There’s a multitude of finance professionals that work across a whole manner of public sector organisations in the UK. Whether it’s for local or national government, charities and other not-for profit organisations, the health care sector, education, services like the police or fire service, or housing, land and regeneration, there are hundreds of people working away to organise and manage the accounts, plan budgets and raise finance for projects.
Public finance professionals can be hired in permanent or part-time in-house roles for one particular organisation, or with a private sector company that offers financial services within a particular public sector, or even on a contract basis, working on one or more specific financing project at a time.
The ins & outs of public sector finance roles…
You’re not going to be restricted to working with fellow finance experts alone in this particular area of finance. The public sector is all about the people, so get ready to get really stuck into interaction with the other professionals working within the area you specialise in.
You’ll often have to liaise with industry professionals in both a face-to-face capacity and via telephone and email. For example, finance officers working in education can expect to correspond with head teachers or school governors of academy schools and state schools on a consultative basis, helping them to manage a schools’ budget plans. This requires knowledge and appreciation of the needs of the people who work in these sectors, how the organisations run and their overall aims, as well as an ability to explain at times complex information to professionals who don’t come from a finance background and may be unfamiliar with certain concepts.
Evolving roles and a chance to convert…
There’s also a need for specialised teams of professionals at various levels to work on certain projects. Some projects may require risk and investment specialists, providing opportunities for people with experience at investment banks or investment firms to cross over into public sector finance. For example, recent developments in governmental policy regarding an increased emphasis on using financial instruments like private equity and loans to generate finance for things like housing projects call for people with an excellent grounding in these types of financial instruments and knowledge of how to manage risks associated with them.
Public sector accountants appear in all of these organisations. It’s their job to manage the money, ensure everything is documented and reported accurately and to standards set out by law, and conduct internal audits regularly to assess processes, and spot any areas which could be made more cost-effective.
Public finance accountants train through the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). There are opportunities to get involved with public sector finance with professional services firms or specialist consultancies too, either as a school leaver or a graduate A finance background is advantageous, but it’s still possible to get into this area with a degree from an alternative discipline too!