ICAEW West of England President Jon Brown
Jon Brown was elected President for 2020-21 at the AGM on 4 June. We wanted to find out a little more about Jon and his plans for the year ahead.
Tell us about your career to date
I started life with KPMG back in 1997, as a fresh faced graduate from Exeter University. I joined the Plymouth office and looking back, these were fabulous years in my life. My first audit clients were Axminster Carpets and Jersey European Airways, but I also got involved with due diligence work, tax engagements and insolvency work - which gave me a great grounding in our profession.
I actually failed my final ICAEW case study exam, and this was a humbling experience, as I had always done well with exams. I picked myself up and passed at the next attempt, but I always share this experience with trainees who are struggling - or who have just failed an exam and think their world has ended.
I moved up to Bristol with KPMG in 2000 and have worked with a variety of industries during my career to date – software companies and US GAAP during the dotcom boom, listed businesses in technology, health clubs and law firms. I spent 6 months in Pittsburgh on a large transaction which gave me insight into working with people from different cultures (It was a Japanese buyer and a US seller) and how this impacted their working styles.
I stumbled into the Public Sector when we needed a senior manager to help on the Yeovil District Hospital Audit, and I was free. I was fascinated by the NHS and how it worked and wanted to know more. We can all see how highly regarded the NHS is held in our Society, but not many of us understand the complexity of how it all works and interacts with other entities.
I went on secondment to South Western Ambulance Service as Acting Director of Finance for 6 months and this gave me great insight of what it’s like on the other side of the fence, working with a finance team and answering questions from the external and internal auditors. I loved it, and still have a Lego ambulance (my leaving gift) on my desk at work.
I now run KPMG’s Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare Practice across the South, working with Health, Housing, Education, Local Government and charities.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I live in Wells in Somerset, and have lived within 15 miles of Bristol for the past 20 years. My role at KPMG takes me all over the South and Wales – or did do before lockdown started! I did however grow up in Birmingham, went to Exeter University and stayed down here ever since.
I am married with twin daughters aged 11. They have really changed my outlook on life and help me see diversity from a different angle – If they don’t have the same opportunities in the future as the boys in their school, then that is just wrong.
What are your interests?
I like sport of all types, but my main hobby is golf, which I play every weekend with the same 3 guys who I met at the golf club. They all have different backgrounds and views on life - a plumber, a salesman and an IT guy, so I love getting their views on life and business as we walk round the golf course in all weathers.
Do you do any voluntary work?
I have always done some volunteering as I think it is part of our corporate role to give something back to society and the profession. I was a school governor for a number of years which I enjoyed immensely, and I sit on the Board of a small local housing association that supports families in rural communities. I volunteer at Glastonbury every year as a steward, which in turn helps my local school. I also help teach kids golf at the golf club, although most are now better than me.
KPMG promote their staff to volunteer and I am proud of the work we have done locally to support the One City Plan in Bristol, Business in the Community and Sponsoring of local schools, and this will be key during my presidency.
What’s your typical weekend?
My typical weekend is to pick the girls up from school on a Friday and take them swimming at their local club, relax and watch some TV of dubious quality for the rest of the evening and prepare for my Saturday morning golfing duel, 7.24 am to be precise. I play golf, and get back for lunch and the rest of the day with the girls, keeping an eye on the Aston Villa score and perhaps cooking dinner with them in the afternoon. Sunday I will normally walk around while my daughters play golf (there is a lot of golf in this typical weekend), and will also help out at the tigers lessons, then back for Sunday lunch and an afternoon of clearing emails and getting ready for the week ahead. I have also started to get into my cycling post lockdown, so I may invest in a new road bike should this continue.
What’s your favourite book?
Insights into IFRS, latest edition.
Give us an idea of your musical tastes
I like all types of music and I love walking around the Glastonbury festival late at night moving from stage to stage listening to every type of music you can imagine. But, I was a 90s music man, so Oasis and Britpop would be my genre of choice, as well as the spice girls who I saw at Ashton Gate last year!
Your involvement with ICAEW West of England
How relevant has ICAEW been to you in your career?
I knew I wanted to be a Chartered Accountant after reading careers books in 6th form about how many Boards were made up of Chartered Accountants. When I finished my degree, KPMG just seemed the right fit for me when I met people on the University milkround. KPMG has provided me with the support I have needed throughout my career – but it is easy to take this for granted and forget about those students who do their exams without the support and training of a Big 4.
Why did you join the West of England committee?
I was approached by a friend who asked if I would be interested in joining the Committee as they needed some fresh faces and they had a number of retirees. I struggled at first to understand the role and how one committee could be relevant to a broad church of accountants from Big 4 practice, to one man accountants in rural Somerset. This has become clearer over time as I have got to know more retired members, members in businesses and even tax professionals!
What persuaded you to put yourself forward as an office-holder on the committee?
I would like to say there was a long plan formed over a number of years, but it happened more quickly than that – I was approach by a couple of members of the committee to see if I was interested, and I thought it was a good fit with my role at KPMG. The following month I was voted in as deputy president.
What is your priority for the coming year as President?
I want to increase our visibility in our local community at this time of uncertainty; to promote the profession in schools and Universities and to agree a clear strategy and set future relationship with ICAEW.
What do you think ICAEW West of England does well?
As a society, we’re innovative; we established WECAN (West of England Chartered Accountants Network for members up to 10 years qualified); we’re continuing to develop our Inclusive agenda, and we’re inspiring – as a committee, we were prepared to take a collective risk such as securing astronaut Tim Peake to speak at our business dinner.
What would you like ICAEW West of England to do more of (if anything)?
I think we need to have better engagement with local schools and Universities to promote the profession, as well as greater links with other professional societies such as CIPFA, ACCA and CIMA.
You took over from Jen Williams as President at the AGM. What do you think she will be remembered for?
Undoubtedly, Jen’s support of our drive for Inclusivity in our conversation and events, and her challenge of the status quo; her willingness to take the risk with Tim Peake as our dinner speaker, and the inspiring way in which she has represented members in the west of England nationally.
In 12 months’ time Natalie Binstead will take over from you as President. If we asked her the same question about you, what would you want her answer to be? (i.e. what do you want to be remembered for doing?)
Better links into our community; ore outreach to schools to promote accountancy; better links to other professional bodies and those ACAs who work in the Public Sector, and a clear strategy on our role and future relationship with ICAEW.