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Turning point: doing the books that make the movies

In his 35-year career, Ged Nichols has done it all. Now he is embarking on a new track with his own consultancy, A Fresh Pair of Eyes

How did you get to where you are now?

The defining theme of my career is that I’ve always worked for companies that I had a passion for. The satisfaction I’ve had has come from being an accountant in great businesses such as British Airways, Disney and Fox. From the earliest days, more than the role itself it was always about being somewhere that I could identify with.

What launched you on your career path? 

When I left Deloitte, the first person to give me a job became my mentor in internal audit. Chris Agg, Head of Internal Audit at Abu Dhabi-based media and entertainment hub Twofour54, hired me into Grand Metropolitan, now Diageo, and when he moved to British Airways, he took me with him.

Did you have any expectations about how your career would pan out? 

Absolutely not. I was a very reluctant accountant. When I entered accountancy, it was the qualification I wanted – the ACA is a stamp of quality. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, but I was determined to use accountancy to work with brilliant organisations. Accountancy was more about communications and working with people than I’d realised. It opened more doors than I ever expected.

How did you move into entertainment? 

I asked myself what business I would love to be involved with given the choice, and at that time my passions lay in media. My goal became internal audit in the entertainment space. I was in New York, connected with the right people, and was offered an opportunity at Disney. After five years, that led to the role at Fox. I became head of internal audit at a major Hollywood studio by being focused on networking - when an opportunity came up, I was on the radar.

Has it been everything you hoped for? 

Everything and more. No matter what audit we did at Fox, they were all interesting. Every part of the business operation was fascinating. Just as importantly, the people that worked in those businesses were great. My experience was that the entertainment industry is a happy one. 

What was the most memorable moment  of your career? 

There are so many. Sitting behind Princess Diana on a BA flight, she blessed me when I sneezed; flying on Concorde; walking Selena Gomez down the red carpet in Hollywood - twice; and helping to found Fox Pride.

What prompted your move into consultancy? 

When Disney took over Fox, it led to a lot of restructuring. Ultimately, I left Disney because I didn’t get the head of audit job. The existing head of audit was a 26-year veteran; I was never going to get her job. Over the last eight years, my focus has changed. I’ve become passionate about working internationally, and exposure to different cultures. What excites me is seeing what success I can have in the open marketplace, working with various businesses on different challenges around the world.

What’s the driving principle behind the consultancy you have set up? 

There’s an opportunity for those who have worked within businesses, in finance, accounting or internal audit, to offer their skills to clients and provide an interesting alternative to the Big Four. As many of us have worked in industry, it gives us something different in flavour to the Big Four, but just as effective. I’ve built up a network of colleagues across a vast spectrum of financial roles, and am able to pull in those resources to offer clients with financial control challenges an alternative viewpoint.

Is running your own business liberating? 

Very much so. It’s satisfying and fulfilling that I have complete flexibility to be creative, and determine my own approach to whatever challenge I’m facing. I’ve got the freedom to choose the projects I want to take on, and to fulfill them in the way I think is best suited to the client.