Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with Becky Hellard of Liverpool City Council
Becky works for Liverpool City Council as their Director of Finance and Resources. “That means that I have responsibility for a tranche of services including Finance, Council tax collection, Business Rates Collection, payment of benefits, payroll, procurement, legal services, committee services, registrars, coroners, transport & fleet, overall budget setting and medium term financial planning, investments and borrowings. I also have a corporate role as I am one of the Directors of the organisation. This is in the context of an Elected Mayor and 89 councillors and the recently signed devolution deal with central government. I have worked for Liverpool for 3 ½ years. I have recently been awarded CIPFA (public sector accountancy qualification) based upon my national work in public sector accounts.
Becky, how did you get into this. Did you train straight out of school/Uni or was it a more roundabout journey?
I decided that I wanted to be an accountant when I was 13! I loved mental arithmetic and my Uncle was an accountant and he was a strong role model in my life. To this end I went from school to University and studied Economics – I didn’t want to do Accountancy as it would have been too much of the same. I then went to work for Coopers & Lybrand (PwC as they are now) and qualified with them, but focussed on public sector – Police, Health, FE and local government. It was excellent training and very fast pace, but stood me in good stead to jump ship to one of our clients – Breckland Council. I joined as a Technical Accountant and worked my way up to Head of Finance, Head of Finance and Performance and then Director of Finance. I then progressed to Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Executive – over a 10 year period. So I left the finance world for 4 years into general management. I trained for ACCA while I worked for Coopers & Lybrand, in my own time, with refresher course before exams.
I have always taken the management of my career seriously and having taken advice decided I wanted to move up from 2 tier (County and District) councils to single tier Metropolitan Councils – I aimed for the largest that was advertising – Bradford Met – which is the 4th largest and was recruited as their Director of Corporate Services, 3 years later I took on their Customer Services Directorate as well – covering Finance, Legal, HR, Call Centres, ICT, Council Tax, Business Rates and Benefits.
I was with Bradford Met for 6 years, before moving to Liverpool.
Can you explain what a typical day for you might be?
Gosh there isn’t a typical day and that’s great – I know that what’s in my diary isn’t what’s going to happen. As well as running services, clearly a significant part of my day is taken up with driving forward regeneration deals, policy setting in a political environment and supporting inward investment into the city. I am an early starter.
What’s your experience from a women’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?
It’s an amazing career with boundless opportunities – very little maths involved! Lots of ideas shaping and making a difference to people’s lives. People skills are so much more important than accounting theory – it opens doors to so many worlds – the world really is your oyster.
What’s your best financial advice for any woman?
Get your career going early – be financially independent – be the very best that you can be – seek out people to help you – take your own limits off yourself