Haydn Pound is not your typical accountant. Despite coming up through the ranks the “normal way” (i.e. from university to public accounting and his CPA), he’s since forged a unique path. By mixing independent consulting with teaching, Haydn has carved a career that offers him the flexibility to be based in Melbourne but travel the world each year, plus learn to fly light aircraft in his spare time. We sat down with Haydn to learn more about his unconventional path.
From student to consultant
Like so many, Haydn chose an accounting path partly because he didn’t know what he wanted to do, and the foundational skills of accounting promised flexibility. From the University of Melbourne, he moved to PwC and got his CPA license. Dream achieved? Not quite.
As Haydn explains it, the world of a CPA can offer many things, from flexibility to good job prospects, as well as a relatively secure income. However, working at a Big 4, on track for Partner, he was unsatisfied with the daily grind of tax returns and changed directions by starting an MBA. For many in accounting careers, an MBA offers an interesting addition to resumes but may not be that valuable for those who stay in the accounting field; Haydn had other plans, however, and used his MBA credentials to pivot from pure tax work into high-end strategy consulting with BCG. He still relied heavily on his accounting background and PwC experience to be successful, but his expanded business knowledge gave him new opportunities not usually accessible to a “lifer” at a Big 4.
From consultant to professor (and aspiring pilot)
The reality is that at an elite consulting firm, the hours are long, the work challenging, and the constant travel lifestyle a drain. Haydn reminisces on this time, saying that in his few years at BCG, he “learned a lot and worked with a lot of interesting people,” but knew that it wasn’t the right game for him in the long term. But with this experience, he was able to launch his own consulting firm (which he still runs today), helping clients connect the basics of their accounting results with strategy development processes. Still relying on his accounting background, he’s always taking it a step further.
By running his own consulting practice, a chance encounter led to a gig teaching managerial accounting, first in Hong Kong and now with INSEAD, ranked the 4th best business school in the world. Haydn now spends a few months a year teaching in Singapore and France, another few months on consulting projects in Melbourne and Sydney, and the rest of his time on other projects and recreational flying.
As he reflects on this incredible journey, Haydn relates the basics of each role he’s had: “There is a common thread running through all of these things — comfort, or a familiarity with business numbers, whether it’s financial or interpreting business performance. It has made it possible to move into areas that I wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise.”
The power (and pitfalls) of management accounting
Often lost in the hustle and bustle of tax and audit careers, management accounting is a field that all first-year accounting students will tackle, and it’s fundamental to the success of any business. It’s also Haydn’s bread and butter, both in his consulting work and as a Professor of Managerial Accounting at INSEAD.
Haydn became interested in managerial accounting while working in consulting at BCG. He realized how important managerial accounting is to understanding business performance and informing strategy. By measuring costs, quality, productivity, and other basic drivers of performance, he found that managerial accountants could help business leaders understand what is really happening – pulling out the threads of truth needed for big decisions.
However, Haydn also notes that not all businesses — or accountants — recognize the value that managerial accountants can bring. He says “Accountants don’t always appreciate or emphasize the strategic and managerial insight that comes from the numbers they prepare, and strategists may not always ask the right questions of the accountants”
Blending accounting with your passion
Ruminating on his career choices, Haydn explains that accounting can be tough. It’s not necessarily a subject that inspires a lot of passion in its students, but you can be passionate about an underlying product or business. Whether it’s selling jewelry, improving hospital efficiency, or flying an aircraft, he says “if you can apply accounting to something that interests you, you’re likely to have a rewarding career.” He pauses before adding: “If you can combine your interests, accounting, and entrepreneurial aspirations, then the career can be fantastic.”