When George Ruiz saw a job opportunity that brought together his skills in finance and strategy with his passion for animal welfare, he decided that it was too good to pass up.
Ruiz joined Battersea Dogs & Cats Home as director of finance and corporate services in April this year. The charity, based in south London, cares for and rehomes lost cats and dogs. He had worked for the first aid charity St John Ambulance as its head of strategy.
"I was happy at St John Ambulance, but my passion is for animals – I have two rescue cats myself," he says. "So when I saw the opportunity to combine my financial strategy background with my love of animals, I decided to apply.
"I did mull over whether I wanted to leave SJA, but in the end I thought I’d kick myself if I didn’t go for the Battersea job."
Ruiz has overall responsibility for the charity’s finance, IT, legacy and estates teams. He trained as a chartered accountant, but decided that he did not want to go into public practice. Instead, his early career was spent working for large retailers, including Woolworths and Sainsbury.
"Working in the retail sector taught me that finance is not about numbers – it’s about getting people to act on what the numbers tell them," he says. "They are knowledgeable people in their own areas."
After a decade in retail, he felt he wanted a change. "Ultimately, there’s only so much satisfaction that can be derived from driving products," he says. "I wanted to give something back."
He has found the move rewarding but says that, contrary to what some might think, the charity sector is not a cushy option. "You might say that you don’t have stakeholders, for whom you must deliver returns," he says. "But you have an ethical and moral obligation to use money wisely. It is more pressurised, but more rewarding.
"If you work for a charity, you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up. Your duties are unlikely to be exactly as in the job description. No two days are the same: issues might change overnight. So you have to be flexible, hands-on and collaborative. Any charity – even a large one – relies on small teams."
"I can’t see myself leaving the charity sector," he says. "The dedication of staff at Battersea is quite humbling."