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Tales from the frontline: Lynn Pamment

PwC’s Cardiff office senior partner Lynn Pamment becomes comptroller and auditor general for Jersey in January. She explains why taking the new role chimes with the way she sees life.

I trained in Cardiff with one of PwC’s predecessor firms and up until now have not worked for any other organisation. But the start of my career path was not so usual. When I was 16 my parents were keen for me to leave school and go to work in a bank. I went to a further education college instead and did a BTEC National Diploma in business studies. One of the girls on the course asked me if I had thought about going to university and that sounded like a good idea.

Accountancy interested me, I liked working with numbers and having decisions made based on numbers. So I chose an accountancy degree, which I did in Cardiff. Training as a chartered accountant was a natural next step and working for a big firm was the right place for me. The qualification was, and still is, seen as a passport to do anything you want to in business as it’s such good grounding.

I did a mixture of work in my early years, then specialised in the public sector when I was a senior manager. I’ve always been interested in working with organisations that make a difference to society. Public sector entities are complex businesses but they are ultimately service organisations delivering good for society.

Over recent years the public sector has had to be leaner and more efficient. There’s a lot that can be done and areas in which the way the private sector runs its business can be brought on board in the public sector. However, you have to consider what is achievable within the resources available and to respect the democratic process.

Business often has a single shared motive – wealth generation and profit-making. But in the public sphere, any financial case has to be matched against wider public considerations so sometimes you have to frame information in a way that recognises these wider considerations.

In recent years austerity has had a major impact on the delivery of public services. We are constantly watching them balance increased demand at a time when funding has been cut Intelligent investment in technology can enhance the way public services are delivered and I can see that happening across my client base.

From January 2020 I’m taking on a new role and becoming comptroller and auditor general for Jersey. I’ll be responsible for appointing financial statements auditors for the Jersey government and all its related entities, and providing independent assurance that the public finances of Jersey are being regulated, controlled, supervised and accounted for in accordance with the law.

I wasn’t looking to leave PwC. But this three-days-per-week job plays entirely to my skill set in a role that will enable me to have a point of view on government. I will combine this with my other commitments: I sit on the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board, chair the Financial Reporting Advisory Board to the Treasury, and chair the Welsh Sports Association. Moving from a model of working for one organisation to working for several feels right at this stage in my career.

I’ll still be based in Cardiff, though. Jersey is a small place and it was preferable from their perspective and mine not to live on the island so I could be independent. I am a believer in always finding time to do the things that are important to you. If you feel there’s not the time to do certain things then it means you need to think about whether you’re the best person to be doing them. I’ve had different roles in sport. I used to be a cox and through that became treasurer of the local rowing club, then of the Welsh Rowing Association.

When I met the Welsh Sports Association we discussed how sports bodies need more business expertise and how business people don’t think of applying for sports roles as they think you need to be an elite athlete to get involved. But to me, sport is a frontline service. It delivers immense benefits for individuals and communities. I was really enthused to be asked to take on a role in which I could bring my business skills to sports.

Now I keep fit by attempting to go to the gym a few times a week. My children are aged 17 and 18 so they have kept me pretty active and kept my feet on the ground. We relax together as a family at the weekend. Any long hours I work are kept to during the week and I try to preserve as much time as possible at the weekends. Holiday time too is sacred: I’ve never not taken my full holiday entitlement. During the working week people can have as much as they like of me. But there has to be a dividing line somewhere.

Originally published in Economia on 5 December 2019.