FD in Five Minutes: Jenny Howard

Third Sector speaks to the finance director at the Marine Society & Sea Cadets

Jenny Howard
Jenny Howard

Why did you choose finance as a career? When I was 18 I didn’t want to go to university. My mother told me I had to find a career in which I could continue in education while working. I had always loved numbers, so accountancy was the obvious choice.

What made you work in the charity sector? My father saw an advert for a financial controller for Richard Carr-Gomm, who founded the Abbeyfield Society, the Morpeth Society and the Carr-Gomm Society for disadvantaged and lonely people. He sent it to me, saying I had to apply. I had always done voluntary work for charities and it was a great opportunity to use my accountancy skills for charitable purposes. I have now been in the sector for more than 20 years and I have never looked back. The Marine Society & Sea Cadets resonated with me. It is the most energetic charity I have ever worked for, with the cadets and mariners central to all the activities taking place, organised by hard-working, committed staff working alongside thousands of enthusiastic volunteers.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far? Going to Warwick University to be awarded my postgraduate diploma in public leadership and management. It was a fabulous course and I learnt so much about the public sector and specifically about charities. With young children, I really had to slip research for it into every spare moment of my life.

What do you do outside work? I sing with the London Oriana Choir. We sing four concerts a year, go on tour twice a year and take part in recording sessions. I go on long bicycle rides and walks in the countryside as well.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far? I have been lucky to have been influenced by a few. Fiona Fagan gave me my first job in the charitable sector and gave me space and support to develop. Paul Wilson gave me my first director role when I was only 29, and taught me that quiet, stable leadership was better than being a noisy self-publicist. And Robert Meadowcroft taught me how mutually beneficial a close working relationship between finance director and chief executive could be.

If you were charities minister for the day, what one thing would you do? I would like to encourage charities to stop seeing each other as competitors. I would not necessarily want to see more mergers, but we can collaborate better.

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