With over 16 years experience in the accountancy-world, Liz Perks tells us her story, explaining how she fell into forensic accountancy ‘by accident’; something that ended up suiting her perfectly. Liz provides financial expertise to clients in the context of disputes and has given evidence before an international arbitration tribunal. In 2015, Liz was made partner of specialist accountancy firm, Haberman Ilett, just two years after joining at its launch and kindly shares with The Fold her inspiring story and words of advice…
Can you tell us about your career and how you came to your current role of Partner at forensic accounting firm Haberman Ilett?
I qualified as a chartered accountant in 2000 and moved into forensic accountancy at a Big 4 firm shortly after. I had a great career there, moving up through the ranks to senior manager level and then in 2013, decided to leave to join Haberman Ilett, a specialist forensic accounting practice, from its launch. In April 2015 I was delighted to be promoted to partner and achieve that career goal. I now provide accounting and financial expertise to clients in the context of disputes and have given evidence before an international arbitration tribunal.
For those of us that are unsure, would you mind briefly summing up what ‘forensic accounting’ is?
Forensic accountants are the detectives of the finance world. It is a specialist area where accounting, auditing and investigative skills are used to investigate fraud or to provide accounting and financial analysis to be used in legal proceedings, sometimes including testifying in court as an expert witness.
Could you recall the moment you realised you wanted to work in forensic accounting specifically?
I actually got into forensic accounting by accident, when a recruitment consultant put me forwards for a forensic position at a Big 4 firm. As a recently qualified chartered accountant at a small firm, I was desperate to move on and thought the role sounded interesting, so accepted the job offer without really understanding what forensic accounting was. It was a few years later that I realised that I had ended up in a job that suited me perfectly.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?
The best piece of advice I received was from a maternity coach when I returned to work after maternity leave. I was not sure that I wanted to be a partner, as I felt that none of the partners were good role models for me and I did not want to be a partner if I had to be and work like them. My coach asked me to think about why I needed a role model and why I needed to look to others when I was clear about how I wanted to work and the sort of partner I would like to be. She asked me to think about why I could not go for partner on my own terms and become a role model for others like me in the future. It was one of those flashbulb moments and I decided there and then that I did want to be a partner and I did want to be a different role model.
How do you balance being a mother with maintaining the perfect work-life balance?
I am lucky that I am in a firm that allows me to work flexibly, and have a husband that shares the domestic and childcare responsibilities. In a ‘normal’ week I work two short days where I stop at 3pm to do the school run and spend time with my son. I try and work at home those days, where possible, which gives me a balance that works well for me and the family. It is fair to say though, that some weeks are not ‘normal’, particularly when I’m working to a court deadline, and then I could end up working all hours of the day and night. When that happens, I make sure I take time out after the deadline to make it up to my son.
Who has inspired you the most? Did you have a mentor?
Philip Haberman, one of the founding partners of Haberman Ilett. He is one of the best in our field in the UK and has taught me an enormous amount about being a quantum expert. He also stays calm and respectful to the team even when under high levels of pressure, and actively supports flexible working and the team keeping a healthy work life balance.
What drives you to do what you do?
I enjoy my job and the people I work with. I also enjoy the sense of achievement of completing a project and producing a piece of work that I am proud of.
How do you like to spend your free time and unwind outside of work?
I grow vegetables which I find very relaxing. I take great delight in being able to eat things that I have grown. I also do ballet classes and recently took up yoga to try and keep my mind and body in shape. I would love to go on a yoga retreat one day.
Do you think the way we dress and present ourselves in the workplace has an impact on our career?
I am not sure that what we wear impacts our career, but it can influence how others engage with us. It is another part of our personal brand alongside things like how we hold a conversation and approach our work. In my career, I have always tried to be smart because, for me, it shows that I care about what I do and it helps me to be in a professional mind-set. That does not mean I have worn a suit every day – smart can mean trousers and a colourful top if the circumstances warrant it.
What are your ultimate workwear staples?
I love my white ‘Le Marais Round Neck Top’ from The Fold which goes with all my skirts, suits and trousers and amazingly does not need to be dry cleaned and does not crease in a suitcase. Apart from that, it is probably my nude heels, which I cannot be without in the office!
And finally, what is your favourite piece from The Fold’s AW16 collection?
As autumn nears, I am drawn to the Clarendon Coat in navy with the ombre stripe. The lovely funnel neck and the belt both look functional for those chilly winter commutes, yet stylish too.
Photography: Kylie Eyra
Accessories: Liz’s own
Shop Liz’s Favourites