From Chef to Finance Chief – Interview with Kyle Tyrrell, Head of Finance, AXA Global Protect
In just seven years Kyle Tyrrell went from working as a chef in a catering business to becoming a finance director at one of the world’s leading insurance companies. He was recently awarded Newly Qualified (NQ) Accountant of the Year at the 2015 PQ Magazine Awards. Here, Kyle talks about how his career has excelled since completing an ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) at the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF).
Did you always set out to work in finance?
No, not at the start. I like cooking so I went straight into catering and worked as a chef for an outside catering firm. After doing this for about a year I just felt it wasn’t going to be for me in the long run. So I decided to start a career in finance at AXA. I first started as a credit controller but since then I’ve been lucky enough to work my way up to more senior positions with greater responsibility.
What was the most important step you’ve taken towards landing your career?
After working at my local AXA branch for a couple of years, I’d proved myself enough to take on the bright lights of London. It’s this decision which helped me take a big step forward in my career. Ever since, I’ve been working my way up the career ladder. A key part of my development was being able to do my accountancy qualifications at the same time as working full time - I have now completed all 14 ACCA exams.
What inspires you?
I’m incredibly ambitious and I’m often inspired by the achievements of other businessmen such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet. I want to go as far in my career as possible and one day want to be a CEO - I will work as hard as possible to achieve my dream. Alongside my day job I’ve also set up an outside catering business called MyLK (My Little Kitchen) with a partner who I met during my chef days. It's early days but all is going well so far - in our first year we had a revenue of £50,000 off the back of an investment of just £500. It’s a very exciting project to be a part of.
What qualities do you think made you a particularly attractive candidate to recruiters in your sector?
In this role you obviously need to be good with numbers but also very business savvy. Crucially, you also need to have good communications skills as it really helps when trying to bring the business and finance departments closer together. Being decisive and giving good advice to the business on a broad range of topics spanning the whole of finance from financial accounting issues to management accounting reporting and doing investment appraisals is vital. The ACCA has assisted me with this in a huge way and is easily structured around your existing working commitments. It has definitely helped me progress my career quicker than I may have been able to without it.
What’s the biggest misconception around landing a job in this sector?
I’d say the biggest misconception is that you have to have a degree. I’ve proved that I’ve been able to get all my relevant qualifications while on the job. After starting as an entry level credit controller, I went on to become an analyst and then a senior analyst within 2 and a half years.
What are your biggest achievements?
In my roles I’ve been fortunate enough to be nominated for and win some awards. I was nominated Rising Star in Finance Operations in my first year with AXA and also won the rising star award for the whole of AXA UK finance in 2012. More recently I won the Newly-Qualified Accountant of the year award from PQ Magazine - ACCA contacted me directly after and offered me a place on their ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ programme bypassing the application and interview process due to my achievements.
What advice would you give to others looking to get ahead in business?
To get ahead in business you need to have an entrepreneurial spirit. But you also need to back up enthusiasm and drive with the right knowledge and skills. Doing the ACCA qualification helped with this enormously and gave me real on the job experience. It gives you a business platform that helps you to understand the demands which are placed on CEOs and FDs in their day to day roles. Having a professional qualification on your CV is definitely a door opener and is almost a prerequisite when it comes to some of the high level finance jobs which I find myself aspiring to.