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A full circle

From prodigious violinist to the hot confines of a kitchen, IPA member Matt Hill has finally found his own creative outlet within the accounting industry.

A full circle
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  • mitchell
  • April 13, 2016
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Set against the backdrop of a bustling North Sydney café, IPA member Matt Hill fiddles with his suit.

“I haven’t had to wear one of these in a long time,” he proclaims, noting that his formal wear hasn’t seen the light of day in at least three years.

Wetsuits are as far as suits go in Matt’s professional life, as he recounts the perfect surfing conditions that greeted him at Cronulla Beach earlier that morning.

It soon becomes clear that Matt’s accounting qualifications, backed by his IPA membership, have granted him a creative outlet which merges the best of both worlds for a fascinating and unique story.

A mixed bag

Matt has certainly had a varied career path,  lled with plenty of storybook moments. Finishing high school as a talented violinist, Matt was preparing to undertake his university studies in the hopes of pursuing his dreams of a career in music. As fate would have it, and as Matt so painfully describes it, two broken fingers barely two weeks before his conservatorium audition would mean that “any idea of becoming a violinist was out the window”.

From aspiring musician to apprentice chef, it’s fair to say that Matt has plied his trade within a range of different industries. The day after his chef apprenticeship came to an end, Matt decided that perhaps the accounting profession could prove to be his ultimate calling. “I’ve always been a creative person who loves numbers,” he says, as he continues to adjust the sleeves of his suit jacket.

Matt’s accounting career has been just as varied as the path that led him from music to a high-energy kitchen. Although he worked in the corporate accounting world for 11 months, cutting his teeth on a high profile fund, Matt would quickly learn that the traditional accounting role was not to his liking. The career path was short lived as redundancy would soon come knocking. In keeping with the unique nature of his story, though, it may not be in the means you expect.

While the prospect of a voluntary redundancy would strike fear into the hearts of most corporate workers, for Matt it proved to be the perfect opportunity to escape the mundane. It was the first step to reigniting a creative spark that had lain dormant ever since he set foot in an office environment.

“I stuck my hand up straight away,” Matt says, possibly displaying the most enthusiastic response ever expressed towards a redundancy.

“Corporate accounting just wasn’t for me, and although it probably would have been the most lucrative path, there’s something very altruistic about me.

“It was just the idea of arriving at work every day to find 1,000 people on the same  floor and having a small influence on things, as opposed to being part of a company of 100 people where you get to know a whole lot more people on a personal basis, and you can better understand how things work.”

A brief role in his father’s accounting firm would give Matt the experience he needed to pursue other commercial roles; and then he could combine his creative juices with his own penchant for assisting small to medium-sized creative businesses.

Creative accounting

Matt has now merged his passion for music with his accounting skillset. He is co-founder and chief financial officer for high-res music platform OpenLIVE, in a move which has subsequently brought his career full circle.

He may not be playing to a packed out auditorium with a violin in hand, but Matt is harnessing his musical passion and prowess to deliver high quality audio for musical purists.

Matt openly declares his love for the creative industries. He has always been fascinated by art, music and sculpture and emphasises that creative minds use an entirely different part of the brain.

This can, however, prove to be the first hurdle in bringing the technical world of accounting into such a freeflowing environment.

“When dealing with the creative industries, you definitely have to be able to see things from their perspective; and you have to be able to communicate to them that you see things in that way. “In a lot of creative businesses, it’s all about timesheets. Effectively, they just need to record eight hours a day in timesheets, but that is easier said than done because within a single hour they could work on 14 different jobs.”

After learning to rein in a collective of creative minds, however, Matt says the results are entirely worth it. If he could, he would choose solely to work within creative industries for the rest of his career.

“Accountants that work in creative spaces don’t talk about it too much because it is such a happy space, and we almost want to draw a line around it and keep it to ourselves. You get to do what you do best, but you also get to deal with really interesting people.”

Once an accountant has developed a taste for the creative, and their eyes have been opened to the potential they are granted by their unique skill set, Matt believes that this is a taste they will undoubtedly want more of.

“Imagine that I was only able to choose 10 clients but there were 15 available,” Matt explains. “The 10 clients I would choose would probably not be the most profitable, but they would all be creative and interesting. I would gravitate towards them because I think I can offer more value to them. I see things from their perspective. I know what makes them tick and, from a purely selfish perspective, that’s really interesting.”

IPA influence

The IPA has proved to be a pivotal part of Matt’s journey from both a personal and a professional standpoint, and it has moulded his ability to cater to the creative industry that he so passionately loves.

“I’ve worked in creative businesses and I’ve worked with a lot of entrepreneurs and startups. It’s just what I enjoy doing. I believe that the IPA is the best accounting body to deal with that segment, without a doubt.”

“I’m a passionate member of the IPA,” says Matt, and after even a brief chat it is easy to understand why he exudes such passion and praise for the professional body.

From a personal standpoint, the team at the IPA has offered Matt a professional platform on which to build his success, and has lent him a helping hand throughout his own personal hardships.

“It’s a very personal association; it’s ingrained in the culture of the IPA,” Matt says proudly. Matt recounts that after some personal setbacks, he was greeted by an email from Andrew Conway himself. The CEO had taken it upon himself to find out if he could offer any assistance in a time of need.

“It was incredible,” Matt notes. “That would never happen in any other body or any other organisation. That’s the sort of people they are, and that’s the culture of the IPA.”

Matt explains that in a time of need, and with vulnerability around, the actions of the IPA have made him an advocate of the highest order and a champion of the values that the IPA represents. It is not just a personal connection, however. The influence of the IPA has proved pivotal in Matt’s own technical and professional development.

“The main benefit of the IPA is the accessibility of real technical information. It provides this information in the simplest format, and it also provides the greatest breadth of information.”

Breaking down the barriers

Matt believes that his story is living proof of the vast array of opportunities that can be open to an accountant. They are in a prime position to couple their passion with their sheer technical ability.

With the rapid advancement and growth that has gripped the industry, Matt notes, now is the perfect time for accountants to reinvent themselves and pursue new avenues for success. “A lot of people are scared of entering the accounting profession because of the stereotype of the person who walks into the

office every two weeks and asks for a shoebox of receipts to do expense claims.

“Accountants are taking on more of a consultancy role, and I think they need to. That’s certainly where my strengths lie.” The reality, Matt believes, is that the profession has the potential to fulfil whatever the accountant wants, and Matt understands that his own strengths do not lie within the traditional compliance route.

“I actually call on a lot of compliance based accountants for advice and assistance, because I realise that I’m more of a generalist in that sense. But that does not hinder your ability to earn a living. It’s about knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at, and sometimes it’s just best to outsource what you’re not good at.”

For Matt, his career with OpenLIVE has proven to be the perfect hybrid between an interest in the creative space, and a technical flair and passion for numbers.

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