OK, there's red tape, but the job's never dull

Public-sector finance: Paul Gosling meets two accountants who gave up their private lives

Many of the job vacancies for accountants are in the public services, responding to the need for more dynamic financial managers in a newly commercialised world. Yet some private-sector accountants are reluctant to make the leap for fear that they will be resented, and find the differences too great. Such worries are needless according to those who have already made the journey.

Nick Wright is finance and administrative director of the Construction Industry Training Board, having been recruited by NB Selection from the private sector. "I was working for an insurance company that was very entrepreneurial, that had become very big - the insurer I was working for having been taken over by a very large organisation, which put me out of a job.

"I had previously spent three years at Girobank when it was in the public sector, but had looked for more rapidity and flexibility in decision-making.

"I had never heard of the CITB before the job materialised, and I found it a very different environment. I joined at a period of intense change. People with private-sector experience are now rather prized and valued. This has enabled me to move in various ways which someone from a public- sector background would not have been able to do. It is rewarding that there is this open welcome for the skills brought in, and a recognition that they are not already there."

While Mr Wright feels very positive about his experience, which has helped to transform the management of the CITB, he does feel frustrated at what can sometimes be a cumbersome decision-making process. "There is a degree of slowness and bureaucracy at the highest level, with accountability to an outside board, people from the private sector of the construction industry, and there is a lot of bureaucracy and writing of papers and formalising things through committees.

"When there was frustration, I took it up with the chairman, and he sorted it out, though there was still an element in the office of `Has it been to committee?'.

Mr Wright believes that his influence on the organisation has been well received, and has helped the CITB to operate more effectively.

Molly Bickerstaff is the director of purchasing and quality control at the Audit Commission, having previously worked as an auditor for Coopers and Lybrand. She found that on arrival she was distrusted by the people she was regulating, the district auditors - some of whom are employed by private firms, but most of whom work in the public-sector body, District Audit. She also found herself ensuring that auditors in the public sector were not permitted to do the things that she, as a private-sector auditor, had found completely natural.

"We forbid any of our auditors from doing internal audits. I used to do that, and I would have said, `Why not?'. We also ban auditors doing non-audit work, which is a euphemism for consultancy, which might cause a conflict of interest, or perhaps just be seen as a conflict of interest." These things matter a lot more in the public sector, she says.

"District Audit is our majority supplier. To a person they were horrified that I was coming in to do this job of quality control over them. It was a very imaginative decision to employ me from the private sector. District Audit has this culture of being feared and of always being right. They have got more human now."

Ms Bickerstaff recognises that coming in from a different culture can heighten existing conflicts. "Whoever does quality control is going to be hated, but it's not personal," she says. Only about 5 per cent of Audit Commission staff have worked in commerce, she estimates, and, consequently, she is often consulted to give "a private-sector view" of problems. But she adds, "I was impressed by the quality of people at the Commission."

Some assumptions of public-sector life turned out to be false, while others were accurate. "It's just as hard work, though it is true that more people go home by 5 o'clock," says Ms Bickerstaff. "It's a shifting population, with people on secondments, which is very healthy. I expected people to stick in their niches, like Sir Humphrey.

"People left behind in the private sector continue to have funny views. There is a big divide in perceptions. They expect the public sector to be very boring, and that is just not true."

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam