In this Q&A series I will aim to talk to people from different backgrounds about the role accounting has played in their career development or business practice. For the first Q&A I have picked the brains of Leon Levy who is the father of my fellow creative industries colleague, dance writer and teacher, and avid knitter Nina Levy. You can follow Nina’s personal blog here, and read her dance reviews and news on the Dance Australia website.
Leon Levy has been in the finance and accounting game for 40+ years and currently runs a boutique financial management firm, Asset Affairs in Mt Lawley, Western Australia which was established in 1997. His firm offers tailored financial support to suit both business and/or personal requirements of his clients. In addition, Leon aims to communicate advice in a meaningful way to his clients so it may be understood and changes realised.
What really comes through for me in this interview is Leon’s perspective: Love what you do. It’s certainly seems that if you can find meaning in your work and you will enjoy a long, successful career.
AP: Tell me a little about your career/business/current position, what did you study?
LL: After a Bachelor of Commerce degree (–very boring–) at Birmingham University (UK), I stumbled into a career as a company accountant, bypassing the profession itself completely. My breakthrough occurred after about five years when I secured a position as part of a team of accountants with a large organiser of exhibitions and trade fairs. Each exhibition was a project in its own right with a small team looking after sales, PR, organising and financial management and seeing the project through from the ideas and planning stages all the way through to the holding of the exhibition. The close involvement in each project, the need for teamwork and steering it through to the end of each exhibition provided me with an enjoyable and stimulating seven years, during which my career flourished.
“I have derived a huge amount of satisfaction from being able to help and guide both companies and private individuals.”
I then immigrated to Australia where my stable UK track record helped me to secure a position, rather against the odds, as company accountant with a large house-building company where I remained for 14 years. The sudden death of the CEO led to my leaving the company and setting up the financial management service that I have successfully been running from a home office for the past 18 years. My aim was to provide a service to individuals and families needing help in the management of their financial affairs and/or investments; and to serve effectively as part-time company accountant for smaller companies wanting easy access to a cost effective solution to their financial management needs. I have derived a huge amount of satisfaction from being able to help and guide both companies and private individuals.
AP: What role does accounting play (if any) in helping achieve your client’s objectives and goals?
LL: An accountant can and should play a vital role in helping management to keep a finger on the pulse of their company, to plan and project for the future, and to anticipate potential problems long before they turn into serious issues; and to help individuals, who might be daunted by financial responsibilities, to manage their personal financial affairs.
“I have greatly enjoyed the sense of making a difference to the lives of my private clients and to the success of the companies with which I’ve been associated.”
AP: Do you read or subscribe to any industry newsletters, journals, blogs etc.?
LL: Through my professional body, CPA Australia, I receive a monthly magazine, but at this late stage of my career I tend to focus on press articles and online newsletters that are of specific relevance to the needs of my client base.
AP: What aspects of the accounting/finance industry do you enjoy and why?
LL: I have enjoyed the challenge of getting to understand a company and the industry in which it operates, or of a person or family and their needs; and then to translate that into a service that the client can understand, appreciate and act on. In particular, to translate figures into reports that convey meaning to a client is a skill that takes years to hone and can always be improved. It’s a challenge that keeps one hanging in beyond retirement age!
I have greatly enjoyed the sense of making a difference to the lives of my private clients and to the success of the companies with which I’ve been associated.
AP: What advice do you have for new students (like myself) who are undertaking accounting studies for the first time?
LL: Possibly in my student days, there was more tolerance of boring lectures than there would be now but I know that in my own early years I would have greatly benefitted from sympathetic mentoring and guidance, of which there was none. So it may be worth aiming to find that sort of support. Even if it is not one’s intention to make a career in the profession, I think that some time spent in a professional office as part of one’s training would be of considerable benefit and I’m sorry that the accountants who came to speak to the students when I was at uni were so uninspiring that I never considered that option. I suspect that some professional training would have accelerated my understanding of many concepts and issues that I then had to nut out for myself over the years (…..but one shouldn’t nurse regrets either, because one might then have become a dry-as-dust accountant oneself!).
AP: Thank you Leon! This has given me a lot to think about: especially around communicating to clients and finding meaning in a job.