- The CA qualification has opened a world of opportunities for Chris Easton as a consultant, entrepreneur and investor.
- He now works as an angel investor in the US, and urges CAs to use their smarts and skills to embrace emerging technologies
- He was recently awarded a Fellowship by CA ANZ
By Ben Power.
How did you become a CA?
A CA qualification allows you to work anywhere in the world. I grew up during the [former Prime Minister Robert] Muldoon era when New Zealand was in pretty dire straits. I didn’t see a long-term future in those days. I picked accounting because it’s portable. I knew I was going to go overseas and I ended up living for long stints in Canada and the US.
What was your journey?
Sometimes you must make your own luck. At university I wanted to work at New Zealand Steel (since bought by BHP). It was a great company and very progressive. But it only had a technical training program. I marched in to its HR department and asked what it was doing to develop young people in accounting and administration. At my prompting, it put together an innovative program that you could do during your studies and once you had graduated.
I think somebody with the training of a CA has a fantastic base to embrace everything in the business sphere, including technology changes
What did you learn?
You should find a company early in your career that will give you a solid grounding across multiple disciplines. New Zealand Steel was a young company and Andersen Consulting had put in systems “by the book”. I’ve never seen a company so well organised. That solid experience set me up to consult and work with an ever-increasing number of companies.I knew what a successful company looked like and knew when pieces were missing.
What are the challenges for the profession?
CAs should embrace emerging technology. In Canada, I moved to Noranda, one of the country’s 10 largest companies, and we used technology to modernise its operations. You have to continuously learn. You could come out of school and say “well I’m a CA and that’s what I do”. But I think you’re limiting yourself. There’s so much happening that impacts business. I think somebody with the training of a CA has a fantastic base to embrace everything in the business sphere, including technology.
What is your secret to success?
Angel investing is about the team. I now work as an angel investor in the Boston area with Launchpad Venture Group, one of the largest angel groups in the US. The success of the company depends on how smart the team is and how well people work together. No matter what the business idea is, particularly in a start-up, it’s going to be not quite together. At some point in developing the company, there should be a pivot to what should be successful. Success in doing that depends on how smart and how well people work together and the discipline they bring to the team.
What advice do you have for young CAs?
Someone looking to launch a start-up should get a good grounding in an established company, so they know what a successful company looks like. They should also get an education, perhaps with an MBA from a top business school in entrepreneurial studies as a major. It assists you in meeting like-minded people to perhaps form a team.
What is in your future?
I don’t believe that once you reach a certain age you should be put out to pasture. I plan to keep investing in start-ups and successfully exiting them. I want to continue to learn, be active and contribute.
Related: Success as a start-up owner
Cam Nguyen, CA, owner of Encountr Accounting & Tax talks about starting her own business, what sets CAs apart from the rest and why communication is a key for success.
Ben Power is a finance, economics and business writer based in Sydney.