An 'ambassador' to count on
When Dean Westcott left school in the United Kingdom, he joined a retail organisation as a general management trainee. Towards the end of the two-year training programme, he had the chance to sit in at meetings with the chief financial officer (CFO) - and realised that all the key company decisions were being made by either the accountants or the lawyers. He then went back to college to study for an accounting and law degree and, after graduation, decided to take the finance route. He is now the global president of the London-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and CFO with West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.
What are your current role and responsibilities at ACCA?
As president of ACCA, I have two main roles. The more formal side of it is that I chair the council meetings which are held four to five times a year.
The other role is being the ambassador for our 147,000 members. So a very important and enjoyable part of my role is travelling around the world meeting our members, our future members - the students - and representing their interests.
So I've spent a lot of time meeting with regulators, in terms of auditing and accounting; with politicians, from different jurisdictions, to express the views of particularly our members, but also the wider profession, where we think improvements can be made.
Why did you join the healthcare industry and how do you find it?
I was looking at a variety of jobs that would offer me the training opportunities to study as a professional accountant. And I saw a job quite near where we lived at the time: a healthcare organisation wanted a trainee accountant. I met the organisation and it seemed quite an interesting role. I was successful in that position.
I did all my training in healthcare and, indeed, I have moved in a variety of sectors within healthcare since I qualified. Healthcare is a global business, and it is a very fast-moving one. It can be quite a challenging environment. And because it's changing all the time, it really has helped my interest and I really enjoy working in it.
What challenges do you see in the healthcare sector? Is there anything that accounting professionals or ACCA can do about it?
I think healthcare systems around the world face similar problems: populations are living longer; there are new technologies, in terms of pharmaceutical and scientific equipment, coming on the market which are changing medical practices in a way that 10 years ago couldn't be imagined. So these are the huge challenges in healthcare systems, particularly when it comes to funding and financing.
There's a global prevalence of obesity, and the co-morbidities it causes, including diabetes, which, if not controlled, is one of those factors that puts even more pressure on pressurised systems around the world. That is something avoidable, and that is some of the work ACCA has been doing: to bring this to the fore with economic and financial analysis in terms of what needs to be done, and translating that into the numbers.
How can you manage to perform your role in ACCA and in your job at the same time?
I think there are a couple of key components. You have really got to be very good at time management, and be very disciplined. I have a very good team, both in my workplace and in ACCA. I am very well supported by our global headquarters in London, but I'm equally well supported by our offices around the world.
What advice do you have for those who want to join the accounting industry?
Study hard. It can seem very difficult at times. But don't give up. I also think you need to consider possibly what sector you want to work in. You should find a good mentor - someone you can relate to and turn to for advice.