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Ushering in a new generation of accountants

8 July: Monique Malcolm-Hay tells ICAEW Insights about her meteoric rise through the accountancy world and how her non-profit organisation New Gen Accountants helps newcomers progress their careers and companies boost the diversity of their talent pool. Beth McLoughlin reports.

Five years into her career at PwC as a Senior Consultant, Monique Malcolm-Hay has co-founded a non-profit organisation, worked on digital up-skilling initiatives and won the We Are The City Rising Star in Professional Services award. 

Still only 27, she has most of her accounting career ahead of her, but it could have been very different. It wasn’t until meeting a PwC senior manager at a careers fair while studying Business and Management at Aston University that she decided she wanted to become an accountant. “If I hadn’t spoken to that senior manager, I don’t know where I would have ended up,” she told ICAEW Insights. “I now want to inspire other people coming through.” 

Her own experience led Malcolm-Hay to set up New Gen Accountants in November 2018 with six others also passionate about the profession. The organisation helps ambitious individuals to consider accountancy as a career choice, manage their wellbeing while studying and working, and progress their careers after qualifying.

New Gen Accountants has launched a WhatsApp group where accountants can share tips and advice. The website also contains interviews with CEOs and partners so that members can learn from their career journeys. “A quarter of FTSE 100 board members are chartered accountants but how do we know how to progress our career to that level after qualifying?” Malcolm-Hay said. New Gen Accountants aims to shed some light on that, helping the newly qualified bridge the gap.

Approaches to ethnic diversity

The team deliver career talks at companies such as JP Morgan, Kaplan and Grant Thornton, and as the majority of the founding team are black, they also advise companies on how to boost ethnic diversity within their organisation. While the issue has arguably never been more topical, many companies still struggle to achieve ethnic diversity. 

Malcolm-Hay has several key approaches. To start with, many organisations find it difficult to recruit people from ethnic minority backgrounds. “There are plenty of qualified and extremely talented people from ethnic minority backgrounds – it’s all about knowing where to find them. We have many in the New Gen Accountants network.” She directs companies to organisations such as recruitment companies which can help.

Then she said it is crucial to capture data on ethnicity to identify patterns – how many black people do you recruit every year and how often are they promoted, for example? Also key is setting up formal mentoring and sponsorship programmes to ensure those from ethnic minority backgrounds gain access to crucial knowledge and opportunities that can help their career.

Malcolm-Hay said: “Research conducted by Harvard University shows that we have a natural tendency to navigate towards those we are most similar to.” This means that despite performing to a high standard, ethnic minorities can find themselves forming weaker relationships in the workplace than others. This might affect not only their career progression but also their sense of belonging.

Malcolm-Hay, who also finds time to work as a shadow member of ICAEW’s Tech Faculty board and as an ambassador for CABA, is nevertheless hopeful about the future for accountants. “People are coming to accountants as advisers, and asking - what should we be doing next? Going forward, the role of an accountant is going to be much more important as mundane and repetitive tasks become automated. Accountants will become more forward-thinking rather than focusing solely on what happened in the previous financial period,” she said.