#020: Demystifying the Numbers to Add Value

with Chidimma Eghagha

Our Guest Mentor:

Chidimma Eghagha currently member of team reporting operations team at the Royal Bank of Canada, which is Canada’s largest bank and one of the biggest in the world based on market capitalisation. Her track record adding value in the financial services industry stretches back over the two decades and not just within Finance & Accounting but also from her time leading Customer Service teams.

Although originally qualifying with an ACA from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Chidimma also is a CPA of Canada and holds an MBA from Manchester Business School.

It is great to have Chidimma on the show as both her staff and line managers alike have such positive things to say about her from her high levels of energy, optimism, tenacity and passion for getting things done accurately and timely causing a prior colleague to give her the title: “the executioner.”

Key Quotes From the Episode:

 “Back home as an accountant you were expected to be like a jack-of-all-trades, …, there is a deeper level of professionalism expected from you here, where you’re expected to show more depth to your work than what we were expected to do back home and that requires quite a bit of time and you definitely have to focus on one thing here to give the best that you can.” [04:22]

“The first and most important step you need to take when you’re specialising is knowing what your strengths are, what is it that you love doing, are you one that is comfortable working behind the scenes crunching out the numbers or are you someone who likes to interface with people helping partner with the business because that helps you choose what stream of accounting you want to focus on.” [05:22]

“Accounting is a profession where you can apply your technical skills in different areas so for me the most important things is knowing what you want to do, what gives you satisfaction, and joy and then you can apply your skills to that area .” [06:33]

“Early on in my career people looked at accountants and finance professionals as people who were throwing around bogus jargon words. Typically as an accountant you tend to get very technical . . . and we work with people who don’t necessarily have this background . . so there’s something I tell myself that if I cannot explain a concept in a way that a [second grader/7-8 year old] can understand well that means that I haven’t got a full understanding of it.” [07:21]

“… there’s a need to understand your business partnerships, understand the roles and aspirations of the partners you’re supporting because accounting is a support function you have to understand the views from your customers’ perspectives.” [13:29]

“So you must have the ability to communicate and communicating is not just expressing your own views but understanding fully what the view from the other person’s perspective, more or less, that’s the best way you can provide support for any business team.” [13:47]

“You have to see the full 360 degree view and don’t think there is just one right way to solve a problem. Accounting is full of principles and standards so we always tend to feel like there’s just one way to do this but I’ve found throughout the course of my career there’s always different ways to arrive at the solution so as accountants I think we have to be flexible and open-minded enough to look at things from different perspectives.” [14:09]

“I see accountants becoming more involved in developing software solutions because as accountants we get to see more of the business than any other team you get to see each and other aspects and it’s time to bring the knowledge that we probably haven’t been using it before, all that silent knowledge we get from carrying out our duties and applying it directly to helping the business grow and develop to its full potential.” [17:32]

“I feel that my from point of view as an accountant I’m not just looking at the figures but I’m able to see how that automation is going to impact on the bottom line for the business to see how it’s going to improve on profitability I can see how that in turn is going to reduce staff costs, I can see a bigger picture of the entire project and because of that experience and insight that I have I’m able to advise the teams that are developing on ways that they can plan it better.” [18:36]

“What you have to understand is that a business or an organisation is in business because of the customer, so even as a finance team you always have to ask yourself, who is my customer, who am I in business for and whatever you’re doing, your operations, your process flow should be in favour of the customer not in your favour.” [23:25]

“Sometimes as finance professionals we get so caught up with our procedures, our concepts that we forget the reason we do all of this in the first place is to support the customer.” [23:49]

“The customer is the only true profit centre so whatever we do must be geared towards something that makes our processes and what we do easier for the customer to access.” [24:35]

“The only way you can advance professionally and do that fast is if you learn how to work with people . . . You cannot achieve your full potential in isolation you need to work with people. You need to be able to collaborate and understand people and the only way you can feel that is by developing your emotional intelligence, how to read them, how to work with them and how to bring out the best in them and sometimes as you do that you become a better person yourself ” [25:02]

“Sometimes we need to look beyond the numbers, look beyond the data crunching, we really need to get to know and feel the heart of the business because we’ll be able to do so much more to support our teams when we’re able to do that.” [30:20]

 (Other resources and how to connect with Chidimma below).

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Key Points From the Episode:

  • The most important step to take when specialising in an area of finance & accounting.
  • Shares a story of how she demystified the numbers and their impact on the bottom line, for business leaders helping to increase their revenue by 60% over two years.
  • The best way to provide support to any business partner or team you lead.
  • Shares an idea of accountants becoming more like software developers.
  • What we can learn from the customer services department.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

[03:10] – Insight into Chidimma’s story and what she’s passionate about in her work.

[03:47] – The biggest change professionally in switching between North Africa & North America.

[05:10] – The most important step to take when specialising in an area of finance & accounting.

[06:10] – 3 follow up questions to ask when deciding on an area to work in.

[08:05] – How people view accountants and why it’s important we think like a Second Grader.

[09:50] – Shares a story of how she demystified the numbers and their impact on the bottom line, for business leaders helping to increase their revenue by 60%.

[13:29] – Why it’s important to understand business partnership and what this looks like.

[13:47] – The importance of communication and how to do it right.

[14019] – How to find more than one way to arrive at a solution.

[14:54] – One simple thing to do to be more flexible and open-minded.

[16:50] – How digital has changed the definition of our roles as accountants.

[17:36] – Where we can add value helping software developers and IT.

[21:05] – One simple technique to know if you are contributing value and bring more value to interactions with business partners.

[23:25] – What Finance can learn from customer service teams.

[24:25] – Why the customer matters and what it means for customer and finance.

[25:20] – The best bit of advice she’s ever received.

[27:00] – Shares the book that’s helped her be more deliberate in her decisions

[29:50] – The one thing she’d change about finance & accounting

Resources Mentioned:

Connect with today’s guest:

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