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From the Far East to the east coast of Scotland

In this month’s Meet-A-Member, we get to know Andrew Hewett, Director of Finance at the University of Dundee and Past-President of IMS.

The only thing that is typical about my weekdays is that they start with a cup of coffee and a quick flick through the FT online. Beyond that nothing is typical. Universities are fascinating organisations, there is so much going on and it’s difficult to keep track of everything. We are about to implement a new financial system, so that is taking up a fair bit of time at the moment. The Executive Team always aims to meet at least once a week to keep things moving forward.

The HE sector is very open and good at sharing ideas, so last week I was at a meeting of the Scottish Universities Finance Directors Group in Stirling and this week I have been near London meeting with a group of FDs from similar universities. HE can be frustrating for finance professionals so meeting fellow FDs helps keep things in perspective and helps you realise that all universities are facing the same issues.

Sum up your career so far

Varied and much more interesting than I ever imagined it would be. While I was at university I had a summer job with a five-partner firm in Norwich. I assumed I would probably spend most of my working life in that environment. However, I ended up working for a FTSE100 retail group for 17 year and was ultimately responsible for their international supply chain with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Delhi, Warsaw and Pietermaritzburg. At one point I had one-million air miles with Virgin Atlantic. I have now been in the Higher Education sector for almost six years which is a complete and refreshing change.

Which role has taught you the most valuable lesson?

In 1994 I was one of a team of four sent to Hong Kong to open a product sourcing office. Having to build a business from scratch in a foreign country without speaking the local language provided more challenges than you can imagine

What advice would you give your younger self?

Learn to speak Chinese. It would have helped me in every job I have had since 1985.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Seeing the business that we set up in Hong Kong in 1994 achieve £1bn turnover 20 years later – better still, it’s still employing some of the original local staff!

What’s your involvement with IMS?

I joined IMS in 2014 to help build my network in Scotland when I moved here from London, and was IMS President for two years between 2015 and 2017.

Being President was fascinating as it allowed me to see more of the inner workings of ICAEW than most members get to see. It used to be an organisation I simply paid an annual subscription to. It’s now an organisation I am proud to be a member of.

What book are you reading at the moment?

A collection of short stories by Mark Twain.

How do you relax?

By sailing competitively or cycling long distances. Neither is particularly relaxing but they clear my head of all other distractions.

Do you have any fears or phobias?

I worry when I get to the top of tall buildings because I sometimes think that if I were to jump off I would be able to fly.

What TV show do you try not to miss?

“Who Do You Think You Are?” – my father has traced our own family tree back several generations and it’s interesting to see other people’s family histories. There is always something dark lurking there.

Tea or coffee? 

Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

What’s your favourite saying/quotation?

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! I have lost my reputation and what remains is bestial.” I remember it’s from Othello but I can’t remember who said it. Reputation is hugely important for any business. Just ask Bell Pottinger.

What’s your favourite city and why?

I loved living in Hong Kong for six years but London is my favourite city. It’s so easy to walk around and there are so many interesting alleyways, shops, pubs, people to look at and so much going on. When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.

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