Accountancy goes far beyond the numbers, and in the case of Michalis Hadjipantela FCA, the skills honed as a chartered accountant have paved the way for a successful career in government in his home country of Cyprus.
Hadjipantela studied economics at university in the UK before training as a chartered accountant and becoming an auditor with firms in London and Cyprus. He was a founding member of HMI & Partners Ltd and its CEO until becoming Health Minister in Cyprus in July 2021.
He has also been a board member and board vice-president of the Cyprus Electricity Authority, chair of the Nicosia Mall of Companies and a lecturer in economics at the European University Cyprus.
“Identify the problem, what’s the solution, what’s the plan, then have a back-up plan”
“The skills you gain as a chartered accountant help you understand issues, work out how to solve them, judge the risks, and then set out a process to resolve problems,” Hadjipantela explains. As Health Minister during the pandemic, that problem-solving acumen was to prove invaluable, he says. “In the pandemic we not only needed to have processes to address the challenges we faced, but also a back-up plan for that initial plan.”
Fundamental to robust decision-making is accessing all the information that goes beyond the numbers, Michalis says. Chartered accountancy provides transferable skills and understanding that really helps, as well as the ability to network with different people.
Using financial skills gained as a chartered accountant to make better decisions
The ability to see the bigger picture has allowed Hadjipantela to formulate plans to make the best of challenging situations. He believes that by being a Health Minister who understands the finance side of things he has helped Cyprus make better decisions. The pandemic was a case in point.
“For example, the biggest cruise ship in the world is currently in Limassol, with more than 7,000 people on board. During COVID-19, cruise ships needed to harbour somewhere with their crews, so we said they could stay in Cyprus, successfully vaccinating them and providing continual testing. By offering a literal safe harbour, we were able to get them to come back to Cyprus when normal service resumed – all these tourists bring in a lot of income to the country.”
Another example was in testing: “We provided PCR tests at airports during COVID-19 at a cost of just €15, the lowest price in the world, making Cyprus a more attractive place to visit.”
Similarly, the business skills you develop as a chartered accountant are essential to managing in a crisis, he adds. “It also requires strong analytical skills. In short: Identify the problem, what’s the solution, what’s the plan, then have a back-up plan. It is crucial that you know what’s going on, just as you would in a business.”
The people-management skills he has honed as an accountant have also proved invaluable, he says. “As accountants we like to make connections and to network. As Minister for Health, I have visited and talked to many different countries to learn from best practice, so that I can bring that back to Cyprus.”
Accounting developments in Cyprus
The Cyprus Treasury is currently in the process of a major accounting reform, moving from cash to accruals accounting. It is also in the process of implementing a new ERP system, due to go live on 1 January 2023, and is working on a series of reforms to public procurement processes.
Hadjipantela believes there are opportunities for qualified finance professionals to help make a difference by entering public service. “This is not just about the numbers, this is about making sure we have the talent and expertise in government at all levels.”
The Cyprus Ministry of Finance is well equipped to manage the transition from cash to accruals accounting, Hadjipantela believes. He thanked ICAEW for the support it is providing to help Cyprus move to accruals accounting, including Alison Ring, Public Sector and Taxation Director, and for the ICAEW Public Sector team’s recent visit to Cyprus to provide training.
Hadjipantela is confident that the move to accruals accounting will help with managing the government balance sheet, and in ensuring the finance profession in government can see the full economic picture.
His days of auditing may be a distant memory but his accountancy heritage has served him well, and Hadjipantela is proud to be a chartered accountant and ICAEW Fellow. “Chartered accountancy provides you with skills and experience that help you in whichever direction your career takes you – up to and including becoming a cabinet minister.”
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