From AAT to Deputy-CFO at the UN Development Programme

George Kyriacou MAAT, Deputy-CFO of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), started out with AAT.

“There’s a dawning realisation that sustainability is not just an issue for governments, but key to the future success of business too,” he says. “Our Global Goals have established a blueprint to work towards a more sustainable future for all society” says George.

UNDP is the United Nations’ global development agency which works to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and help enable people to help build a better life for themselves. It has a turnover of $5 billion and works in 177 countries.

Starting out with AAT

George had a fairly humble start to his career as a management trainee at Midland Bank, where he also took the Institute of Bankers exams, which helped fuel his interest in accountancy. When he left the bank for HM Treasury, he wanted to carry on studying and an old college professor recommended AAT.  He has never looked back.

Inspiration for the future

During his career he has been inspired by a number of people, from colleagues to high-profile industry names. 

“A few notable ones include Professor extraordinaire and Judge Mervyn King, who continues to make a huge impact on society and corporate governance, both in South Africa and beyond,” he says. “Charles Tilley has also impressed me with his dynamic leadership of CIMA and I’ve been inspired by Paul Druckman’s trail-blazing improvements to sustainability in business strategies,” he notes.

George also been awed by a number of women who are leading the way for the next generation, including Gillian Fawcett and Barbara Grunewald, who recently established Public Finance by Women, a network to help empower women in careers in public finance. 

Developing business and strategy skills

After attaining MAAT status, George studied for membership of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).  “The AAT had helped me hone my areas of interest and CIMA was an ideal way to follow on,” he says. 

He went on to take an Executive MBA in International Business from the University of Southern California’s IBEAR programme, which, he says helped broaden his business and strategic skills and gave him develop a more global and multi-cultural perspective. 

“We are at the cusp of another technological revolution – Industry 4.0 – which is transforming the way we live and work. Many of the things I had been trained to do as a 20 year old have been replaced by automation and self-service, so I’d tell myself to harness technology as much as possible and enjoy the ride.”   

After a three year stint at PriceWaterhouse (now PwC) and completing his Executive MBA, George joined the United Nations as the Chief of the Financial Business Analysis Unit.

The UNDP and sustainability

George is justifiably proud to work for an organisation which tries to provide people with the skills they need to build a sustainable and environmentally-friendly future.

After ten years working within finance transformation and data analysis, George moved to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the Deputy Chief Financial Officer.

“I’m delighted to be able to play my part in helping UNDP adapt to the changing development sector, and support the public and private sectors with making themselves more sustainable,” he says.

Some typical tasks that George undertakes at the UN

  • Leading a number of teams that deliver Financial Business Partnering services globally, including developing new business opportunities and corporate relationships.
  • Establishing financial policies to optimise financial performance; providing financial management and performance monitoring and advisory services.
  • Delivering business analytics to support decision making; developing the corporate financial and Internal Control Frameworks; managing financial risks; and monitoring of the financial situation of UNDP.

Advice for AAT students and members

What would George advise other AAT members and accountants who may wish to emulate his success?

“I’d suggest finding an employer with values that align to your own, and that is willing to invest in your ongoing development,” he advises. “And remember, even the best plans may be laid to waste! Time stands still for no-one, so be open to new opportunities, and willing to adapt to whatever changes come your way.”

In summary

George combined studying for AAT, then CIMA and an executive MBA, with climbing the career ladder, first at a bank and then at the UN. He believes gaining qualifications along the way helped increase his confidence and prospects.

Further reading:

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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