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Sue Cambridge

ABRSM

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Sue Cambridge trained as a chartered accountant in practice with Arthur Andersen. Within a year of qualifying, she moved to a Bristol investment bank and later to HSBC. She worked at the BBC for 14 years and then at art gallery Tate, where she was Finance Director. She has been Executive Director – Finance and Administration at music examination board ABRSM since 2011.

The job of FD was on Sue Cambridge’s radar from the very start of her career. “Making FD is the aim for a lot of people who train to be a chartered accountant,” she explains. “You have exposure to FDs while you’re out auditing and I saw a lot of colleagues at Arthur Andersen move on to become FDs.”

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She found that working for a variety of different organisations, and particularly the time that she spent at the BBC, has stood her in good stead for climbing to the top of the finance ladder. “The BBC provides its staff with good training and they have the opportunity to work in different parts of the organisation and get different experiences along the way.”

In her current role, Sue has a broad range of responsibilities outside finance that include facilities, governance, HR, IT and ABRSM’s pension scheme. But she does not see any single responsibility as her greatest challenge. Instead, she says: “For FDs in the not-for-profit sector, the challenge is always that your colleagues are not driven by the bottom line and the organisation is not driven by making a profit but rather by its strategic priorities. So how do you make sure that people do pay due attention to delivering value for money and making the best possible use of scarce resources?”

Sue is a great believer in hiring good people. “Don’t be afraid to recruit people who are very able and ambitious and delegate to them as much as possible while supporting them,” she says. And her advice to others who would like to follow in her footsteps is this: “Don’t specialise too early. Plan each career move with a view to developing your CV.”

The late nights, punishing deadlines and continuous pressure associated with senior finance jobs are a challenge for both men and women, says Sue. “Employers have a duty to ensure that employees – whether they have children or not – do not work excessive hours and are not put under excessive stress.”