Recognition – Advancement to a Chartered Accountant Fellow (FCA) – Video & Transcript

On Wednesday August 1st I had the privilege of delivering the guest address at the Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand (CA ANZ) New Member certificate presentation & merit award recipient presentation. The night also held special significance for me personally as I was presented with my CA ANZ Fellowship Certificate.

Being advanced to Fellowship of CA ANZ has been a humbling experience as it recognises the contribution I have made to CA ANZ and the entire accounting profession since being admitted as a Chartered Accountant in Oct 2007.

Having been made an FCA after just passing 10 years of Membership in Nov 2017 has been one of my career highlights given everything I stand for and the values I live everyday in my career and my personal life, which ultimately comes down to always trying to help others. Fellowships are generally awarded to CA that have been members for at least 15 years.

CA ANZ’s Fellowship criteria is here 

The recording of my speech as well as the transcript are below.


CA ANZ FCA CA Graduation Speech – 1st August 2018

NSW Council Chair, Peter Wells, NSW Regional Manager Alison MacDonald, NSW Councillors, distinguished guests, fellow CAs and your families

Let me begin by thanking Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand for the invitation to be the guest speaker this evening. Becoming a CA is a significant career & life milestone, so its truly an honour and a privilege to be part of an event in your lives that you will never forget. At some point tonight be sure to stop, breathe in & take a moment to reflect on what you have achieved. It is substantial.

Whilst I have given plenty of speeches in my career I can honestly say that this evening is probably the most special for me on a professional level. Why? In October 2007 I sat where you are right now, a 27 year old newly admitted member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Like they are tonight, my family was here, waiting to share in my achievement. A gentleman was delivering the guest address and he, like I am tonight, had been made a Fellow of the institute and would be receiving his FCA certificate. I don’t remember his name and would not recognise him if I bumped into him in the street. But what I do remember very clearly was being inspired by his journey and by what he had done to help his fellow accountants and the profession as a whole. It made me realise that being a chartered accountant is more than just being a numbers man.

Whilst it might seem like I am a good story teller, I have never been one to talk about specific events in my own life. So for the next few minutes I’m going to share with you what I have learnt throughout my career and the values I have let guide me on my journey and let you apply them to your own lives & careers. 

People don’t remember what you did for them and quite often they do not remember what you charged them, but they most certainly remember how you made them feel. The most important principle for leading a successful professional career, especially in finance & accounting is that the experience you provide is paramount. People will always remember how you made them feel.

Customers & suppliers, partners & managers, employees & colleagues, its makes no difference. When you deal with somebody, if you ensure that their experience with dealing with you is fantastic, they will always seek the opportunity to work with you again.

Even as I prepared this talk, I tried to put myself in your shoes. Questioning myself, writing & re-writing sections, even as late as last night. Will it be boring, will they find me funny, will they come away confused or will they walk away inspired? Your experience tonight was my motivation to deliver an inspiring talk worthy of the occasion

You have to have passion for what you do. Sounds really simple, but if you love what you do, putting in the hard yards is so easy. If you are passionate you can get into the office early, work those extra hours at night and pull out the laptop on a weekend to get that task completed. Without passion, you will not be able to deliver a great experience.

Throughout my career I have always worked hard and over the past 4 years I have never worked harder in my life, not because I have to, not because I want to, but because I love what I do. I get out of bed every morning thinking about who I can help tonight, and it’s pretty powerful motivation knowing that I have an ability to help make a difference. That is the power of being passionate.

Don’t be afraid to dream big. And don’t let others say you can’t achieve something. Use that as motivation. If you want something, go and get it. You alone can be your biggest enemy or your greatest ally.

However, dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment. Have dreams, but have goals, life goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, daily goals. I try to give myself a goal every day. Sometimes, they are simple and just a few. And some days my goal list is longer than my left arm, but I start every day with a list of goals.

Make sure you get out your pen and paper and write these dreams and goals down. When you write them down and join the dots they remain in your subconscious and whilst you may not think of them everyday, they are there, in the back of your mind, keeping you on track. I have been writing down my goals since I started my career and update them all the time because goal setting is a very powerful process to keep yourself on track

Understand to achieve these goals you must apply discipline and consistency. You have to work at it every day. You have to plan every day. No doubt to get to where you are tonight you have already done this, but now is not the time to change. You’ve heard the saying “We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan.” Hard work works. Working really hard is what successful people do.

But remember that just because you’re doing a lot more doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done. Don’t confuse movement with progress. My mentor has said to me “if you try to do too much you will likely achieve less than your full potential. Time is very limited and it goes extremely fast. I have always thought along the lines that if you do less better you will achieve more faster.” ……………..If you do less better you will achieve more faster. Wise words

Your greatest learnings will come from working with and observing others. As CAs you are all leaders in your field. To go on to become a leader of people you must surround yourself with inspiring people who you can learn from.

I have learned so much in the last 4 years from working with some true leaders in the finance and technology sector although many of them do not hold any sort of official title.

Don’t be afraid to chase an opportunity. To quote Sir Richard Branson… If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.

I guess you could say I live my life like that but I am definitely not a thrill seeker or risky person… remember I am a trained chartered accountant, but I will always grab an opportunity if it presents itself. Putting that into context…… you have to trust your instincts. If you know deep down you can do that job, then say yes and make it happen.

But to follow your instincts you can’t be afraid to fail. That’s right. Be open to failing and failing big. You only live once, so do what you feel passionate about, take chances professionally, don’t be afraid to go outside of the box. Within the confines of the box there is very little progress. To move forward in leaps and bounds you have to step outside of your comfort zone and be prepared to fail along the way. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Hindsight is wonderful but it can also yield a lifetime of what ‘ifs’. We can’t wait for hindsight because some opportunities may only come once in a lifetime so you need to have the courage to chase your big dreams. Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big.

Never forgot the importance of family and friends. It is this support network of family & friends that is a key component of a successful career and whenever you listen to any successful individual talk about their success this is the common thread. I would not be standing here tonight if it wasn’t for the constant sacrifices, encouragement & support of my mum Kathy and of my beautiful wife Jade and for this I thank you both so much. Your belief in me has made me believe I can achieve anything.

Lastly I want to share with you my beliefs on the importance of giving back. As you focus on building your career don’t fall into the trap many do of waiting till you have “made it” before you start. Part of your development must be about doing something where all that you will get back is the gratification of giving back. Charity work, getting involved with your local football club, working with disadvantaged kids or mentoring. It does not matter. What matters is that you do it.

Everyone of you needs to contribute to the ongoing advancement & development of not only CAANZ but of the accounting, business & wider community.  You have a responsibility to become more than just a CA, more than just a numbers person.

Your journey starts a new chapter tonight & you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

So Claim it, work hard to get it, when you get it, reach back, pull someone else up. Each one. Teach one. Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference*. Thank you


*Reference – Denzel Washington – May 2015 – Commencement speech at Dillard University, New Orleans Louisiana

Published by James Solomons

FCA, GAICD. Innovative Business Leader. Global CFO @Xref (ASX:XF1). Director at @business_Depot (formerly Aptus Accounting & Advisory @AptusAA). Former Head of Accounting @Xero Australia. Advocate, Entrepreneur & Educator #Family #Football #Fastcars!

Let me know what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: