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Exclusive Interview: Rhian Owen, Audit Partner with Grant Thornton

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Business News Wales recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rhian Owen, Audit Partner at Grant Thornton.

Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within Grant Thornton?

I’ve been in practice nearly 18 years and throughout that time I have enjoyed working with a diverse range of clients from small owner managed businesses through to listed entities and Public Interest entities.

I have a background of working with both listed and US GAAS/GAAP clients across the UK and international destinations such as USA, China, Columbia, Germany and France.

In terms of my role, I lead the audit practice for Grant Thornton in Wales focusing on working with dynamic, growth businesses across a number of different sectors, but with an expertise in manufacturing and international businesses.

What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?

I want to continue to grow our Wales’ team and I am passionate about sharing the message that Grant Thornton offers a wide range of business advisory services to growing companies across the Welsh landscape. Our wealth of intelligence and specialisms enables us to have insightful conversations beyond our traditional service line dialogue and includes topics such as managing risk and regulation, optimising operations and engaging leadership and talent. It is a challenge to make business owners aware that we offer this level of service and expertise as it is different to the offering of the traditional business adviser.  The value added potential of working with us across service lines is significant.

Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently? 

More sleep would have been welcome! I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to have a secondment in the Early Learning Centre whilst maintaining my position in practice. This was an ideal way to gain insight into all aspects of commercial life without having to leave my chosen profession to do so. If this opportunity had not been available to me then I may well have chosen an alternative career but this meant I was able to have my cake and eat it!

What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?

Integrity, trust and efficiency are crucial in my own line of work and provide peace of mind for clients to feel reassured and confident that their auditing and financial reporting remains of the highest quality, as the implications of not getting it right can be serious.

What are your top three tips for success?

  • Never ask someone to do a task you would not do yourself.
  • Give 100% commitment to it, otherwise it isn’t worth doing
  • Fully enjoy what you do, or chose to do something else

Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?

Grant Thornton are investing significant time in attracting school leavers into the profession, and providing an alternative route to University for individuals who don’t want to pursue Higher Education in its traditional form.  The results that we have seen locally from this scheme are very encouraging, with a high level of engagement from the individuals who have joined as School Leavers.  I would encourage other industries to consider this route and to change their traditional recruitment approach.

Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?

Skills shortage is a key issue for Welsh business and owners need to consider different routes of attracting new talent into their business so to enable them to continue growing against the competition.

Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?

I think the obvious answer is the level of uncertainty that will be with us for some time. However we must not forget that Brexit is currently delivering some positive outcomes too, such as those we have witnessed for our current exporting clients.

What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?

The level of help and assistance available to growing businesses is unique to Wales. Whether it is grant funding, advisory services or dedicated working hubs there is a raft of support available. Unfortunately, our nation tends to be rather inward facing and subsequently suffers from a lack of confidence, which limits our ability to want to play on the global stage, subsequently this reduces our opportunities to really shine.

What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?

As per my message above we need to be more outward thinking and have greater belief in our ability. We can do it, we just don’t think we can.

What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?

Beyond technical skills education needs to address personal skills so individuals are equipped to live life in the ‘real world’. I also believe education needs to create an environment where individuals leave with a desire to want to earn their right to a decent salary, an aspirational career and a fulfilled life.

How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?

It is vital that the higher education sector understand the requirements of our business owners, and work with them to develop a learning environment for students that will truly equip them for the world of work.  This would benefit both the students and business owners significantly.