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Student and graduate profiles

Accounting and Finance offer great career options

Our students – past and present – talk about their time at Otago. Find out about the places a qualification in Accounting and Finance has taken them.

Chris Walsh

MoneyHub

“No one ever regrets going to Otago!”

Chris Walsh 2021 imageChris is the founder and Head of Research at MoneyHub.co.nz, the financial resource website for all things money. After a career at EY, Merrill Lynch and a couple of startups, Chris launched MoneyHub in 2018 to meet the needs of every New Zealander looking to make more informed financial decisions. Since then, the business has grown and the plan is to help one million people a month by 2022. To quote Chris, “Whatever we do, it always has to be helpful, which makes every day a lot of fun.”

Reflecting on the value of his BCom majoring in accounting from the University of Otago, Chris notes that his degree got him into EY to qualify as an Accountant. It was during his time at EY that Chris met a business partner which then springboarded him into the Startup world. Reflecting on his post-tertiary experience Chris says, “In all honestly, starting your own business is the best education after University. No matter what happens, I know that I can always rely on my Otago degree and post-graduation experience to get a job. Otago was a fantastic place to study, and the day-to-day lifestyle sets you up perfectly to be an adult.” Studying Accounting gave Chris a professional qualification that is recognised around the world. Chris notes that many of the Otago graduates who qualified as Chartered Accountants have gone on to do great things. According to Chris the Otago degree gives you a passport to adventure, diversification and security. “You can pivot to anything you want,” says Chris.

Chris is inspired by creating businesses that solve problems and create jobs that that don’t feel like work. There are so many real problems in the world. He works by the philosophy that if you build a business that solves one real problem, you’ll create something useful and valuable.

Chris grew up in Invercargill, so Otago was the obvious choice for tertiary study. He taught himself Year 11 and 12 Accounting right before entering Year 13, but he also acknowledges that the Department of Accountancy & Finance gave him the foundational knowledge, confidence and skills to get a job at EY. The other great benefit of study at Otago is that wherever he finds himself in the world, he often meets Otago alumni and enjoys reminiscing about student life. “No one ever regrets going to Otago!”

Allen Li

LawHawk

"In addition to gaining excellent qualifications from a respected university, I made a lot of life-long friends and connections."

Allen Li image 2021Allen Li is a co-founder of LawHawk, a New Zealand based legal automation company that helps organisations improve their legal processes. LawHawk reduces the time it takes to prepare legal documents (e.g. Kāinga Ora experiences a 75% reduction, on average), and gives non-lawyers legal support at the click of a mouse (e.g. non-lawyers at Foodstuff s North Island can generate commercial contracts without involving a lawyer). "We also sell automated legal documents to the public, through our website (e.g. wills, enduring powers of attorney, and confidentiality agreements). I'm proud to say that thousands of customers have already used this service and the feedback has been fantastic."

Allen graduated from Otago with a Bachelor of Commerce (Major in Finance, Minor in Economics) and a Bachelor of Laws. While his LLB is more relevant to the legal aspects of his current role, he is the first to acknowledge that his BCom is more pertinent to the overall process of running a business. He also agrees that his commerce degree played a part in securing banking and finance legal roles before LawHawk. He notes that an understanding of derivative products and financial markets was a definite advantage when Allen was negotiating derivative contracts for Barclays Bank in London.

When asked about what inspires him Allen loves making people's work-lives better and making law more accessible. This comes in many forms, from reducing the time it takes for people to carry out repetitive and intellectually unchallenging work, to allowing non-lawyers to access legal services in a simple and practical way. Allen knows what it's like to work long hours and have people breathing down your neck for legal advice. It's not sustainable, and it doesn't need to be that way. He also appreciates that the law is often difficult to understand and access for non-lawyers. In Allen’s own words, “We know there's a better way, and we're doing our best to share that with as many people as we can.”

Allen is quick to admit that Otago “was a no-brainer” for him. The University of Otago has a fantastic reputation for providing a high-quality education. He was also attracted to the city of Dunedin because he knew it would be an incredible place to live and socialise. Add to this mix the fact that most of his friends from college had chosen Otago for tertiary study made the decision even easier. “I'm so glad I went to Otago. In addition to gaining excellent qualifications from a respected university, I made a lot of life-long friends and connections. I learned that being academically successful, and spending lots of quality time with my friends, are not mutually exclusive. And that's how it should be once we become professionals, too!”

