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Succeeding in Corporate finance – a Q&A with Carl Swansbury, Partner and Head of Corporate Finance at Ryecroft Glenton

by Helen Dodds | 9 December 2019

​​Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in corporate finance, or are you wondering what you need to do to build a successful career within the sector? Our Newcastle Practice recruitment team recently sat down with Carl Swansbury, Partner and Head of Corporate Finance at Ryecroft Glenton, to find out what he attributes to his success, and to get his views on what finance & accountancy candidates need to do to thrive in this service line.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience to date?

I joined PwC straight from sixth form College on the AAT/ACA fast-track course, which is a challenging but very rewarding four-year programme. I initially started out within audit and assurance, qualifying at the age of 20 and left PwC shortly after in December 2006.

I always knew I wanted a career in corporate finance or consulting, so I decided to join RSM Tenon in January 2007 to pursue it. As with any new career, I started in a junior role as a Corporate Finance Executive and progressed accordingly within a four-year period, being promoted to Corporate Finance Manager, Corporate Finance Senior Manager and then Director, all during my time at RSM Tenon. In May 2011 I joined Ryecroft Glenton, successfully established the Corporate Finance function and consequently progressed to my current role as Partner and Head of Corporate Finance.

What does a typical day look like for you and your team?

Working within corporate finance keeps me very busy. Generally, I am on my laptop for around 7am and ready to start taking calls and attend meetings by 8am. I like to start as soon as I can in the morning so I can look at what needs to be done that day, and then plan my time accordingly.

I usually start my day by going through my emails to ensure nothing urgent needs to be actioned, and then from 8am I am usually in back-to-back meetings with shareholders and funders. No two days are the same, which is part of the reason I love working in corporate finance. In terms of my team, they will be providing expert advice and guidance to clients, producing business plans, carrying out detailed research, preparing detailed financial models and leading transactions.

What is the most influential thing you have learnt/been taught in your career so far?

Working within any fast-paced role is enlightening, and I have learnt a great deal throughout my career, but there are two things that really stick out as being vitally important, especially for those looking to carve a successful career in the sector. The first is to always be mindful of the need to deliver clear and concise advice in a strategic way.

Secondly, corporate finance professionals need to keep their knowledge up-to-date, be aware of what is going on around them and always remain optimistic. It is very easy to give up or think that giving your best is pointless in the face of adversity, however that is not true. For example, in the current political climate with Brexit looming, many finance professionals are apprehensive of what might happen, and some have let this impact their decisions. However, at Ryecroft Glenton we have remained positive throughout and have managed to achieve our best year yet, showing that a positive outlook can be hugely beneficial.

Longevity at your firm is fairly obvious, what is it that’s kept you with the business so long?

Being part of a full-service firm and working for a company that is results driven and committed to being a market-leading advisory firm has made my decision to stay and progress at Ryecroft Glenton very easy. The clarity of our firm’s vision is exciting and demanding, making it a very interesting place to work.

Another aspect is the autonomy I have been given from stakeholders to lead at Ryecroft Glenton’s corporate finance function and drive this forward. They have recently hired two new heads into the corporate finance team and are willing to grow despite the current climate to drive the business forward, something many other firms are not doing.

What are the key things that you look for when you’re looking to hire?

When looking for people to join the firm it is a given that we look for individuals who are academically and technically astute. This is essential in our line of work. We also look for candidates that are likely to fit in with our core values, as cultural fit is almost as important as technical ability.

For example, we look for conscious individuals who will care about our clients and colleagues and we look for candidates we can trust, so we will consider anyone that has been in a trusting position in a previous role. It is important to us to find people who are aligned with these values because we remunerate and appraise against them.

What are the key challenges that you face when recruiting?

Attracting talent who have the above values combined with the technical skills from the small talent pool in the area is very difficult.

What learning and development opportunities are available for employees with Ryecroft Glenton?

We employ candidates straight from school/university and will assist them through any official accounting or tax qualification (ACA/ACCA/CIMA/AAT/ATT etc). During their studies candidates will work with us and be mentored to ensure they have the best possible foundation to build a successful career in the sector. We also offer a four-year internal training programme within advisory.

In addition to this, we also put a great deal of time and energy into ensuring our employees have the best possible chance for success. Once qualified, our employees have access to additional on-the-job coaching and additional qualifications through Accelerate to help them further their career and progress with us at Ryecroft Glenton.

How do you think your business differentiates itself from the many other practices in the North East?

There are several things that I believe differentiate us from our competitors. Firstly, our heritage. We are a very well-known and established firm with a clear growth strategy. Secondly, we are a market-leading firm providing full advisory services including all six service lines. There are very few other independent firms in the North East providing a service like this other than the Big 4. Finally, we can provide a national and international service from our regional location in the North East, giving people a great opportunity to travel and gain exposure to various types of businesses.

How do your tailor your benefits, employee recognition and rewards to ensure you attract the best talent?

We benchmark ourselves against our competitors to ensure our benefits are in-line with the rest of the market. We also carry out an annual internal survey to ask our employees if there is anything they would like to see implemented, which allows us to cater for the wants and wishes of our employees.

In most firms, individuals tend to become a ‘specialist’ in a service area (Tax, Audit for example). Is it then possible for these individuals to move into a different service area?

It is of course possible to change service line focus within practice. For example, we recently had an employee move into a Corporate Finance Senior Manager role from audit and assurance. Candidates just need to have a good working knowledge of the sector and be able to show a drive and determination to learn and succeed.

I believe it is also important to give candidates exposure to multiple job roles and practice areas so they can make an informed decision on their career path as early as possible. To assist with this, we offer all trainees the chance to work in various service lines and offer secondments within the firm, so they can get a feeling for where they see themselves working longer-term before making any final decision on their chosen career path.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to secure or advance their career in practice?

To build a successful career in practice, candidates need to be technically strong and have a full set of soft skills in addition to technical prowess – skills such as communication skills, leadership capabilities, organisation skills and problem-solving skills for example. In addition to this, they also need to have a broad professional network and a drive and passion to help lead both clients and colleagues to success.

Can we help you…

If you would like help securing a role within corporate finance or other service areas within practice, then please get in touch.

Alternatively, you can check out our latest North East Practice jobs here.