BSc Accounting and Finance - Saskia Stott
Years at UEA
2014-2017 (graduated 2014)
Saskia Stott is a UEA BSc Accounting and Finance graduate who now works as a Chartered Financial Accountant, with Ford Credit.
She speaks about the depth of knowledge she learned on the course, how she used CareerCentral, and her interests in business.
Could you talk to us about your current role?
I currently work for a company called Ford Credit Europe, which is an auto finance bank for Ford Motor Company.
A lot of people have heard of Ford Motor Company but not a lot of people have heard of Ford credit, but it's the financial arm of Ford Motor Company. So, instead of the product being cars, the product is finance loans.
I currently work in the Treasury Department, as a funding and liquidity analyst. I have worked at the company now for four years and I've spent most of my time in the Treasury Department doing cash management, liquidity and funding. It's been really, really interesting and quite different from a typical accountant’s path, so it's not your typical auditing and insurance route.
We are a bank so it's a lot of regulation and adhering to minimum requirements that the PRA set, which is the UK regulator. It's very controlled and there's a lot of reading of regulation, interpreting rules, which accountants do with the accounting standards in a similar way. I'm doing a lot of that with the regulation, so there's still that aspect to it.
I basically manage the debt on the balance sheet. I ensure that we have enough funding from the right sources. That give us flexibility to ensure that we can provide financing to customers.
It can be very fast paced and pressurized sometimes, but I'm the type of person that really thrives off of that. It's really strategic. You can come in one day and have to think a different way than you thought yesterday, so it keeps you excited.
What drew you to the BSc Accounting and Finance at UEA?
Initially what drew me to UEA was the fact that it was a campus university and I really liked the idea of everything being all in one place.
I also really liked the idea of going into the Business School and having a common first year.
I actually joined as an Accounting and Management degree class and then I decided I really liked the Accounting and Finance side, so I switched over in year two.
That really paid off. I knew that I hadn’t done too much accounting before and you don't really touch on it too much at school, so I didn't want to make the wrong decision. I think that really attracted me to the course, that you've still got that option to switch once you've given everything a fair shot.
What was your favourite thing about the course?
I think it was just how broad it was.
I came away from the Accounting and Finance degree with a broad understanding of what marketing professionals do and what operational professionals do, and a really in-depth understanding of what accountants and finance professionals do.
When I went into this sort of job, I already understood the different areas, so I think my favourite thing was just getting a bit of a taster for everything, and it really sets you up for business.
Were there any particular skills that you learned on the course that you've used throughout your career?
One of the main things is report writing.
I did so many reports at university and I was introduced to the style of how you pull together a report, appendices, the layout of a contents’ page, all of those things.
When you're at school, you're taught to write in essay format, and that's obviously a really useful skill, but it wasn't until I came to university that I really understood the report format and how to present data as well. The degree set me up quite nicely for going into the real world where a lot of your job is writing reports and or at least inputting into larger reports.
Did you use any services at UEA to help you think about your career?
I did use CareerCentral quite a lot.
One of the key things that sticks in my mind with CareerCentral was a mock assessment day that I went on. A couple of people came in from one of the Big Four companies.
This must mock assessment day gives you a taster of what would happen and what kind of the typical activities would be. I was totally unaware of what they would be if I hadn't have really gone on that.
I would have been a total fish out of water on my first assessment day and I wouldn't have known what to expect, so that was really helpful.
I actually was sent the job for Ford Credit through CareerCentral. In my second year, they sent out internships so I received all of those, and in my third year they sent out graduate schemes that they thought would be applicable to the Business School students. I ended up applying for Ford Credit and that's the graduate job that I got and the company I work for today.
Did you have any particular career aspirations as you prepared to graduate UEA?
I really wanted to work for the Big Four.
I'd done a summer internship in a small accountancy practice, and I'd actually gone for summer internships at the Big Four, and but I hadn't had enough assessment day experience to be successful.
I ended up doing a work experience between my second year and my third year at a small accountancy practice. I realized that practice accountancy wasn't really for me and that I enjoyed the finance side of things a bit more and I wanted to go and work in industry.
I went back into third year knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be on a finance scheme where I could try a little bit of everything – do a little bit of accountancy and do a little bit of treasury and do a little bit of analysis. I was really looking for something that offered that and Ford Credit offered exactly that.
At that point, I had done a lot of assessment centres, so I was really prepared. I ended up actually getting the job offer by Christmas, so having something lined up before when I finished in July was really good because it took the pressure off of the exam period. I had split up getting the job between September and December and then focusing on exams through the rest of the academic year, so that really helped.
What’s your favourite thing about your current role?
I really like the strategy.
I think there's a lot of autonomy to make your own decisions and my work in forecasting as well, so I'm always looking forward years out and making assumptions on what's going to happen in a few years’ time, so it's really great in that you're not just following a rule book all the time, and there is some flexibility in what you can do.
That for me comes with a lot of satisfaction, in knowing that my ideas are being listened to and I'm really making an impact on how the business is run going forward.
Job satisfaction that comes with that.
Can you see yourself staying in this role or exploring new opportunities?
Probably the latter.
As I work my way through this role, I'm starting to realize that there's gaps in my knowledge from different areas in the business and I would like to give them a go to get that bigger picture.
You're always learning when you're excited about what you're doing because you're always thinking about the next thing. I think I would like to move on and try something different just to keep the keep the brain sharpened and to progress in the future and have a broad understanding of finances as a whole.
Especially in the early years of your career when you are movable, when you're doing rotations and maybe 18 months in a job, it's great to try all of the things. You might not like all of them, but at least you're not stuck in something as you've progressed and specialized in something that you don't really love and enjoy.
Any words of advice for prospective Accounting and Finance students?
Doing an Accounting and Finance degree, if you want to have a career in finance, puts you in really good position.
I found especially against my peers that had a lot of knowledge on economics or business, they had to start from the bottom with the professional qualification. I was lucky to have a lot of exemptions from my degree and actually flowed into it quite nicely because I had that background knowledge that Accounting and Finance has given me, and it's quite a broad course.
You do pick up on different areas, so nothing felt really brand new to me when I was doing that process. I would say if you if you want a career in finance and you want to become a chartered accountant, it's definitely worth doing an Accounting and Finance degree because you're going to put yourself in a really good position for when you graduate.
If you could do it all again, would you do anything differently?
I don't think I would, apart from getting more involved in societies and actually probably just different roles within the university - just sort of student roles that you can get involved in.
Maybe some sort of finance base or somewhere that you can practice those leadership skills and being in a professional environment.
I just was really focused on my degree, but I think that there is a lot more you can get out of being in university in those sorts of positions, so I probably would have given those a shot.
I joined a couple of societies – I think the Women in Business and the Business society – but again, I didn't really get too involved and I think that's probably one of my biggest regrets. Not getting a bit more involved, especially in the Women in Business and side of things.