Bill O’Boyle

Snowball Effect

"Some of the advice that certain lecturers gave will always stick with me, and the long-term connections made with other students have been incredibly useful for my career progression."

Bill O'Boyle image 2021Bill O'Boyle is the Director of Private Capital at Snowball Effect. He works with high-growth New Zealand businesses to help them raise capital to fund the growth of their businesses. The role requires Bill to work with a wide range of investor groups in New Zealand and offshore to find the right investors for a given business that is looking to raise capital.

Bill is quick to acknowledge that his BCom in Finance from Otago has been a great help to him throughout his career, opening doors and creating ongoing connections. He notes that the University of Otago is recognised widely by institutions in the financial sector for producing great candidates. Importantly, the Otago University alumni are a strength that should not be underestimated. Bill was introduced to his first job at BNZ by fellow alumni with whom he completed his degree. He has also had the pleasure of working with other Otago alumni and these associations have been very valuable in terms of connections, guidance, and mentoring, supporting his career progression.

Having spent most of his career in banking roles in Auckland and London, Bill moved into equity working with high growth SMEs at Snowball Effect. He gets inspiration from working closely with amazing businesses and investors every day. Opportunities to learn about cutting edge technology and business models being developed by new startups are what give Bill the passion for his work. “Not a day goes by that I don't learn something new from the people I am surrounded by”.

When queried about why he chose the University of Otago Bill replied, “For the balance it offers in terms of the high-quality education it provides, and the people that are at Otago. Some of the advice that certain lecturers gave will always stick with me, and the long-term connections made with other students have been incredibly useful for my career progression. Having Otago on your CV certainly piques my interest when hiring new staff.”

Jules Riley

Channel Manager, Booster.co.nz

"Degrees from Otago are looked at quite favourably by employers and Otago graduates seem to have a reputation of bringing a good mix of intelligence and character."

Jules RileyJules Riley is responsible for managing and growing the direct channel for Booster’s KiwiSaver and investments businesses – which basically means attracting new unadvised customers to join Booster. Before joining Booster he worked in institutional banking and later helped launch New Zealand’s first variable annuity which is a financial product designed to provide retirees with an insured income for life.

When asked how his BCom major in Finance from the University of Otago has helped Jules replied, “It’s not always easy to land your first job and getting a good one can be even more challenging. Anecdotally, degrees from Otago are looked at quite favourably by employers and Otago graduates seem to have a reputation of bringing a good mix of intelligence and character which recruiters often welcome. Still, it’s a competitive market and trying to set yourself apart with a masters, other degrees/qualifications, and internships can certainly help.”

Jules works in financial services. He enjoys the multiplier effect of his work. For example, Booster has over 120,000 members and is a market leader in socially responsible investing. Because of this, his firm can channel hundreds of millions of dollars towards funding more ethical investments and have an outsized impact for the size of the company.

When asked why he chose Otago Jules replied, “not for the quality of the student flats! But like many that choose Otago, for the social environment, the halls of residence, and the good reputation of the University.”

Anna Wellingham

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise

"I have loved the variety I have been exposed to in my corporate career and it all stems from the platform developed during my BCom."

Anna WellinghamAnna Wellingham works for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. She is an investment manager in the Investment Team at NZTE. She helps to attract investment into New Zealand through significant greenfield (think “from scratch”) projects that generate jobs and profits for our economy – all across NZ. Anna's team focusses on a range of sectors that require intervention from government – her main sectors are film and tourism. They can, however, help other companies or projects if they are “good for NZ”.

Anna completed a double major in Finance and International Business. She learned finance theory during her BCom. “I wouldn’t have started a career in finance without that degree. I actually majored in International Business, German and Finance, with a minor in Mathematics (BA/BCom) but the only one I found particularly useful for getting a graduate position that I wanted was Finance.” Her career in finance has been wide-ranging from investment banking (mergers & acquisitions, equity & debt raising), corporate advisory (consulting and deals), in-house corporate (strategy & transformation), to public sector (advisory to clients, and now in house at NZTE Investment. "I have loved the variety I have been exposed to in my corporate career and it all stems from the platform developed during my BCom."

When asked about what inspires her work Anna said that she loves being able to help people who truly need and value her expertise and skills. The challenge of making projects happen for NZ that night otherwise never happen or would take much longer (sometimes many years) is exciting.

