FD in Five Minutes: Jo Keaney

Third Sector speaks to the director of finance and corporate services at St John Ambulance

Jo Keaney
Jo Keaney

Why did you choose finance as a career? I wanted to be a film producer and the accountancy qualifications were a means to an end. But it soon became clear that finance was my forte and route to success, so here I am and I’ve never looked back. The closest I got to Hollywood was once having dinner on a yacht in Cannes.

What made you work in the charity sector? It might sound corny, but I want to make a difference. I love that I’m doing my bit at St John Ambulance to help save lives. I like working with people whose motivation is not money, but at the same time I like the challenge of applying my commercial mindset to help secure the charity’s future.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far? To have played a big part in getting St John Ambulance to its current invest-to-grow phase. Our financial position is now such that we are able to bring our technology up to date, upgrade our fleet of ambulances and other vehicles and refurbish the buildings we use for first-aid training and volunteer meetings. This investment ensures we’re fit for the future and gives our people a real boost.

What do you do outside work? I’m an umpire with the Association of British Tennis Officials, so I spend 25 days a year umpiring matches all over the country, including Wimbledon. I’ve just got my 15 years’ service award, so I’ve watched a lot of tennis balls over that time.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far? My first line manager, when I was a trainee accountant. He showed me respect and trust, which helped immeasurably with confidence. He gave me opportunities and stretched me by passing me work that was above my level. I learned from him what a decent manager looks like.

Are you optimistic for the future of the charity sector? Yes, because I believe charities and volunteering form such an important part of our social dynamic. People will always want to help through volunteering. Our challenge is to respond to changing expectations, to keep our volunteers engaged and give them the flexibility they need.

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