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John Kennedy ACMA, CGMA

Forward thinking

John Kennedy is UK and International Commercial Finance Manager at BrewDog, an independent brewery in Aberdeenshire that is passionate about creating great craft beer.

John graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a BA Honours in Accountancy and Finance. His first job after graduating was a Finance Analyst in Interbrew, based at its Tennent’s brewery in Glasgow. Then, after a short spell working for National Australia Group in its Glasgow headquarters, he moved back into fast moving consumer goods as a Business Analyst for Whyte and Mackay, who funded him completing his CIMA qualification.

“At university, I went to a presentation by CIMA and I was impressed by what I heard,” says John. “Since then, all of my direct managers have been CIMA qualified so I’ve seen first-hand how people respect the qualification. Along with my previous experience, it brings confidence and trust to me and my role, and adds gravitas to the decision making processes that I’m involved in. I guess it’s as close to a guarantee as you can get with someone, showing that they’ve got a high level of intelligence, and good practical skills thanks to the case study training that CIMA gives you. It’s almost like a stamp of excellence.”

Going global

After six years with Whyte and Mackay, John decided to get some international experience and applied for a role as a Commercial Finance Manager with a large drinks distributor in Dubai. He found that being CIMA qualified and having a CGMA designation was a significant factor in him getting the job.

“One of the first questions I was asked in my interview for the Dubai job was whether or not I was CIMA qualified,” says John. “So, it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have ended up with that job or hold the position I’m in now otherwise. CIMA has been a key that’s unlocked doors for me, which may not have been unlocked if I wasn’t qualified. It adds some more weight behind you, making it easier to appoint you to a senior role.”

Evolving mindset

After two years in Dubai, John returned to the UK to become a part of the team at BrewDog. His CIMA training continues to have an impact on his day-to-day role beyond the technical accountancy skills and knowledge that he learned at the start of the course. For example, when explaining complicated financial issues to his non-finance colleagues in sales and marketing, he draws on the case study training that CIMA gave him to condense the information and produce a factual report. He is also influenced by the ethics part of the CIMA course, which, along with other CIMA principles, has become such a part of the way he works that he doesn’t consciously focus on them.

The world of business, and the alcoholic drinks industry in particular, has changed over the years, a change exemplified by BrewDog. 

“Rather than a very old fashioned, traditional way of doing things where looking ahead might mean thinking about the next month, we now have a much more forward-thinking strategy of looking at one year, five years, ten years, from now,” says John. “Also, whereas more traditional companies focus primarily on keeping costs down as a way to increase profitability, there’s a recognition at BrewDog that if you work towards a quality product without focusing on the cost, people will be willing to pay more. So we say: ‘let’s not make the cheapest thing, let’s make the best thing.’ This requires a very different mind-set. I’m used to asking about pricing as a way to maximise value. Today, it’s about enhancing the quality and charging a fair price for a brilliant product, and maximising our revenue that way.”

American expansion

BrewDog has ambitious plans for the future. The company’s turnover has grown to £50 million in just 7 years and the goal is to reach £500 million by 2020.  

Part of this increased turnover will come from America, with a new BrewDog brewery opening in Columbus, Ohio in early 2017.  John is interested in seeing how he and the company will benefit from the Joint Venture between AICPA and CIMA and the creation of the new Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.   

“We recently launched the latest round of our acclaimed ‘Equity for Punks’ crowdfunding programme, raising funding that will help us to grow and expand in the US,” says John. “The joint venture between AICPA and CIMA will give me accreditation from an American-based organisation, which should make it easier for me to work there and engage with local breweries, suppliers, accountants etc. It’s perfect timing and we’re excited to see how it makes our expansion into the US a smoother ride.”