In response to a question about why she chose the University of Otago to complete her tertiary education Anna replied, “For the student lifestyle.”

Rupert Carlyon

Founder, Managing Director – Kōura Wealth

"UBS hired me because they liked the variation and diversity of my degree and international experience."

Rupert CarlyonRupert Carlyon is the Founder and Managing Director of Kōura Wealth Limited, a technology-driven KiwiSaver and Wealth Management Business.

Prior to developing and establishing Kōura, Rupert spent 10 years with UBS Investment Bank in Auckland and London. Kōura was the result of Rupert following his passion to have his own business and at the same time leveraging his diverse finance experience.

Rupert’s journey through Otago was slightly different from normal. He completed a BCom in Marketing and International Busines followed by a post graduate diploma in Finance. He was fortunate to complete his third year on exchange in Barcelona. He admits that he is a long way away from the traditional finance or accounting graduate.

Rupert acknowledges that his Dunedin experience gave him an amazingly broad background. International business was a degree that touched all facets of business from economics, marketing, finance, management, and accounting. His Otago BCom set him on a very strong footing as it allowed him to understand more than the numbers (which is crucial for anyone wanting a career in business). “The workplace is about understanding how things fit together and understanding the why we do things rather than simply processing information – having a very broad and wide-ranging degree allowed me to do that.”

When asked what inspires him to do his job each day Rupert replied, “I love the mental challenges that I face every day. We have the technical challenges of the finance theory which I find fascinating and love, and also the challenge of running a business whilst keeping all of my stakeholders (Staff, Shareholders and Clients ) engaged and happy.”

Rupert chose Otago because he wanted to leave Auckland to get away from home and experience university life in Dunedin. In hindsight, completing his study in Dunedin and graduating with a Post Graduate Diploma in Finance gave him an entry ticket into Investment Banking. “UBS hired me because they liked the variation and diversity of my degree and international experience.”

Paul Chong

Salesforce.com (Software company in the US)

“An International student exchange is the best possible way to travel – make sure to seize the opportunity while you're at uni!”

Paul Chong imagePaul is originally from Dunedin and completed a BCom (Hons) in Accounting at Otago in 2005. After graduating, he moved to China for 18 months on exchange. In Paul’s own words, “An International student exchange is the best possible way to travel – make sure to seize the opportunity while you're at uni!” After short stints in finance and consulting, he moved to the US to do an MBA. That was 10 years ago, and he has been in San Francisco ever since. Paul now works as a product manager building cloud software.

When asked about his Accountancy qualification from the University of Otago Paul honestly believes that Otago commerce students are among the most well-rounded graduates produced by any university. He refers to the combination of how the program is taught, with its focus on group work as well as the flexibility to pursue other topics and activities that are of interest. Paul notes that Accounting is the language of business. This provides students with a strong foundation to excel in a range of business professions in the future.

When asked about sources of inspiration Paul is quick to note that he is attracted to difficult problems that are solved by teams. “Being part of a great team really motivates me, challenges me, and keeps me growing.” Happy customers using the applications that he designs also give Paul a great sense of satisfaction.

Paul chose to study at the University of Otago because it was the cheapest and most convenient option, given he was from Dunedin. In hindsight, he is very glad that he decided to study at the University of Otago. The Otago culture has been a lasting memory for Paul even after experiencing tertiary education at some really great institutions.

Nigel Sew Hoy

Business Owner and Mortgage Adviser – Mike Pero Mortgages

“Otago opened my mind and allowed me to meet challenges head-on, innovate and realise that traditional jobs are not the norm anymore.”

Nigel Sew Hoy imageNigel built his career with a BCom/BSc from the University of Otago and completed his Chartered Accountancy (CA) designation while working with the Audit team at PWC in Auckland. Combined with his accountancy studies, property has always been a major part of Nigel’s career. He is self-employed, works from home and owns his own mortgage advising business. In his own words Nigel describes his role as “I take the stress out of the biggest transactions of my clients’ lives”. Since completing his double degree at the University of Otago Nigel has combined his knowledge from 10 years in rental properties and fulltime property trading to become an effective mortgage adviser. He is able to assist his clients by providing them with an efficient, personalised property advice and a simplified borrowing process.

