FD in Five Minutes: Mark Louw

Third Sector speaks to the finance director at the Poppy Factory, which supports armed forces veterans with health conditions back into work in their communities

Mark Louw
Mark Louw

What made you work in the charity sector? This is my first role in a charity. I previously got involved indirectly as a contractor, which progressed to a permanent role. The work of charities in general, and the Poppy Factory in particular, is fundamentally important. How we as a society treat and respond to those who are having a hard time is, I feel, a key measure of our progress.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far? There is no single event. However, I am proud of the fact that I have been able to provide the financial information required to support strategic decisions, pulling from both measured results and planned forecasts and trends.

What do you do outside work? I am married with two children aged eight and nine, so most of our time outside work is focused on the family. Raising two children has been great fun and hugely rewarding. Otherwise, I am a keen swimmer, and in the past year have joined the Richmond Canoe Club, which is based three minutes away from the Poppy Factory’s office.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far? My mother, who has been a huge influence in a quiet and understated way – understated in the same way that a tree root is understated and can push through concrete blocks. My late grandfather, who was a Second World War veteran and a CIMA-qualified accountant. My wife, who is wonderful. A few key friends from school and university. My former boss, where I worked while I was training, who remains a good friend.

If you were charities minister for the day, what one thing would you do? Charities and other non-profit organisations are generally exempt from taxes on income. However, there are vast amounts of taxes paid in payroll and in input VAT that cannot be reclaimed. If I was charities minister for a day I would exempt charities from paying these taxes. For this, I might need to upgrade to Chancellor for the day.

Are you optimistic about the future of the charity sector? If you look at the long term, and globally, huge progress has been made in how we treat and respond to people who are disadvantaged. Progress might now seem slow and faltering, but I am hugely optimistic about the progress being made and our collective resolve that no one should be left behind.

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