Dealing with companies on the brink of bankruptcy might not be the first job that comes to mind for your average accounting or finance graduate.
Nonetheless, firms like KordaMentha, who specialise in dealing with businesses in distress, are worth a closer look for anyone wanting to cut their teeth with some real-world business experience.
As it turns out, being part of the team that steps in when a business falls on tough times has some unique opportunities for graduates. To learn more, we met with Lachlan Viney from KordaMentha for a graduate’s perspective on the world of insolvency and restructuring.
Lachlan joined KordaMentha in 2015 as part of the Restructuring Team based in Sydney.
“In terms of the nature of the work you do here, it was a big swing away from your traditional graduate accounting role where you might specialise in audit or tax” says Lachlan, who graduated from UTS in 2014 with a Bachelor of Accounting.
“But I never wanted to do pure bookkeeping or accounting anyway - I wanted to apply my skills in more of an advisory or investment type role in the business world”.
Lachlan Viney (B.Acc, UTS), Business Analyst at KordaMentha
Lachlan's team will usually be appointed to oversee a distressed business as it gets back up and running, or alternatively, facilitate the winding up of a business in a fair and orderly fashion. But that’s about where the similarities between projects end.
“The work here is incredibly varied, and I might have 6 or 7 projects on at any one time. In one project, the client might be a bank who wants our help with the sale of a challenging asset, and in the next, we’re appointed administrator of a restaurant chain and will be responsible for overseeing the affairs of the company.”
With a relatively small office (40 people in Sydney), the expectation is that graduates will gain skills across multiple fields. This is one of the main factors that drew Lachlan to KordaMentha in the first place.
“We operate in small teams, which means that graduates are given responsibility right from day one.”
Small teams translate to big responsibility for KordaMentha graduates
“In my day to day work, I could be meeting with creditors or I could be meeting with Directors of a company. I might be responsible for financial modelling, or I could be analysing records for signs of fraud. There is no such thing as an average day”.
“We’re also encouraged to do our own business development, so taking a business contact out to lunch and developing my own network is also considered part of a graduate’s role”.
Business development, or building relationships which might lead to new clients, is a function usually reserved exclusively for upper management in most organisations. Not so at KordaMentha.
“It’s not just encouraged, but it’s expected of graduates,” says Lachlan. “Eventually we will be expected to bring in our own new clients, so it makes sense that the firm supports us to develop our own network right from the start”.
The culture of encouraging responsibility permeates every aspect of the firm, right down to the job titles. “There is no ‘graduate’ in your job title - your job title is ‘Business Analyst’, which just acts to reinforce that level of responsibility”.
It’s not surprising that KordaMentha looks to recruit personable graduates who will thrive in this sort of environment. And it’s not just for the sake of business development - the nature of the work means that graduates need to be comfortable dealing with people in uncertain and often sensitive situations.
“You’re in a client facing role, so it wouldn’t be unusual to receive a phone call from someone who has just lost their job, and you need to be able to deal with that in the right way”.
“It can be emotionally charged and high pressure, whether you’re dealing with creditors who want their money, or a distressed business owner trying to keep their business afloat. At the end of the day, it’s still all about the people”.
“People first” - a core part of the culture at KordaMentha
As a graduate, insolvency and restructuring definitely needs to be on the list of jobs you should consider. At the outset, it may seem like an unlikely field to acquire such a broad set of skills, but for an accounting graduate looking to apply their degree in the rough and tumble world of business, it’s an opportunity hard to look past.