In reflecting on the value of his BCom (Accountancy) from the University of Otago Nigel acknowledged that the range of papers offered at Otago provided him with the confidence to find a career based on what he enjoyed doing. The accountancy major was the perfect steppingstone to get into a Big 4 accounting firm and he quickly recognised the market value of a BCom from Otago. Nigel acknowledged that “Otago opened my mind and allowed me to meet challenges head-on, innovate and realise that traditional jobs are not the norm anymore”.

Nigel loves the challenge of dealing with real world problems that materially affect people’s lives. He is involved daily in decisions about where his clients will call home, and investment decisions to enable retirement. Nigel is quick to admit that he prefers to sit in a café with clients discussing property purchases compared to sitting in a boardroom sweating it out in a shirt and tie!

When asked why he chose the University of Otago for tertiary study Nigel admits that being Dunedin born and bred it seemed like a sensible choice. Not only did he spend time on campus with school friends who also completed tertiary study, Nigel also enjoyed the range of students on campus from all over New Zealand and the fully immersive university lifestyle. Nigel spent his first year as a resident at Hayward College. It was during that time that he made significant friendships that have been maintained beyond the completion of his BCom (Accountancy).

Claire Dugan

Deputy Executive Director of Skateistan

“All those group assignments and presentations were fantastic experience for the real workplace.”

Claire Dugan imageClaire Dugan is originally from Wellington, but currently works in Berlin. She is the Deputy Executive Director of Skateistan, an international Non-Government Organisation that uses skateboarding and education to empower youth in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa. Claire oversees all internal functions - student programs, operations, finances, HR, legal - and makes sure that the company is meeting strategic goals. I also do a lot of organization development, basically making sure we are operating as efficiently and equitably as possible.

The BCom in Accountancy from the University of Otago gave her a well-rounded introduction to business. Claire commented that the BCom had set her up to be a strong communicator, especially when surrounded by people that do not have a business or accounting background. “All those group assignments and presentations were fantastic experience for the real workplace.”

When asked what inspires her to do what she does Claire replied, “Our students and my colleagues. After watching a group of Afghan girls dropping in at our Skate School in Kabul, I was totally convinced that this was a fantastic organization to support. My colleagues are awesome - their energy and passion keep things fresh.”

When asked about her choice to study at the University of Otago Claire replied that Otago seemed like it offered the most unique university experience and she was not disappointed!

Anna Fitzsimmons

"The trading room I work in at ANZ is a fastpaced and collaborative workplace."

Anna Fitzsimons

The open-plan floor houses around 90 people, including traders, salespeople, economists and risk managers across interest rate, foreign exchange, equity, credit and commodity markets. Over recent years I have been a dealer in both the Foreign Exchange and the Debt Capital Markets. My current role in Debt Capital Markets involves trading commercial paper, selling corporate bonds and assisting origination of debt instruments. My clients include numerous NZX50 companies, councils, financial institutions and New Zealand’s largest fund managers. When the financial markets are volatile the job can be frantic and stressful, but this environment also encourages a culture of honesty and teamwork. Every day is unpredictable; I love working alongside likeminded ambitious people in New Zealand and across our 31 markets.

Bradley Young

"I’m very lucky with the role I have at Audit New Zealand."

Bradley Young

As an Audit Manager I get to work across a number of areas of the business and, as well as providing professional audit services to public entities, I get to mentor and coach staff. I’m also involved in the professional development of staff through our national PD programme, which involves providing training to staff around the country. It’s great working in an environment where there is a emphasis on developing staff to be top quality professionals. Working at Audit New Zealand and with the public sector has been a fantastic experience for me. I get to work with and meet people who are passionate about making a difference for New Zealanders. No day is ever the same!

Carly Ross

"As a graduate I’m thoroughly enjoying my time at Deloitte."

Carly Ross

As a tax consultant the majority of my work involves preparing tax returns, calculating provisional tax instalments and proposing recommendations in light of recent legislative changes. All of these aredone for a range of clients including large corporates, small to medium sized enterprises, individuals, sole traders and trusts. What I most enjoy about my role at Deloitte is the ability to engage technical accounting and research skills to specific situations to provide solutions for clients. Legislative changes ensure you continually develop and grow your technical skills and knowledge. I’ve had a great start to my career at Deloitte and look forward to developing further as a professional through training, studying and socialising in a firm which offers so many opportunities.

Cory Pearson

"Working in the Capital Markets team of Telecom, I work across Investor Relations, Treasury Dealings and Risk Financing."

