Danielle Stewart OBE
Head of Financial Reporting, RSM
Danielle is a partner at RSM, where she heads up the firm’s financial reporting service line.
She is a member of the Financial Reporting Council’s committee which maintains UK GAAP. In addition, she is a member of the Financial Reporting Faculty Board at the ICAEW and a key member of their Financial Reporting Committee (FRC).
In 2013, Danielle received an OBE for her services to accountancy and small businesses.
1. Why did you decide to pursue a career in accountancy?
As part of my school’s work experience, I worked for my father’s accountant during the summer holidays of my A-level year. My father thought accountancy would be very boring, and didn’t want me to get into it, so without my knowledge, he asked his accountant to give me the most boring jobs that he possibly could. I came home on the first night saying how much I had enjoyed it, so my father called his accountant (unbeknownst to me) and told him to give me even more boring jobs to do the next day. Of course I came home the next day telling my father how fantastic it was and this went on and on. At the end of two weeks my father gave up and I knew that I had found the career for me – I decided to become a chartered accountant as soon as possible!
2. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome this?
When I was just 27 years old, a former manager I had worked for at my first firm offered me partnership to start a small firm with him. Leaving the medium-size firm I was working for at the time to start up on my own was very scary but very exciting. I never looked back!
3. Who has been your biggest inspiration? (Either in your personal or professional life)
My maternal grandfather. He had a very successful business (a foundry i.e. An iron working factory) and he worked every day till his death in his 80s. He was always inventing and making things and he is so clearly loved his work as well as worshiping his family. He was also a very religious and spiritual man – truly someone to look up to in every way.
4. What’s the best piece of career-related advice you’ve ever been given?
When Peter Warrener, the business partner referred to above, presented me with a draft partnership agreement, my grandfather said that I should make sure there was a maternity leave clause in it (which there was not). Even though at the time I thought I would never want children, I insisted on it being added, and I lived to bless that decision when in my 30s, I had my two beautiful daughters, Francesca and Bella, one about to graduate from and one about to go up to Oxford University!
5. What three words sum up your career?
O-B-E. Receiving this honour from the Queen for the pro bono work I do (helping to reduce regulation, write company law and develop accounting standards) was literally the best moment of my life so far…apart from the days I gave birth to each of my daughters, of course!
6. How did you get to where you are now?
After 17 years of running my own firm, I decided to take the scary but exciting step of moving into a much larger, international environment. I started by moving to the number 13 firm in the UK, and after three years finding my feet in the larger firm environment, moved up again to the number seven firm in the UK, where I am now Head of Financial Reporting, as well as running a £3 million department in the Guildford office. I am an equity partner in the firm and every single day is a complete inspiration. I love my work but like my grandfather, I adore my wonderful family and love the spiritual side of my life too. I feel truly blessed.
7. What advice would you give to a woman starting out in the accountancy industry?
Believe in yourself!
8. What do you think the future of the accountancy industry holds?
We will need to focus more on the added value side of our services. The routine (boring!) accounting work that I did on my work experience is now all performed by computers. Accountancy professionals now have to concentrate on advising clients how best to present their financial information and on doing things that computers cannot do, like supporting, encouraging and inspiring their clients.