The right formula

content f1 formula one mercedes

Jerome Cook ACCA, finance business partner – inventory at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, tells us why he knew ACCA would put him on the right track.

Why did you want to become an accountant?

I always enjoyed numbers. I used to do sums with my grandparents as young as five-years-old after school. I then developed a passion for engineering, but during one of my last school exams I decided I wanted to work more with numbers. After a quick phone call to my mum in which I asked her what jobs involved numbers, I quickly signed up for AAT level 3 at my local college and the rest is history.

Why did you choose to study ACCA?

For me ACCA offers the best range of skills. They consider both the technical elements as well as the forward-thinking aspect. With a wide range of exams/syllabuses to cover all aspects of business, from statutory reporting, taxation and audit to business reporting and leadership. Coming from an AAT background it felt like the most natural progression, and it was definitely the right choice.

How did you study for the ACCA Qualification?

This was split because of timetables, etc, but I utilised BPP and Kaplan. Personally, I found it more beneficial to attend classrooms rather than on demand. This enabled me to network, create relationships and work with different minds and opinions.

Thankfully I passed all my exams first time! I sat them quarterly, so there was always a risk of getting ahead of yourself, as you would be starting a new syllabus while awaiting results.

Tell us about your career path to date.

Prior to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, I worked for two very different companies: a large-scale global manufacturing company, Cummins Ltd, and then the country’s gas transportation services, National Grid. I was sponsored to study by Cummins Ltd and held various different positions before moving to National Grid in a regulatory position.

It’s important to work in an industry you love, but it is equally important to go for the right role and at the right time. I have enjoyed all the industries I have worked in because of the business opportunities, evolutions and even sometimes risks that were happening when I was there. This enables growth and development, both personally and professionally.

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How did you come to work at Mercedes-AMG Petronas?

I was approached by an agency that proposed the role to me. What really caught my eye is that the role was a mix between my last Cummins Ltd role and my role within National Grid, so it appeared to suit both parties in that regard.

I joined during the first year of the new regulations. So while I haven’t been in the business prior to this, it’s clear to see how the cost cap has changed the team for the better. There is a new aspect of reporting and views on the financials while remaining innovative and quickest on track.

There is a great culture and even more impressive team attitude; everyone is working to the same goal. People are collaborating and talking more than I think I have seen before in previous roles. There is a real sense that the team is at one.

Tell us about more about your role and responsibilities

  • All things inventory! It involves ownership of month-end activities – for example, journal postings, balance sheet reconciliations and management reporting, all to tight deadlines.
  • Finance point of view on working groups, utilising my previous experience to develop new and improved ways of working in processes and reporting.
  • Involvement in the first full regulatory audit alongside the usual statutory audit, being a key point of contact for inventory queries.
  • Alongside this, developing new forecasting methodologies and enabling the use of business interface tools like Tibco Spotfire/Power BI, which provides live financial data to the wider business.
  • Business-partnering key areas of the business (for example, ERP, manufacture and commercial, etc) to enable awareness of inventory spend and highlight improvement opportunities.
  • The usual ad-hoc requests that fly into the inbox daily!

What is your earliest Formula One memory?

Formula One has been in my life since I can remember. Sundays used to be spent watching the Formula One on TV with the family at lunchtime – that’s when the love developed. My earliest memory is watching Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen, with Murray Walker commentating with the infamous ‘And it’s go, go, go!’

What are your career aspirations?

Anyone up and coming in finance will always have the ambition to be CFO/finance director and mine is no different. While this is in no way a certainty, I will continue to push myself to grow professionally and personally to climb as high as I possibly can.

Jerome: must-have career skills...

Essential soft skills

  • Communication – developing ways to communicate to different stakeholders is one of my most valuable skills. Not everyone has a finance ‘head’ or understands the full impact/implication. Being able to change approach is a priority in this fast-paced world.
  • Adaptability – the world of Formula One is ever changing, being able to adapt to the business demands and have meaningful financial data available is key.
  • Problem solving – there are numerous times in which situations arise without precedent. So being able to analyse, recommend a solution, discuss and implement is a must.

Essential value-added skills

With the amount of data that is in the world, a new generation accountant needs to be able to sieve through the data and be able to determine what is useful and not in a short space of time. And then they need to make this data presentable and clear in a format to suit relevant stakeholders. This makes Excel skills even more important than before.

Being able to use business interface tools (Tibco Spotfire/Power BI) and different ERP systems (SAP, Oracle, etc) is increasingly important.

Agility is key and having an inquisitive mind is important; always question why and always try and find a more efficient and effective way of working.

This is in addition to being able to communicate with different stakeholders, being able to manage deadlines and being able to take ownership of your own roles and responsibilities.

Author: Alex Miller

This article was first published in Student Accountant in May 2022

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