By Young, Richard
Financial Management (UK)
Financial Management: Driving through camp, it's obvious that the Army isn't all drilling and training. There's a whole community here. Colonel Jeremy Taylor (director of Management Accountancy Services, British Army): It's a microcosm of society. For example, our German bases have all the functions of a town hall - we supply everything, from schools and healthcare to fire and youth services. The complexity of what we do as a business needs all the infrastructure you'd expect in a whole society - including accounting.
In the current climate value for money is the key to it all - we're resource-constrained. That is where the management accountant can really help. It's not just having a professional qualification, either, it's a deep understanding of the Army's business to get that balance right.
Captain Paul Carcone (regimental admin officer of the 1st Batallion, the Royal Anglian Regiment): Soldiers will need to be at least a Corporal - which takes five or six years - before they can even apply to become an Army-sponsored management accounting student. Direct entry officers, from university or school, will have completed two years as an Adjutant General's Corps Detachment Commander at different Army units before they can apply. This, again, will routinely give officer applicants between six and seven years general Army experience before commencing their accountancy studies.
To retain our currency as well-informed Army Officers, we change appointments every two or three years. As such, every second posting will see us come out of the accounting specialisation and return to headquarters or high-profile staff posts across defence. This means that when we go back to finance-related postings and brief our Generals, we do not have just our professional qualifications to give us credibility - we also have recent general-Army experience. My next posting, for example, is to an Artillery unit with a significant liability to support operations in Afghanistan.
FM: So it's far from being an office job, then? Capt PC: I was posted to 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment two years ago, straight after my transfer from the Royal Navy. I had just returned from a fantastic secondment to the United Nations, spending six months in the Republic of Georgia, having arrived four days before the 2008 war with Russia broke out. Before that, I had been on several deployments in HMS Illustrious, an exercise with the US Marine Corps, and deployed at very short notice to Afghanistan.
So it's not all spreadsheets and financial modelling for a military management accountant - and that's what makes this job so great.
FM: What does a staff and personnel support unit do?
Capt PC: On the finance side for the soldiers, it's primarily pay issues. However, I also oversee the Battalion's management of public money - the items of expense attributable to the Crown - as well as several large non-public funds that support the unit's social and welfare activities. The day-to-day running of these areas are very useful training before the best and brightest apply for sponsorship.
FM: Fighting and accountancy seem strange bedfellows. What prompted you to apply to do CIMA in the forces?
Lance Corporal Godlove Fai: My inspiration, both to join the Army and to do accountancy, started in childhood. My dad was a soldier, but at the same time I wanted to be an accountant. As a teenager in Cameroon I studied accountancy - then when I moved to the UK for the last stage of it I realised that in the AGC part of the Army you deal with pay and personnel management, and that I could do the CIMA qualification, something I'd never had a chance to do in Africa. So I thought - this is good, I can do both the things I wanted to do as a child.
Capt PC: Being an Army accountant is a unique opportunity to be both clever and steely. …