Be Inspired – Richard Livingston from Pearson Finance Services

11th January 2018

It’s time to get inspired by our latest interview with Richard Livingston, from Pearson Finance Service.

Give a brief outline of your career to date

I started my career as an audit trainee in KPMG, where I qualified as a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland. I then spent 6 years in the finance department of Ulster Bank, working across financial control, statutory and performance reporting. The opportunity to join Pearson plc, within the newly created Pearson Finance Services (PFS), was impossible to decline.  Pearson’s continued innovation is an exciting journey to improve learning outcomes for its customers, powered by technology. I started as a Team Lead in the Transformation and Continuous Improvement Team. From there I progressed to a manager role, becoming a member of the PFS senior management team.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I had probably two favourites. I always liked Maths throughout school, but also really enjoyed Business Studies when I took it on at A-level.

Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so what did you study and where?

Yes, I studied Accounting at the University of Ulster Jordanstown. From there I also completed a Diploma in Advanced Accounting at the same institution. This enabled me to enter the trainee programme with Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Is this what you were always inspired to do?

I’m not ashamed to admit it but, yes. I did briefly contemplate being a mechanical engineer. When I quickly ruled this and being a professional footballer out, a career in accountancy was the obvious choice. It combined my favourite school subjects of Business Studies and Maths, whilst providing many great career prospects. Not only that but also the opportunity to make a difference to businesses and their customers.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed? Are there alternative routes into the job?

The great thing about accountancy is there are so many career paths to choose whether you join a professional body or not at all. I chose the accounting degree route, but there are various entry points available. Other options included joining after A level or a degree level, including non-accounting degrees. This is very much the case at Pearson plc, as colleagues are from varied academic backgrounds. Many of whom have been inspired by these flexible options to gain their professional qualifications as they work.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

Sound technical accounting and business knowledge combined with an ability to manage large financial and operational projects.
Continuous improvement of processes is at the heart of what we do at PFS. Within my team having the capability to quickly understand and challenge a process is an important trait. Softer skills are also fundamental to effectively manage, coach and mentor people.

What does a typical day entail?

My day tends to be varied, engaging in multiple projects with the common goal of improving the quality and efficiency of financial outputs of PFS. From rolling out substantial finance technology projects to working with fellow PFS teams to improve their delivery. As PFS works closely with its global finance partners, I regularly get exposure to all the facets of a publically listed international finance function. These are varied and include financial control, statutory and performance reporting. As Pearson plc is also undergoing a wider transformation programme a number of change management methodologies have become part of my role.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

I get great satisfaction from simplifying and making a process more efficient for my colleagues. These then result in a positive impact on Pearson plc and its customers. Working practices within Pearson plc are based on collaboration, problem-solving, sharing of knowledge and management support. The environment of continuous improvement and ‘being curious’ is applicable across all staff levels and results in a dynamic working environment – something that really motivates me. I also enjoy managing a team, developing their skills and supporting their career development.

In terms of challenges, it isn’t always easy to implement change – but having the buy-in of Pearson plc senior leadership to empower you, has meant that we have continued to deliver the change agenda.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

As there is so much flexibility in the path and career in finance, I would say choose the method that works best for you, your skills and what you enjoy – that places you in the best position to move into your desired area. If you are unsure of what you want to do, join a company like Pearson plc, where there are numerous opportunities to experience all areas of operational finance, as well as transformation and financial system based projects. If you have a defined career path, then Pearson plc also provides the platform to enhance your depth of experience. You can also be inspired by the various professional study support options available to complement your qualifications, experiences and career goals.

Describe your ideal day off.

An early morning round of golf, going on an adventure with family, followed by a nice meal and movie (if my son hasn’t tired me out by then)!

If you’re looking to start your accountancy career or looking for a new role, then simply follow the link below for our latest opportunities. You can also check out the rest of our Be Inspired series for the best advice on making the next steps in your career.

Apply for NIJF Accountancy

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