The CFO Series: Glen Christie (Access Fertility) on Personal Financial Management

Glen Christie is a huge Nintendo fan who monitors his finances weekly to ensure he maintains his lifestyle while saving. As is a recurring theme with the CFO community, he believes learning to negotiate, and networking are important skill sets to master. His book recommendation is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari; available to buy on Amazon here

Introduction

Last week we covered the personal finances of the brilliant Joe Gallard, financial director at Carwow. Next up in the CFO series is the fantastic Glen Christie, the Finance Director at Access Fertility. Glen and I worked together in KPMG's High Growth Technology team, a department dedicated to looking after technology companies in London.

Glen is now financial director at Access Fertility, a London based healthcare company partnering with IVF clinics across the UK to offer patients undergoing IVF treatment multiple cycle programmes, including refund programmes for patients whose treatment is unfortunately not successful. Access Fertility is exceptionally successful having grown significantly over the past year with Glen Christie at the finance helm. 

Interview

1) Glen, you help run a very successful company, driving the finances and company strategy. How do you make time for your personal financial management?

I've always been a bit of a personal finances geek, with a level of care instilled in me by my mum at a young age, so I monitor my finances weekly (as a minimum). It's important to me to understand how much I have in the bank, what my upcoming expenses look like, how long there is until pay day and what I can realistically save towards my goals (while not compromising the lifestyle I want to lead and how much that might cost!).  It doesn't take long once you have your system set up and, ultimately, this regular checking gives me a feeling of control and confidence in the upcoming weeks and months.

2) What is fintech to you? Do you use any personal finance technology for your financial management?

Not excessively.  My weekly monitoring is actually done on a pad of paper near my desk at work during my lunch break.  I've tried a couple of financial aggregation services like Cleo to help but the amount of integrations they have isn't yet comprehensive enough for me to consider replacing my tried and tested paper and pen method!  Maybe PSD2 (payment services directive 2; a new financial regulation that opens up banking APIs) will help change that, we'll see.

I like Nutmeg for managing my ISA because it's easy to use and the information is displayed clearly.  Transferwise is a no brainer for sending money abroad (I've brought it in to our business processes too).  I embraced Monzo (as did many of our old KPMG tech team) but that was to leverage their excellent exchange rates when I was on holiday.  I think they've done a good job with the app and functionality but I'm in no rush to migrate my daily banking to them.  Halifax have a good, clear, easy to use online portal so I'm sticking with them for now.  

3) Outside of personal financial management, tell me about your favourite piece of technology in your life.

Currently, I'm in love with my Nintendo Switch.  When Nintendo get it right, it's a game changer and the Switch feels close to perfect!  I've embraced it recently instead of tapping away at the boring, formulaic but addictive iPhone games.  I'd rather support the art of game making than chase diminishing returns on mobile games.

4) At KPMG we had the privilege of seeing the insides of many companies, and you've been a part of, and led some very successful teams. You've a strong knowledge of finance. What finance tips have you learned from your job that apply to your personal life?

My background is in tax, which has given me a fantastic advantage both at Access Fertility and personally (from setting up my wife as a freelancer and filing her tax return for to understanding stamp duty changes).  I understand tax is complex and can be daunting to most people (believe me, I had no idea what was going on for ages while I was training) so I try to help out friends and family where I can too.

More recently (and I note Joe mentioned this too) I've learned to negotiate as often as possible. 

Our CEO is fantastic at it.  It might feel awkward at first but there is no shame in wanting to save money in your personal life.  The other person can only say no and it won't be personal.  When planning our wedding a friend told me to negotiate on everything and we saved a fortune (on every single expense) from just blindly paying the list price.

5) We should always be learning; tell me what your favourite read was (book, blog, newsletter or otherwise), and why?

From a continual learning perspective, I'm a big fan of the Freakonomics books and podcasts.  Introduced to me by a great friend about a decade ago, they challenge you to think differently and ask questions about topics you wouldn't necessarily have thought to.  The first book sparked an interest in behavioural economics and the series continues to sustain that interest, from both a personal and professional (I often take these challenges into management meetings) perspective.

But if I told you to read one book, it would be Sapiens.  It should be required reading for everyone. You can buy the book here.

6) Any final comments for Wee Scot Finance readers?

Don't be afraid to ask for help.  For specific topics, ask people who know more than you and who you trust for advice.  It saves you time and stress.  Most people are happy to help (but don't take the piss and do reward them with praise / booze / dinner / all the above).

Closely linked... networking can sound like a dirty word but do leverage connections you already have and do (try to learn to) enjoy meeting and talking to new people as the opportunities arise - you never know where those conversations may lead you.

And don't work too hard.  The odd late night is fine but if the boss tells you to leave, leave.  If the boss always tells you to stay, leave and find a better job.  No job is worth sacrificing your 20s, 30s etc to.