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The role of a group accountant

Group accounting is a head office and parent company function that offers the opportunity to explore and understand the business performance of a whole group. Strong group accountants are highly sought-after in today's marketplace.

Group accountant Philippa Tate form a well known South African ICT services and solutions provider explains what to expect from this profession.

What does a group accountant do?

As a group accountant I prepare cost centre reports for various cost centres; prepare consolidated management accounts for all cost centres; control the fixed assets register; review debtors/creditors aging; review all items on the balance sheet monthly; prepare the monthly balance sheet file with schedules for all balance sheet items; prepare annual budgets for individual cost centres; and consolidated view of budgets for management.

The role interfaces with all levels of management and finance divisions across the business on a daily basis. This gives me exposure to all levels of seniority and a fantastic opportunity to network across different divisions within the business.

What skills do you see as important in your existing role?

It's important that you are particularly good at attention to detail.

What made you get into accounting?

I enjoyed accountancy and maths at school – I was also quite good at it so it seemed like the obviously option.

The role interfaces with all levels of management and finance divisions across the business on a daily basis. This gives me exposure to all levels of seniority and a fantastic opportunity to network across different divisions within the business.

What education, training and experience does someone need to become a group accountant?

I would think a BCom Accounting would be preferential, but a general BCom would also be good. Work experience would also be helpful. I have been a debtors clerk, creditors clerk, assistant finance manager as well as a finance manager and I think all those roles helped me as a Group Accountant needs to understand the whole picture.

Audit and tax experience are often a prerequisite for the role so a practice background is often preferred.

What advice would you give a newly-qualified accountant who is looking for a job commerce and industry?

Sometimes you gain the best experience in a job that maybe doesn’t pay the most but that lets you get exposed to a great deal and at the end of the day experience is so important.

Career progression

If your ambition is to become a senior finance professional, this is a great role to progress your career. The majority of JSE-Listed finance directors and chief financial officers started their careers within group accounting.

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