Cory Pearson

My role involves analysing performance and market data, supporting foreign exchange dealings, and liaising with investors and analysts globally. Rapid business, technology and consumer changes mean that Telecom is always changing, presenting me with new challenges and opportunities that demand a wide commercial understanding. Perspective of global economics and finance is especially useful considering Telecom is listed on three stock exchanges and has investors from around the world. The Japanese component of the International Business degree gave me the opportunity to translate messages for Telecom payphones and other products for international consumers. I plan on continuing my Japanese skills in our worldwide investor presentations later this year.

Danny Tu

"I am an analytical person and really enjoy analysing and interpreting public health data to explore its true meaning so we can help improve people’s health and well-being."

Danny Tu

I am very lucky to be part of the Research and Evaluation Unit at the Health Sponsorship Council. “As a Data Analyst my key responsibilities involve complex data mining, statistical modelling, advanced computer programming, database management and data interpretation. The quantitative research skills and problem solving techniques I have gained through work have given me a solid foundation of knowledge in the public health sector. I love the variety in my job as I am able to apply different statistical techniques and methodologies to a wide range of public health research projects and no two days are the same.

Jeremy Johnston

"In my role at Air New Zealand, I get a fantastic high level view of how the airline and its IT systems and financial processes all tie together."

Jeremy Johnston

I lead a team of advisors who work with our varied business units to ensure business processes and systems mitigate risk, promote efficiency, reduce costs and prevent revenue leakage. “Air New Zealand is innovative and continually developing which means I get asked for advice on risks that might be introduced. Each job involves different systems and a new set of business processes to understand – no two jobs are the same. I could be at “the hub” (our head office) reviewing the Airpoints programme; at the airport looking at disrupt processes; assisting customers with kiosk check-in; or flying to Los Angeles or Fiji for a regional review!

Kate Berlova

"I work as an analyst for BNZ, Institutional Banking division."

Kate Berlova

I’m part of the Energy, Utilities and Infrastructure team that maintains relationships with large corporate organisations in the energy and utilities industry, as well as major telecommunication companies. Our clients include companies such as Meridian Energy, Contact Energy, Vector Ltd, Transpower, Vodafone, Telecom and 2 Degrees. I perform extensive analysis of their financial position and assess their ability to borrow funds – obtaining a lot of confidential information from companies. I am also involved in structuring transactions in order to assist customers’ hedging strategies and other major projects. The job is challenging and requires a lot of commitment, but having a great team of people to work with and having flexible working hours makes it very interesting and fun.

Michael Milne

"As an Investment Adviser at Craigs Investment Partners I get to advise a variety of clients on a full range of investment options both domestically and internationally."

Michael Milne

I love the fact that I’m not just stuck behind a desk all day. I spend a lot of time talking to clients, getting to know their personal situation in order to provide tailored recommendations that are appropriate to them. That’s of course when I’m not addressing the nation via the TV1 business news. “The broking industry is very dynamic and you need to have your finger on the pulse at all times. Market conditions can change in a heartbeat and you need to be able to adjust your strategy for clients accordingly. I love the buzz when there is a small window of opportunity to do a deal and you can deliver a great return to the client.

Rebecca Polson

"I never expected to pursue a career in accounting, but I’m thoroughly enjoying my time in KPMG’s audit division."

Rebecca Polson

As an auditor I spend a lot of time out of the office working on-site with various clients in the energy, pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors. A typical audit consists of an audit team visiting a client to verify its financial information and the integrity of its financial
records. We test significant accounts, such as inventory for a manufacturing client, often checking the client’s records such as invoices and bank statements to determine if the accounts are truly presented in the financial statements. I’ve worked with some of NZ’s biggest companies, and I love working, socialising and studying with a group of other accounting graduates as we endeavour to become Chartered Accountants. I’m excited about opportunities as an audit senior in KPMG Wellington and offices overseas.

Thomas Benington

"In my second year at Otago I secured a place on the WHK bursary programme."

Thomas Benington

This offered me a scholarship plus holiday work which meant that when I started full-time in the business advisory group after my graduation I already felt part of the team. Most of my work entails helping small businesses organise their accounts so they can track their performance, and meet their tax obligations. I use this information to offer suggestions to clients about how they might improve their future results. “I enjoy doing accounts for local owner – operated businesses because you get to know the clients and it feels like you are making a real difference. At this stage I’m still working through my professional studies – I have already been lucky enough to go to training in Sydney, and there is regular professional development here.