Andrea is the Chief Marketing Officer at the FinTech scale-up, CurrencyFair. She became a CIMA member in 2020. Take a look at Andrea’s story and professional achievements.
Tell us a bit about your role?
I am the Chief Marketing Officer at the FinTech scale-up, CurrencyFair. We have been established, since 2010, as a global payments company specialising in FX for consumers and businesses. We are also serving the broader payments technology needs of large and medium enterprises. I am responsible for expanding our FX business globally and establishing our international payments technology brand.
What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
Being in a leadership position gives me the autonomy and influence to make important decisions about people. Over the years I have had the absolute pleasure and honour of contributing to the development and learning of my teams. Guiding someone as they take on additional responsibility or coaching them through new experiences is incredibly rewarding. I often get messages from people I worked with previously who attribute a piece of advice or experience they got with me as a material contributor to helping them reach their potential, that for me is the ultimate achievement as a professional and a leader.
Why did you choose CIMA as your professional qualification?
I did an undergraduate degree in Finance & Accounting with the full intentions of going on to get my professional qualifications however I put them on pause to join a graduate management program in an international travel retail company. That was nearly 18 years ago, and the CIMA branded coffee cup that the recruiters gave me at the time is still somewhere in my family home. Wanting to get my CGMA stayed with me throughout my career, that niggle never went away. I had advanced through the marketing track and I quickly realized that regardless of the discipline you choose, having finance is fundamental at management level and beyond. I had completed my MBA in 2014 which afforded me exemptions for CIMA. My first exam was the management case study in 2015. My career was in ramp up mode at that time, so I decided to postpone the strategic level until I had the capacity to give it my full attention. It was 2019 when I completed the strategic case study, and I became chartered in 2020.
What skills have you gained through studying CIMA and how have they contributed to your role?
As a marketing professional I know that marketing is an investment, but too often marketing is seen as a cost, a liability to a business that can be turned off or wound down when overall spend is being reduced. It is my responsibility to ensure that marketing projects are evaluated, risk assessed, ranked, and reviewed post-delivery in the same manner other business investments are regarded. Having the skills and knowledge to bridge that gap helps to build consensus and understanding about the business value that marketing brings and highlights the consequences of cost-cutting instead of it being a divestment decision.
How has CIMA membership and the CGMA designation contributed to your professional career?
A marketing professional with chartered finance qualifications is not a typical combination, it has helped me to stand apart. I work in FinTech, and whilst my decision to become a Chartered Global Management Accountant was not because of being in the financial services industry, it has certainly benefited me. Having the financial vernacular to communicate with stakeholders in my industry does facilitate better relationships, enhance credibility and overall authority in the space.
How do you see CPD as being of value to you in keeping your qualification relevant to the constantly changing business environment?
Relying on the experience you get at work is a passive approach that will not serve you if you want to progress in your career. And even if rapid progression is not what you are aiming for, job satisfaction alone can be greatly improved when you invest in your own professional development. CPD is not only valuable when navigating changes in the business environment but it also serves to preserve the knowledge gained from your studies. In your work role, it is unlikely that all the skills and knowledge gained from studying will be used consistently and frequently enough for it to be maintained. CPD is the smartest way to ensure you do not lose all that was gained on the road to chartership.
How did you balance work and study?
Every chapter in each module that I mastered made me better at my job and a better leader every day. I made a conscious decision to appreciate the learning and apply the new skills along the way. I did not have a time constraint on when I would need to secure my qualification. I fit it in around life, rather than the other way around. Yes, there were personal sacrifices along the way, but if work was going to be intense for a time, then I would make a conscious decision to pause study. And if life had a lot going, I would apply that same approach.
What advice would give to anyone thinking of studying the CIMA qualification?
I took the self-study approach for most of the journey. But that did not mean doing it alone. I joined student groups on social media which then led to joining WhatsApp groups with people from all over the world studying the same subject at the same level and at the same time. We shared tips, answers to practice questions, links to study resources and just general chat and support. It made a big difference for me. When I reached the strategic level, I attended classes for the financial strategy module and the case study. I loved being back in a classroom environment. I had an excellent lecturer who encouraged me to sit the SCS sooner than I had originally planned to and it turned out I was readier than I thought. It is an intense journey and a long one, it is a challenge to maintain the motivation and momentum. My advice would be to not do it alone, get support in whatever form works for you.
Do people have any misconceptions about your role and your profession in general?
There has been a long-standing misconception that marketing and finance are at opposites ends of the business spectrum and are destined to be forever at loggerheads. There is mutual responsibility for marketing professionals and finance professionals to bridge the function gap at all levels. And that starts with education, and whilst it is not feasible for everyone to get qualified in multiple functions, it is feasible to collaborate with your peers in other functions with a learning mindset. I always take the time to ensure my marketing team understands where the finance team are coming from. And I will always ensure I am collaborating with finance as enablers and not blockers. I am very fortunate to work with a CFO in my current company who not only understands the investment approach of marketing but has a genuine interest and curiosity in marketing which is why I do not hesitate in going to her for peer advice on major marketing decisions.
Can you tell us the value the CIMA qualification has added to your career?
CIMA can broaden your professional future beyond the finance function, it enhances your strategic peripheral vision and can open doors to other disciplines.
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- Exact same syllabus as the Professional qualification.
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