Passionate about volunteering, International Business with French graduate Alice Stein has launched a campaign to encourage more accountants into the non-profit sector.
MA (Hons) in International Business with French
|Year of graduation||2005|
At the moment
I have just returned home to London after my lockdown wedding in July and a honeymoon in bonnie Scotland. Despite this happiness in my personal life, I feel sad about the ongoing pandemic and the impact it is having to the UK economy and the livelihoods of so many individuals. It has motivated me to finally start a new venture which I had been considering for some time, Charterpath.
Your time at the University
My parents met at the University of Edinburgh, so it has always held a special place in my heart! I was delighted to get the grades I needed to be accepted and even decided not to take a gap year as I was so keen to get there and get started.
It didn’t disappoint – from the moment I arrived I fell in love with the magic of Edinburgh and the University campus. My parents found it amusing that my room in Brewster House, Pollock Halls, hadn’t changed from their day (although it has since been replaced!)
I signed up with gusto to various clubs, although being a typical student I ended up spending much of my time in The Crags pub. Representing the University in the Scottish Islands Peak Race was a real highlight – watching dolphins from the boat as the sun set – although I was glad not to be running the marathons on each island!
I really enjoyed the broad nature of my course and the mix of business modules with French. A highlight was being able to spend my third year abroad in Paris, studying at the University of Dauphine. Initially a shock to the system as the French had rather longer lectures than we were used to! However, being thrown in the deep end was a great way to learn and merge the two things I was passionate about. I ended up staying on in France for the summer, with a stint working as a tour guide at Martell Cognac and a month working for UNESCO.
Returning to Edinburgh and being reunited with friends was a wonderful way to see out a final year in the city.
Your experiences since leaving the University
On graduating I joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in Assurance. Whilst audit has a reputation for being rather dull, I thought it was anything but. It was brilliant training to be immersed in a business for a few months a year, reviewing their business model and financial forecasts, testing their systems and advising on areas of judgement.
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with ICAS, I moved to Close Brothers, a merchant bank. I continued to broaden my business skills moving from strategy to financial planning, operations and ending up in risk. As Credit Risk Director of their premium finance business I loved sitting on the executive team helping to run the business as well as the day-to-day of making lending decisions. In 2019 I decided it was time for a change and joined C Hoare & Co, the oldest private bank in the UK. I was attracted by their philanthropic nature, with 10% of annual profits given to their charitable trust, the Golden Bottle Trust.
Alongside my role I am passionate about volunteering and have recently launched a new campaign, Charterpath, to encourage more accountants into the non-profit sector. Not only are charities expected to face a £4 billion to £12 billion funding gap due to Covid-19 but they also face a skills shortage as they look to review their operating models, financing strategies and navigate regulatory demands. I joined the finance committee for a homeless charity, The Passage, in my early days as a trainee accountant and gained a huge amount from a personal perspective, learning new skills and building a great network with other trustees typically 20 years older than me. I strongly believe it is a win-win for accountants and non-profits alike.
I joined the finance committee for a homeless charity, The Passage, in my early days as a trainee accountant and gained a huge amount from a personal perspective, learning new skills and building a great network with other trustees typically 20 years older than me
Life during Covid-19
Covid-19 has turned life upside down – stripping away so many things which we had previously taken for granted. I feel sad about the impacts which will be felt by so many for several years to come. That said, there are always some positives – I think navigating a period like this helps to build resilience (even if it feels uncomfortable), I have enjoyed living a quieter, calmer life and it was wonderful to spend so much quality time with my fiancée before we got married!
Find a cause you feel passionate about and give your time and expertise to a non-profit working in that space. It is extremely rewarding and helps keep life in perspective. You will also learn so much and build a network of people who inspire and humble you. I started as a van driver for The Passage and ended up on their Risk and Audit Committee. You can make a difference.
Follow Charterpath for inspiration and for any accounting students please complete our survey below to share your views on non-profits. What are you waiting for?!
Charterpath survey to understand accountants' views on volunteering for non-profit organisations (external link)