FD in Five Minutes: Andrew Wilkinson-Sharpe

Third sector speaks to the finance director at the Royal Air Forces Association

Andrew Wilkinson-Sharpe
Andrew Wilkinson-Sharpe

Why did you choose finance as a career? I joined the Army in 1984, transferred into the Royal Army Pay Corps in 1987 and my career went from there. I left the Army in 1989 to pursue accountancy professionally and then spent many years in the commercial sector.

What made you work in the charity sector? My wife and I decided to adopt our second child, which is when I saw a job advertised for the finance director of Adoption UK. I felt my experience meant I could do that job some justice, so I applied and was successful. It was a small charity, but I helped it to reorganise over the next 18 months. This meant having to downsize it because its income was reducing. Then my current role at the RAF Association came up.

What do you do outside work? I love all things music, so I like live bands and musicals. I play the guitar and sing, when I can get away with it. I run most mornings, at about 6am, before I start work. It’s when I do my morning thinking.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? My wife, without a doubt. Rachael and I used to work together. She was the HR director and I was a bolshy little so-and-so, and she loved me regardless and helped me to become a better person. She is the most level-headed manager I’ve ever met and probably the fairest individual. She taught me that if you approach things in the right way and do the right things, regardless of how painful that might be, things tend to work. And I think she’s right.

Are you optimistic for the future of the charity sector? Of course I am, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. A cautionary note, however, would be to those charities that haven’t yet grasped the enormity of the recent changes in legislation. It is absolutely essential that charities become more business-savvy. Charities should start to look at what they do, who their stakeholders are, how they are accountable to them and start running things more effectively. If they do that, there’s a future for the charity sector. Governance is now far more onerous in this sector and, whether we like it or not, we are stuck with it and we’ve got to get to grips with it.

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