of the organization, in different locations across the globe.

With business functions you can experience more operational roles, or with corporate functions, you can look to diversify into areas such as Treasury and Tax.

This is a great way of helping you build up your experience before looking for your next role as you want to be able to tick off as many boxes as you can without having to change company every couple of years to do so.

 

What attributes do you feel makes you successful in your current role?

Communication skills, understanding the business and people management are all key attributes.
When you are dealing with numerous stakeholders, some non-finance, it is critical that you are able to communicate clearly and concisely to them, ensuring that your message is being understood. Often employees are not aware of the financial impact that their decisions are having on the business so this must be understood across the organization.

If you understand your business, then it makes it much easier to make a positive impact when it comes to decision-making. Asking the right questions will help, and you should still be asking questions no matter what stage you are at in your career.

Being flexible and able to adapt quickly to an ever-changing environment is important in finance. Companies are constantly evolving as they adapt to the market forces so you cannot stand still.

Recognising the contribution of your team is important, so share as much as you can with them and ensure that they are on the same page as you. The cliché is so true – “you are only as good as your team”.  

 

What advice would you give someone who was considering a career in finance?

Always be ready and willing to learn.

Don’t be afraid to make lateral career moves – this is a great way to enhance your experience.
And lastly, go for it – it’s not by chance that many of the global CEOs started off life in Finance. It gives you great exposure to the business and helps you understand the drivers behind it, and you will be building a great career in the process.

 

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