Date posted: 9/10/2020 5 min read

The soft side of insolvency with Joshua Robb

Peter Rupp FCA, President of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, speaks to Joshua Robb CA, Associate Director at specialist accounting and expert advisory firm SV Partners, on the Gen CA podcast.

In Brief

  • ‘Soft’ skills of networking and relationship management are highly valuable
  • Networking builds knowledge, skills and relationships
  • Relationship management is a requirement for challenging client facing roles

Accountants may not have a traditional reputation for being social, but who says work needs to be all profit and no people? In a world where knowledge and interpersonal communication are equally important, the ‘soft’ skills of networking and relationship management are highly sought after commodities.'

This year has seen business as we know it turn on its head. With the economic turmoil brought about by a weak global economy, and exacerbated by COVID-19, accountants now face the looming challenges of an increase in insolvency. While you might be considering entering the specialisation due to increased demand, success depends on understanding the importance of soft skills and business acumen.

Joshua Robb CA knows this well. As a specialist in the complex realm of insolvency, and regional chair of the Upper Hunter Region Chartered Accountants Committee, Robb says the value of soft skills has helped shape his career.

“I started off by becoming involved in our local Chartered Accountants committee. We were responsible for running events and training sessions for members. That allowed me to take on more responsibility in making sure that our members achieved the training they needed as well as networking because I think that's a key aspect,” Robb explains.

“There might be audit or tax questions that I come across that I don't know the answer to, but I've now got that relationship with people I can ask them the questions, catch up for a coffee. I think that was a massive part of contributing to what I've done.”

Networking with colleagues isn’t all about knowledge exchange. It’s also about building stronger skills and closer communities. To this end, more than 400 accountants and their guests get together every year for the Bean Counters Ball and raise money for local charities. Robb describes it as a little like organising a wedding every year.

“This is the tenth year of the Ball, and so far we've raised well over a quarter of a million dollars for charity. Seeing how much impact the funds that you're raising makes on the lives of the youth of the region, it's an honour to be able to do something like that,” says Robb.

“The tips that I would give somebody who's looking at moving into a similar role or organising a fundraising event would just be to listen to those people around you. You want to work as a team because everyone's got their own weaknesses and strengths. I can pretty much guarantee that the outcome will be significantly better if you do it that way,” he says.

Getting that practical experience and understanding of what you'll one day need to do is invaluable.
Joshua Robb CA Associate Director at specialist accounting and expert advisory firm SV Partners

Managing relationships with clients and stakeholders takes the same time and effort as developing relationships with colleagues. Working in insolvency, Robb says that experience is key to navigating the challenging face-to-face meetings required on the job.

“It can be quite emotional so you have to learn to set aside the emotion but still be sympathetic towards those employees. The way you deal with termination of employees or assisting bankrupts who are at the point of losing their property, you gain through experience. The worst thing you could do is send an employee unequipped to deal with those types of scenarios,” says Robb.'

“I try to get junior staff involved as much as possible. Getting that practical experience and understanding of what you'll one day need to do is invaluable and makes it a lot easier for those junior staff members.”

The CA designation has afforded Robb opportunities to practice these key soft skills that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. Doing so has not only positively impacted his professional life, but also his relationships outside of work.

“Having the CA designation means you get to know other people within your industry and to get to know other Chartered Accountants. A lot of my best friends are Chartered Accountants that I've met through doing the programme. If I didn't strive to get that designation, I wouldn't probably have met half of them,” says Robb.

“Professionally, the next step is just continuing to improve on what I do and try to help those that are in a financial hardship in trying to get out of it and keep going.”

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