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Using accountancy skills to close the deal Back
Karena O’Sullivan is a senior manager with IBI Corporate Finance. Having completed her accountancy training at KPMG O’Sullivan joined IBI Corporate Finance to pursue a career in corporate finance where she says strong analytical, communication and project management skills are key to a successful career in the sector.
What is your educational background?
After leaving school in Tralee Co. Kerry, I graduated from UCC with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 2000. I then went on to obtain a Masters in Accounting from the Michael Smurfit School of Business in UCD in 2001, before qualifying as a chartered accountant in 2003.

What has been your career path to date?
I joined the audit department of Andersen in 2001 but after a year transferred across to KPMG upon the merger which followed the closure of Andersen worldwide post Enron. While at KPMG, I worked as an audit senior largely with clients in the manufacturing, retail and distribution sectors. I completed my training contract in 2004 and subsequently joined IBI Corporate Finance where I am now a senior manager.
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Karena O'Sullivan

Are your peers from similar backgrounds?
Corporate finance is a popular career choice for accountants and the majority of my colleagues in IBI Corporate Finance are accountants. However, overall our team comprises professionals from a broad spectrum of backgrounds including MBA graduates, lawyers, bankers and industry professionals, as well as accountants.

Have you worked abroad? If so, where and what did you do? Would you do so again?
Not apart from as a student and it’s unlikely that I will at this stage, but I suppose you never know!

How would you compare career prospects internationally to those in Ireland?
Certainly, when I finished my training contract, there was a wealth of opportunities in Ireland and no need to look further afield. The market conditions are clearly more difficult now than they were in 2001 so it’s harder to say. However, recent statements by UK recruiters point towards a clamp-down on hiring by the big investment banks in London currently due to the credit crunch. Corporate finance is by nature a cyclical business but the cyclicality is not as pronounced in the Dublin market as in London due partly to the fact that Irish M&A is less dependent on the bulge bracket deals.

Have you undertaken any additional professional training since assuming your current role?
Yes, it’s important to keep updating your technical skill base and I regularly attend various training courses covering areas such as financial modelling, the takeover code, the listing rules and accounting standards.

What skills/aptitude would you identify as being key/beneficial to a career in your sector?
Strong analytical, communication and project management skills are important. Corporate finance is a very interactive, client-facing career so interpersonal skills are critical. Also, a high degree of commitment is essential - every member of our team in IBI is hugely committed and that’s vital so that people are willing to go the extra mile when necessary.

What aspects of the job do you like most?
Getting the deal over the line – there is such a buzz about seeing a transaction in which you have been involved from the start finally complete. It’s what makes all the hard work more than worthwhile.

What aspects of the job do you like the least?
The opposite to the above! Inevitably, the nature of the job is such that some transactions don’t complete for one reason or another, often outside the control of the advisers. It’s disappointing having invested the time but to no avail.

How do you define success in your career?
Success is developing and maintaining strong client relationships and ultimately getting deals done for
those clients.

Is there anyone in particular you admire in your industry?
There are so many successful Irish business people who have put Ireland on the map and who have led Irish companies to compete on an international scale. While it is difficult to single out just one individual, I would say that Liam O’Mahony, CEO of CRH, has to be regarded as one of the most prolific deal-makers in Irish corporate history and is highly respected by both market commentators and his industry peers.

What advice would you give to others who might like a career in your sector?
If you’re looking for a very exciting, challenging and varied career and are willing to work hard and be a team player, then corporate finance is a great sector to work in.

In what areas are there the most opportunities in Ireland? IFSC/domestic etc.
Ireland has a well-developed financial services industry and all of the leading international players have a presence here. While the current market conditions might temper opportunities in the short to medium term, I think financial services, as an industry, will continue to provide good career opportunities for candidates at all levels.
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