Anne Dwyer, Partner and Head of Audit in London at Kreston Reeves, sat down with Adam Munro, Associate Portfolio Director at AJ Chambers. Anne explains how becoming a Partner at the same time as starting a family can be achievable and successful.
Leading an Audit team
I am Anne Dwyer, Partner at Kreston Reeves. Leading a growing London audit team, juggling the demands of partnership and a young and demanding family is only possible with the support of a firm driven by a clear purpose.
The audit profession has been under intense scrutiny over the last few years, and perhaps rightly so. Yet it remains the bedrock for a rewarding and intellectually challenging career for those entering the accountancy profession. More women are needed in leadership roles.
It is a demanding and technical role that is not always black and white. It puts you in front of clients from the start of your career and whilst there is a need to keep on top of the changing audit standards, it is a role that requires you to make judgement calls on a daily basis on the application of those standards.
The demands of the audit profession can make it a challenge for women wanting to build a career as an auditor and achieve seniority, with promotions tending to present themselves at the same time as when women begin to think about starting a family.
My career started in 2001 at a small London Bridge firm before moving to BDO in 2003. I then joined my firm, Kreston Reeves, in 2009 as a senior manager and had my children in 2015 and 2017. I was appointed Partner in March 2018, shortly after returning from maternity leave after the birth of my second child.
On having children, I requested to work three days a week, a balance that enabled me to continue to enjoy and build on the career I love and enjoy being a mum. When my children started nursery and school, I moved to four days a week, only returning full-time in 2020 when the Covid pandemic changed the way we work.
Balancing work and the demands of being a parent isn’t easy. We place ourselves under immense pressure to be successful at everything we do, and it can leave us questioning whether we have made the right choices and, as a lot of mums and parents will acknowledge, with ‘mummy guilt’.
I knew that I was ambitious to achieve partnership at Kreston Reeves yet took a conscious decision to delay my application to start our family. It was a risky decision: a partnership position might not have been open when I felt I was ready, and partnership brings considerable responsibilities.
That I was promoted to Partner when working four days a week and with a young family is a testament to the culture and support Kreston Reeves offers.
Kreston Reeves has been on an exciting journey that has seen the firm identify and articulate its values and purpose. Our values are to ‘Understand, ‘Make it personal’, ‘Be human’, ‘Look ahead’ and ‘Be crystal clear’. And our purpose is to ‘guide our clients, colleagues, and communities to a brighter future’ which includes the way we treat and support our people.
In practice, this means we place a great deal of importance on each other and our work lives. If one of the team is feeling under pressure, we take the time to understand why and how we can help.
It may be that they have a poorly child at home, a child is facing GCSE finals, or a family crisis. We are understanding and can provide the support and flexibility they might need to meet important work, as well as family, commitments. The firm is built on good communication, a strong team culture and, most importantly, being kind.
For me, that means being at home for the children at mealtimes, helping with homework and family time. I am present at the nativity play, sports days, club awards presentations and I do so knowing my firm supports me to be there. I can pick up and finish my working day when the children are in bed. As long as we continue to meet our core hours, deliver on our role and work commitments.
Professional services firms have always been extremely good at achieving an equal gender balance at junior levels. At Kreston Reeves, the gender split across the firm is 47% male, 53% female. But like many professional services firms, falls away at partner level.
But that is changing.
Culture at Kreston Reeves
Kreston Reeves, and other accountancy firms, are very much alive to the challenges facing women in the workplace and are responding.
Our award-winning talent programme is seeing a marked increase in women taking partnership and leadership roles, and that trend will continue. The Covid pandemic and the change in working patterns have undoubtedly made it a little easier for women to juggle career and home life.
The accountancy profession offers ambitious women a challenging and rewarding career as well as a family life. And audit remains the foundation for that career.
Anne Dwyer is a Partner and Head of Audit in London at accountants, business and wealth advisers Kreston Reeves.
Please visit www.krestonreeves.com to learn more.
Adam Munro is an Associate Portfolio Director at AJ Chambers, heading up client relationships in London for Audit and Accounts.
Please visit www.aj-chambers.com to find out more.