Charles Snailham ACMA Director of finance, London Symphony Orchestra.

Position:ONE 2 ONE - Associate Chartered Management Accountant - Interview - Cover story
 
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You don't have a background in the arts. How did you end up with the LSO?

I'd always said that I would never work in London, but when I saw the orchestra's advert in the Guardian I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. I'm not classically trained, but I sing in a barbershop group, run a village choir in Worcestershire and love music generally. I had never worked in an arts organisation before, so understanding how it functioned was a steep learning curve. But being able to hear the orchestra perform is fantastic. The first concert that I attended after joining the team was Mstislav Rostropovich playing the cello. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

What in turn made you such an attractive proposition to the orchestra?

I'd accumulated a lot of experience working in a wide range of organisations that were all similar in size to the LSO. I'd worked as both chief accountant and company secretary, dealing with the daily problems that small to medium-sized companies face, especially cash control. Even when I'd worked for blue-chip companies it was with their subsidiaries. But I think that running my own choir helped to make my CV stand out from the rest.

In late 2005 several major UK orchestras were suddenly faced with huge backdated demands for increased national insurance contributions on behalf of their freelance musicians. If the LSO is forced to pay its tax bill--reportedly 9m [pounds sterling]--in full, it could force the orchestra to close.

Negotiations are under way with HM Revenue & Customs, but I'm not in a position to say anything further at this stage.

What are the main tasks of the FD of a symphony orchestra?

My basic working pattern is little different from how it would be in a commercial company: in essence, the usual budgets, forecasts, cash control and monthly reports have to be done. But the LSO is also a charity and the way the organisation functions is very different, especially when it comes to funding. We have to work with a relatively fixed income, receiving core funding from the Arts Council and the Corporation of London. The Arts Council plans ahead on a three-year cycle, so we have quite a lot of scope for planning our future finances.

But you also raise around half of your annual turnover of 11m [pounds sterling] via sponsorship, ticket sales and commercial engagements.

The LSO operates as a single symphony orchestra. Other orchestras split themselves into two sometimes, but our mission is to maintain...

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