Empowering and Encouraging Women Into Finance
An interview with Archna Tharani who runs accountancy practice, Oculus Accountancy and has also recently launched a training programme called Your Own Practice which trains and mentors accountants to set up in practice.
How did you get into this? Did you attend university, and/or fall straight into a role or was it a more roundabout journey?
I studied Maths at university as I really enjoyed working with numbers. After university, I was very pleased to secure a training contract with KPMG, where I gained my Chartered Accountancy Qualification. I left soon after I qualified and joined the finance department of RVC, the manager of Reuters Greenhouse Fund. I gained a lot of experience of the venture capital industry and managing a finance function as I was promoted to Head of Finance in that role.
I took a career break to have my children and when I was ready to come back to work I started looking at different career choices. I wasn’t keen to go back to a corporate accountancy role as I was worried about long hours and not having the flexibility. I explored changing careers and researched other professions such as teaching but I always had a desire to run my own business. I did have a lot of ideas such as running a café or a nursery but none of them seemed financially viable and exciting enough for me. Also, I didn’t want to just give up on all the skills and experience I had gained in the financial industry but how could I combine that with flexibility and financial reward.
I reached out to an old contact of mine who had been running her accountancy practice for 18 years. We met for a coffee and in about an hour I realised a potential opportunity to buy her practice as she was looking to retire. This was now ticking a lot of boxes, I would be running my own business so have the flexibility, I would be using all my skills and knowledge and it was already a profitable business. After about 6 months of research, due diligence and legals we signed on the dotted line and I was the owner of what is now Oculus Accountancy.
In the first year of operation, I made big changes to the business. I converted the whole practice to using “cloud software”, recruited a new team, streamlined all the systems and processes to become a paperless practice. All of which then led us to win “Cloud accounting firm of the year”. I am now a speaker at conferences and events and also a consultant in helping other practices convert to the “cloud”.
Can you explain what a typical day for you would be?
I commute into London most days but have the flexibility to work from home. I look at all the deadlines for all the clients and I catch up with the team. I review any work that has to be sent out such as accounts, VAT returns, management information or reports. I usually have either client calls or meetings about their business. I may have new client meeting to pitch for new business. There is always some practice management tasks to complete such as billing and looking at work in progress, performance reviews, new client quotes etc.
What’s your experience from a woman’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?
Yes, it is a very good job for a woman as if set up correctly using all the latest technology you can work from anywhere so can offer flexibility. It requires good management skills to both manage the reporting deadlines and the all the client commitments. Also as the profession is still dominated by males, being a woman really helps to make you stand out and sets you apart.
What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession?
Although it is a very technical profession, you can use the technical skills to really add value to businesses and the profession is held in high regard. It offers variety, flexibility and real challenge at time which can be very rewarding. You really can choose what type of work and how much you want to do whether that’s working from your kitchen table or world domination!
What’s your best financial advice for any woman?
Manage your finances and build up your own savings. Keep your independence with money and plan your spending. Gain knowledge around the most tax efficient savings and investments and make use of all the allowances available.