Thursday 11 February 2021
We recognise and celebrate that our success is built on people – our team, faculty, and of course our loyal clients.
During 2021 we will roll out a comprehensive calendar of virtual training events and in this and future editions we will feature some of the people you will meet in our Zoom classrooms.
This week, we catch up with our colleague and faculty member, Matt Tilling.
Hi Matt! Where in the world are you?
Hello. I live in London, where I have been based for the last 5 years. I was born in New Zealand, but my university and previous working life were mostly in Australia, with the previous 10 years being in Perth, Western Australia.
Tell us a little about the topics that you teach? Do you have a favourite field or topic, and if so, why?
I am focused on IFRS Standards, and financial statement analysis, but really I enjoy anything to do with corporate reporting. As part of this I am also busy get my head around sustainability reporting, and how it intersects with accounting. “Why” is a slightly harder question. I like the mix of rules and judgement, bringing order to complex activities that allows us to efficiently communicate information to others that allows them to make important decisions (hopefully).
Wonderful. Can you now tell us a little bit about your background and career?
I was an academic for my early career, and I really enjoyed teaching and researching accounting. Eventually I was fortunate enough to be the Head of Accounting at the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia. However, I got a little disillusioned with what I saw as a disconnect between accounting research and professional practice. I reached out to BDO to try and get more practical experience and was able to join their technical team on a half-time basis. So, for about 5 years I was mixing academic and professional accounting. I loved grappling with complex accounting issues, and being able to bring them back into the classroom to challenge my students. Then in 2016 I got the opportunity to come to London and join the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) staff as the Director of Education. This was a fantastic experience, to be at the heart of global standard setting for accounting. I learned a lot from being right there where the decisions were made and being able to participate in the work but I missed the accounting training so in 2019 I decided to go independent. And for the last couple of years I have been able to undertake a range of projects, working with IASeminars to train accountants, supporting IFRS development in Africa and Asia, lecturing at Cambridge University, consulting on interesting accounting issues, etc.
So, you didn’t really set out to be an instructor, what motivated you to take up teaching?
I have always had a natural affinity for teaching. I like taking complex areas and breaking them down into steps that make sense. I also like helping people find enjoyment in what can be (let’s face it) dry and complex topics. I do believe that communication is important and that better decision making is good for everyone.
Matt, how has your professional life changed over the Pandemic, and what have you had to do to adapt?
Leaving the IASB in mid-2019 I was really looking forward to getting back into the classroom, and unfortunately since 2020 this hasn’t really been a viable option. I have certainly had to embrace online learning, as has everyone! As a family we have also had to learn how to work, school and play all in the same relatively small space (London isn’t renowned for its spacious living arrangements).
Thinking about how you have adapted, has anything changed for the positive?
I see a lot of potential for taking the best of what we have learned and incorporating it into a blended approach. I have enjoyed spending more time in my home office, it has been a good excuse to upgrade it a little bit. There is a lot to be said for working from home, and training online.
Do you think that the training landscape has changed forever, and if so, why?
Face to face training has been the standard approach for thousands of years, it has remained popular despite the invention of books, radio, television, and the internet. That suggests to me that there is something fundamental about coming together and learning directly from each other.
So, I think we lose a little of the truly best elements of training when we have no opportunity to meet face-to-face. Zoom, or Teams, do a great job but can’t always replicate the benefits of in person interactions.
I think we will do more online training into the future, but we will also still want to be in a room together at times too. So hopefully we will take the best of the old, blend it with the best of the new, and end up with something that is even better.
I think we’re all missing travel in one form or another. Is there a city/training venue that you have particularly missed visiting?
Sadly, it is London, I really enjoyed the sessions we had in central London, hearing what people had been experiencing out of hours around this great city.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I like walking, I try to do 5km every day and twice that on weekends. It has been a bit harder during lockdowns, but I am fortunate to have some interesting walking paths nearby.
Have you discovered any new hobbies, or talents, during lockdown?
Two things perhaps. I have really enjoyed getting into mindfulness, using the Headspace App, I feel it has been particularly useful in trying to find clarity in what has been a difficult period. I have also been trying to get back into reading. I have been inspired by Cal Newport (especially Deep Work and Digital Minimalism) to re-engage with long form reading. It is all too easy to be distracted by short quick news and social media type items that don’t allow you to really engage with what is happening.
What are you most looking forward to when UK restrictions are eased?
Professionally getting back to face to face training. As I said earlier, I think there are lot of good things we have learned from this enforced period of online learning, and there will be a real opportunities to do things differently, blending the best of both worlds.
Personally, I miss walking around central London, and the parks St James’ Park, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, all amazing places. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to return by the time summer comes around.
What do you think will be the hot topics in financial reporting in 2021?
Number one with a bullet is Sustainability Reporting, especially climate. In the past 12 months an inevitable momentum has built, the question is which standards will be required. The IFRS Foundation seem ready to take a lead, and I am watching what is happening very closely. Companies and accountants are going to have to come up to speed on this area very quickly.
Thank you so much for chatting Matt. Any final pearls of wisdom?
I don’t think I have much wisdom to pass on, but as I mentioned above I have found a lot to think about reading Cal Newport’s work. We live in a distracted age, and I think a lot of us are trying to find ways to be more engaged both professionally and personally and I have found his writings have given me some food for thought, and definitely changed the way I do some things.