Continuing our ‘5 minutes with…’ series we spoke to Director, Michael Bellew
Michael Bellew is a director at Dundalk based UHY Farrelly Dawe White Limited. Michael became a partner in 2001 after joining the firm in 1996. He is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and specialises in audit services for our clients who range from SME’s right up to multi million euro international businesses. Michael also has considerable experience in corporate finance and business planning and works closely with clients from a wide range of sectors including manufacturing and software and technology. Michael is married to Lisa and has three sons, Jack (16), Ciarán (7), and Ruairí (5).
Tell us about your career path to date.
I attended the Christian Brothers (now Coláiste Rís) secondary school in Dundalk. I literally had no idea what career I wanted to pursue after completing my Leaving Certificate. I attended college briefly in Galway and had considered perhaps becoming a teacher, but that wasn’t for me. I returned to Dundalk and ended up working in Customs Clearance on the Newry Road for a couple of years. These were agents who processed the customs paperwork for anyone importing goods into the State. At that time goods imported into the State were subject to VAT at point of entry as well as Excise Duties and Customs Duties, dependent on the nature of the goods. We may well be returning to an element of that if the formalities of Brexit are not properly planned out.
My father, Tom, was a politician but had also been an accountant. On one occasion, he returned from a trip to London with two big accounting books and suggested that I might be interested in studying accountancy at night, which many people were doing at the time. I read the books and it did spark an interest with me despite never having studied accountancy or any business related subjects at school. I got a job at Kirk & Associates, an accountancy practice in Dundalk in November 1989. A month later, Alan Farrelly and Kevin Dawe set up what is now UHY FDW on Jocelyn Street, close to where I was based.
Despite working in close proximity to one another, I didn’t formally meet Alan until we both attended a wedding at the Nuremore Hotel in late 1995. In the spring of 1996, Alan contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in having a chat. By that stage, the firm had moved to premises on River Lane. Alan made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I’ve been with the firm ever since.
How has the firm progressed since you joined?
After I joined the firm in 1996, I worked very closely with Alan and was appointed office manager very soon after joining the practice. In the early days, we were on the road a lot with clients who were in a strong growth phase, dealing with new set-ups and mergers and acquisitions. The firm was in a growth phase itself, expanding with clients and employees alike. We travelled the length and breadth of the country and across the water at the time. Due to our own growth, we needed to find new premises and in March 2001, we moved the business to our current location at Blackthorn Business Park in March 2001 and acquired the practice of Donovan Reilly at that time. Continual growth of the firm and of our clients led us to seeking an international affiliation. In 2010, we became part of the UHY global network. It has been a very good move for us, has given us a global reach, and has allowed us to provide greater service offerings to our clients.
What do you like most about your career?
I like the variety; every day brings new challenges. In my role, I primarily deal with the firm’s large audit assignments together with responsibility for all compliance and legal matters of the practice. I am also involved in litigation support and forensic accounting services in which I deal with many family law cases arising out of separation and divorce, shareholder disputes, loss of earnings claims. This is very interesting and challenging work, with a lot of time spent dealing with lawyers and attending court.
What’s the best career advice you received?
There was little or no career advice at school in my day, thankfully this has improved since then. On reflection, the best advice I got in this regard was from a client I worked with many years ago during a car journey down to Athy. His advice to me was if I was ever to get into partnership with anyone in business to choose my partners wisely.
Based on your own experience, what are your top career tips?
You’re always learning. If you’re not learning, you’re finished. Technology, legislation, and how clients do business are constantly changing. My advice to people just starting out in accountancy is to be committed and consistent in your approach to your studies. People think professional exams are an easy ride and they get a rude awakening when they experience the reality. I would also recommend that people have an outlet outside of work to ensure they have a break from the combined pressures of job and studies. It’s also good to ask plenty of questions, we’re all constantly learning. Don’t think because you have a Masters in Accounting that you know it all, real world scenarios are completely different to textbook situations. Never be afraid to ask questions or seek advice.
How would you define your work style, and how has this evolved over the years?
I dress smart, I work smart, and those that know me, know that I don’t suffer fools gladly. I work until the job is done and be it right or wrong, I expect the same level of commitment across the board.
In terms of managing teams and individuals, what are your insights?
During my brief involvement in competitive rowing at college, (something I retained a keen interest in to this day), every member of the team played an important role in the boat. If any one member was out of sync with the rest of the crew then the boat didn’t function properly. It’s no different in managing teams and individuals, every individual plays an essential part in the team and a good manager knows where to place the team players to maximise the output most efficiently.
What about communication and negotiating the typical ups and downs of working life?
Communication can be frustrating for people. It’s best if everyone knows what’s expected and required of them. Poor communication and lack of planning can lead to problems that could easily be avoided.
Has networking played an important part in your career?
Networking is about building real relationships with people. It’s important to nurture relationships with existing clients and strangers alike; you never know where your next client is going to come from.
If you had to choose another career tomorrow, what would it be and why?
I enjoy music and going to concerts and love to play guitar so I would be a lead guitarist and singer in a rock band, for obvious reasons.; that’s the dream! Alternatively, I would be a corporate lawyer in New York with the cut ad thrust of business in New York. I love New York, the buzz, the hustle and bustle, there’s just so much happening all the time. I’ve always had an interest in the law and have worked on various corporate cases and schemes involving numerous lawyers both here and abroad. My other interests include cars, motorbikes, machinery and DIY. If I could choose another career tomorrow, whatever it would be I’d certainly make sure it was one that would allow me to be driving a 1969 yellow Lamborghini Miura.
Contact Michael Bellew
Watch our video where Andrew discusses a career with UHY FDW