On the professional front line: Fund accountant

What does a fund accountant do on a day to day basis?

Fund Accountants are responsible for calculating the value of the clients’ funds. Fund accounting is part of the fund administration business. Fund administration is the business of keeping books and records of an investment fund’s actions. On a daily basis, a fund accountant’s role is to calculate the Net Asset value of a fund’s portfolio.

Essentially, we calculate what the net worth is of all the assets the fund owns. We do this by using data provided by the fund (specifically the investment manager) and verify this data using the fund’s broker’s data. This broker data tells us the trades that the fund has made the day before. We then reconcile that data with the data the investment manager provided us with and finally update our valuation of the assets the fund manages. Sometimes the fund will have a trade that won’t match what its broker has recorded - this is known as a break. It is my job to find out why the trades don’t match and to find the value of the assets the fund holds, obviously as the market price of their assets change the overall value of the fund changes proportionately. The funds vary in size from hundreds of millions to multibillion-dollar operations.

What was the hiring process like?

I applied for this role on IrishJobs.ie and included my CV and a cover letter. HedgeServ got in touch with me shortly afterwards. The process was straight forward enough, although slightly challenging if I am being honest. I was interviewed by an accounting manager and an accounting director. Both of whom I would ultimately report to. Prior to the interview, I was given a multiple-choice test to gauge my knowledge of financial markets and instruments. I was left alone for about 10 minutes to complete the test. A few minutes after completion of the test the interviewers returned, and the actual interview commenced. I was told I scored quiet well on the test which was great feedback to receive early in the process. Afterwards it was a relatively standard job interview with an informal style from both interviewers; I was asked questions about my educational background including: the modules I had taken in college, why I was interested in finance, why I was applying for the position and if I had any relevant experience. I feel interview technique is an aspect that many graduates overlook. I was told by the career guidance centre in UCD to do mock interviews with my friends which certainly paid off. I felt I managed to establish a good rapport with my interviewers, and ultimately, I felt quite confident that the interview had gone well.

What do you feel made you stand out in the hiring process?

I have always had an interest in maths and throughout secondary school I had great maths teachers. From this I knew I was going to want a career where I could really leverage my numerical skills. This, coupled with my background knowledge of how financial markets operate, certainly piqued the interviewer’s interest. I would advise anyone going to a financial services interview to read up on the finance industry and to learn as much as they can before they go to an interview. This isn’t just so you can pass a test. On the job colleagues and clients will use technical language. Reading a few articles will help with breaking down some of the jargon associated with the industry.

In terms of what I felt was a gap on my CV, I would have to point to the fact that I hadn’t done an internship. I have learned many of the other graduates here have completed internships, with some having interned at HedgeServ. It’s certainly a plus to have that kind of prior experience on your CV.

Finally, the high grades I achieved in the accounting modules I took while at UCD were of particular interest to HedgeServ.

What’s your favourite thing about your company?

I like the fact that the dress code is smart casual, however I would have to say that the best part of the job is the people I work with. There are many graduates working their first job here. There is certainly a learning culture at HedgeServ. The majority of the junior staff are pursuing their professional qualifications, the company gives them time off to study as well as a salary increase when they pass. Managers and supervisors are very approachable, you’re not expected to know everything on day one, but you are expected to learn quickly. There is an online learning platform and the HR team organise classes at the end of every month during your first year here, which really helps flesh out your knowledge of the products, processes, and the role of different departments. I have a good few friends here, we have a competitive tag rugby team and the company actively encourages a positive social atmosphere which includes at least one Friday of every month where we have a ‘beer and pizza’ event which is, as it sounds, an event where the company pays for beer and pizza for everyone. This is great for meeting new friends as well as networking with colleagues from other departments and senior members of staff.

What’s the most satisfying and stressful parts of the job?

Deadlines can be stressful. Investigating issues such as cash or position breaks within these deadlines can be a challenge. This work involves finding the difference in the two sets of data and can be a bit like solving a puzzle. Once completed, it gives a great sense of satisfaction. When you can’t solve it and need to ask for help from your supervisor this can be frustrating, especially if, like me, you are a more introverted person. I remember my first couple of weeks at HedgeServ, I was asking my supervisor so many questions and I felt quite out of my depth, but after the first couple of weeks I really got the hang of it and pushed on from there.

What does a typical career progression look like for someone in fund accounting?

Obviously, there is a lot of variance in career paths depending on the person, but a typical journey would start off in a trainee accountancy role; spend a few years getting your professional qualifications, depending on your area that could be ACCA or CPA, then you would be promoted up to supervisor after completing (or nearly completing) your qualifications. After that, it’s about specialising in your role and really adding value to the business. This takes a number of years, but you can then move into a more senior role where you oversee teams and take on more responsibility.

A word of advice to undergraduates: There are big name investment banks that recruit hundreds of graduates to work in fund administration every year. I think younger companies like HedgeServ have the advantage of a flatter structure, it’s easier to be noticed and you’re given the opportunity to move up the ranks. In the larger firms I’ve heard it can take longer to be promoted.

Fund administration is a booming industry in Ireland, the job market is quite competitive. Once you have experience under your belt there are good opportunities to travel. For example, one of the fund accounting supervisors on my team is transferring to the middle office team based in New York. Another person recently transferred to our Sydney office.