Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

Case Study: Matt

Matt Jones
External Financial Management Lead , HM Revenue and Customs

“Through CIPFA I have the knowledge and expertise to understand and concisely communicate complex financial information to senior leaders, as well as an appreciation of the bigger picture and potential viewpoints of those outside the finance profession.”

Which aspects/modules of your course have you enjoyed the most?

Why did you pursue a career in public finance and accountancy?

I particularly enjoyed studying the Governance, Public Policy & Ethics module, engaging in debate around public policy and the impact for public finance professionals. I also enjoyed learning about investment appraisal techniques, which are often so vital when deciding how to utilise a very limited pot of public sector money.

I’ll admit, becoming an accountant was not my career plan. I worked in a finance role for Somerset County Council after I graduated from university and found I enjoyed the work and the challenge.

The work done in public services is hugely important to everyone’s lives, which makes it a very challenging and highly rewarding career. Being able to be a part ensuring the best use of taxpayers’ money was hugely appealing to me. I also wanted to maintain a work life balance, whilst developing myself in a rewarding job – I didn’t want to work to make money for a corporate entity.

Full case study

How was your study route funded?

I joined the Home Office on the Civil Service Financial Management Development Scheme (now the Civil Service Finance Fast Stream), a programme training graduates who will become the future finance leaders in the Civil Service. The scheme offered a wide variety of job placements alongside funding study towards a professional accountancy qualification.

After nearly two and a half years in the Home Office, I was successful in being promoted to a permanent role in HM Revenue & Customs, which I started as I sat my final Diploma level exams. As part of the transfer, HMRC agreed to fund my strategic level studies.

Which entry route did you take to study the CIPFA Professional Qualification?

I studied Maths at university, so when I joined the Financial Management Development Scheme (FMDS) I took CIPFA’s graduate entry route. Having two years’ experience working for a county council before joining the Home Office and starting my CIPFA studies helped give me a wider view across the public sector, but it was not a level of experience to take any other entry route.

Why did you choose the CIPFA qualification compared with other training providers?

My primary ambition was to work in the public sector. When I came to choose my qualification, I wanted one which would help me in my job and which gave a breadth of learning. From the perspective of accountancy content, there didn’t appear to be much between the main qualifications and CIPFA ensured that I would study how finance works in various areas within the public sector.

What does your job comprise?

I lead a team at the heart of HMRC’s financial management. My team report on the department’s financial position to HM Treasury, work with HM Treasury and other government departments on funding issues and provide financial management information to Cabinet Office. There is no such thing as a typical day – a lot of my work stems from the changing political and financial climate. In the last six months I have helped deliver an Autumn Statement, two budgets and we are just entering a Spending Review. It’s varied work which is very challenging but highly rewarding.

Would you recommend the CIPFA Professional Qualification to other students? If so, please explain why?

It depends on the role. From an accounting perspective, from what I’ve seen of the unique nature and intricacies of local government finance, specialist study would be very helpful – and for local government CIPFA offers this. From a broader public finance perspective, CIPFA covers a wide range of current issues and that does help obtain the wider skill set needed to advance within the public sector.

How does the training and knowledge you have gained help you in your day-to-day tasks and long-term?

Part of my role is taking complex financial information and presenting it in a concise and accessible way to non-finance colleagues, including senior leaders. Through CIPFA I have the knowledge and expertise to understand and communicate such information, as well as an appreciation of the bigger picture and potential viewpoints of those outside the finance profession, which allows me to tailor my messages.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I’ve recently achieved a second promotion at HMRC to a grade where most staff have several years of post-qualification experience. I’ve also just passed my strategic level exams, so in the next few years I will be consolidating and expanding my skills at this level. I can see myself staying at HMRC for the foreseeable future, gaining experience in a variety of roles and doing my part to help realise the organisation’s long term vision. Looking further ahead, I’ll take things as they go but would be interested in working in other government departments, with a view to becoming a Finance Director one day.