After graduating from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, you trained as an accountant in 1983. What attracted you to the profession?
I loved the idea of learning transferable skills, working across all jurisdictions and getting involved in any business that had money as part of its way of existing, growing and contributing to the economy.
As an example of the transferable skills you pick up as a professional accountant in business, here at Sky the finance team's development programme reflects the variety of the group's businesses and the possibility that all members of the department will rotate through different jobs so that they can become the best business partners.
You went on to work in the finance teams of big companies including British Telecom, the NCR Corporation, Reuters, Associated Newspapers and British Gas. Did they differ greatly in their approaches to accounting?
I found the varying levels of automation fascinating. My work required me to delve ever deeper into the management information available and become more organised in how I followed transactions through, while maintaining a strategic view of the business concerned.
In each case the magic for me was how financial and management accounting information provided a window on to a company's inner workings. It was easy to obtain standard information and then, using my accounting skills, see multiple pictures from that data. This gave me a real insight into the effects that certain activities had on different parts of a company and enabled me to make sense of corporate activity.
The role of finance here at Sky has been described by our chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, as shining the spotlight of truth on the business. The finance team is focused on supporting great decisions by providing clear insights quickly. It's exciting that this is reflected in the CIMA graduate programme we have in place, which broadens the participants' range of experience and makes them more rounded finance professionals. In the first year all trainees are placed in the accounting shared-service team in order to develop their core accounting expertise. As they progress through their training they are rotated through various roles, taking on duties that match their development needs with those of the business and CIMA's syllabus content. This teaches them skills that are highly relevant to the business.
You then moved into arbitration, qualifying as a lawyer. What...