A Life in the Month of a Portfolio Financial Controller

Talk-to-your-Financial-ControllerAt EFM we like to get our Associates to share their client activities and why the portfolio lifestyle is so beneficial to their personal lives as well as the clients they work with. Stepping out of a full-time role and into the position of a flexible, part-time Financial Controller brings many advantages to the Associate.

They will no longer be tied to one company and sector but have the opportunity to work as much or as little as they see fit, with many different entrepreneurs in a multi-sector environment. No month, week or day is ever the same when you become a Portfolio Financial Controller at EFM.

To share her experiences since joining the EFM Network, Associate FC Tracy Lewis, will be sharing her client experiences by going over a typical working month, how this lifestyle change has helped balance her work and personal life, and why she wanted to change her career from 9am – 5pm to portfolio.

I have been a portfolio Financial Controller with EFM for 7 years. Much of my career was as a Financial Controller for SMEs, who really needed the services of EFM rather than employing me full-time. I would have month end squared away in 3 – 5 days, there after there was a lot of “could you just …” based around different ways to look at the data we had in the accounts package, without much direction – but what else was I to do with my time?

Now I get to focus on the management and year end accounts, and helping the client be smarter by looking at process improvement. The things I love to do and I’m good at. It’s about getting the job done well, not about being at your desk Monday to Friday 9 to 5.

In addition, I can pick and choose the clients I work with, and the volume of work I want to do. I am currently on a path to work a 9-day month: 3 days a week, 3 weeks a month – and so I have long weekends and a week off a month. Part of this has been led from having had such a success with my portfolio to date.

The original plan was to go into semi-retirement at 55 [being next year], drawing down most of my funds from my pension, and topping up with a paired down portfolio. However, having earned in excess of my targets each year, I have enough funds in my reserves to be semi-retired at 53. With the 9-day month, it means most of my funds come from my EFM work, and from next year this will be topped up with a small draw-down from my pension fund – which means my pension will go further.

The 9 day month is not a strict regime, as this time also allows me to get involved in one off pieces of work too – giving the flexibility to meet the needs of my clients, balanced with my own needs, and further reducing the draw down from my pension.

No two weeks are the same as a Portfolio Financial Controller, but the month takes a similar pattern, and this is what my month looked like. Even though this was during COVID-19 there has been no real change to my work – Britain has a true entrepreneurial spirit, and these businesses are good at what they do. It has been such a pleasure to show many of my clients that they have still hit target in spite of what is happening, and because we put a plan in place.

Week 1 – starts with a day of reflection. Having just had the last week off, I reflect on how I want this to look like going forward, and how easily I managed my e-mails while out of the office – and I managed them well. Initially I had planned to do this over the weekend, but it fitted better with my plans to do this on the Monday. I did have a working lunch booked with a client on the Monday, but I have good relationships with all my clients, and we moved this to Friday. By this time, we were in Lockdown part 2 so we couldn’t meet up anyway.

On Tuesday I have a business development day working from home – I have a business development day a month to keep my business ticking over. This can be spent meeting new clients or, as I did today, talking over marketing ideas for a new product I have in mind. As I was working from home, I was able to fit in taking my car to the garage for its annual service and MOT.

Wednesday I am in the office with Client A to go over a funding plan for £1m.  I appreciate we are in Lockdown part 2 but we decided a meeting in the office was important for the size of funds we were applying for, and naturally I was responsible with my travel. As a Financial Controller this isn’t something I usually get involved with, but with the support of my Managing Director at EFM, Gary Jesson, I could navigate the path on this deal.

Thursday takes me to a different arm of my business – as well as being a Financial Controller I also teach a finance module on a degree/apprenticeship programme, and I’m also a personal tutor to help my tutees build their portfolios. Today I have 1-2-1s with my tutees.

This isn’t just about fitting study into an already full life, as today I was talking about how to handle office politics, sickness within the family, increased workloads as a tutee of mine works in a supermarket, and also to welcome a new student to the programme. I remember when I was studying for my ACCA exams and recording my evidence of experience – which I left to the end; and so feel very qualified to push my tutees to keep on top of their portfolios.

On Friday I have a Zoom lunch with my client, and spend some time preparing for my meetings next week.

Week 2 – starts with meetings with my smaller clients. These take about an hour each and are on Zoom. Today I am working in the sectors of education and applying for grants, and entertainment and returning to business.

On Tuesday I am on a business development course to develop a new product. With EFM you are free to achieve the end goal in any way you see fit. The only real criteria is not to bring the brand into disrepute – and since we are all accountants, this is highly unlikely.

As I was working on the funding for Client A last week, I am a little behind on my regular work, and requested an extra day to catch-up.

Thursday is my business development day and I’m networking today – over Zoom naturally. This means I can have a later start to my day and attend my Pilates class – also on Zoom.

And Friday is my day off and I meet a friend for a socially distanced walk – living in Derbyshire means we are spoilt for choice. My friend knows how I like the more rugged scenery and a walk around the old quarries pricked my appetite for photography again. I have put this on the list for one of my weeks off in the spring.

Week 3 – continues with day 2 of 2 of meetings with my smaller clients, this time in the sectors of import and export – which is extremely lively at the moment due to Brexit, social media and training in bank reconciliations for complete and accurate accounts, bespoke jewellery looking at SEO and marketing.

Tuesday is my business development day and I have a call with a potential client – referred by the jeweller. I also have a call with a debt collector – recommended by EFM – to help a client who has a particularly sticky customer who owes a lot of money. Having tried to sort this out through the usual channels, it is time to bring in outside help.

And I have the rest of the week off to have a Zoom lunch with a friend and also a call with a bespoke travel agent in preparation for when we can travel again. I’m not the best of travellers and this needs to be managed – but salsa dancing in the Caribbean is on the cards.

And week 4 brings my week off, although I start the week with my business development day, so that I don’t miss out on this. Today I have a call with a fellow Associate Financial Controller as we mentor each other. We talk through what we’ve been working on over the last couple of months and how we can help each other. Through this we have also passed work to each other.

Although this was earmarked as a week off, I have decided to give half of this to a university that has asked me to do some marking. I’m marking in the mornings, and in the afternoons, I am working on exercise programmes, new recipes and singing lessons [you’ve guessed it – on Zoom].

The month ends with reviewing my e-mails to start the next month afresh.

Get in Touch

If you would like to find out more about how EFMs bespoke, part-time financial management services can benefit your business or see how you could transform your career and enjoy the flexibility of being your own boss and supporting SMEs as an Associate Portfolio FD or FC, please contact the EFM team via clientcare@efm.uk.com or call 01582 516300.