Accountancy professionals are often known for being savvy with numbers, but they also have hidden depths. Becky Hardy tells us how rediscovering her creativity sparked fundraising inspiration during the pandemic.

Helping people and offering (employer) solutions

Many people think of accountancy as being about the numbers. Although, when you work with clients, building empathy and rapport matter too, as does professionalism. Dealing with people and real-life consequences really fascinate me.

I work in employer solutions within our advisory service line. When it comes to employment tax, you’re helping organisations to reward their employees in a tax-efficient way. What I love about tax (yes, tax!) is it feels like I’m genuinely helping our clients. People need someone they trust to guide them through the complexities. I like to make life easier for them.

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Adapting to the pandemic

When I’m not demystifying the intricacies of employment tax, I volunteer at Cyril Flint Befrienders. The charity puts volunteers in touch with the elderly, who may have little contact with friends or family.

I lost my grandfather three years ago and wanted to keep my grandmother company. But the distance meant I was unable to do so. Thankfully, she has support around her now. It made me think, ‘what if you didn’t have anyone?’ That’s why Cyril Flint means a great deal to me. Unfortunately, I had to stop visiting in person during lockdown.

I still wanted to help people, though. Unexpectedly, an opportunity arrived in the form of a pastime I’d left behind.

As a child, I enjoyed picking up a pencil and paper, although my enthusiasm faded in my teens. I taught myself to paint about five years ago, and, during lockdown I rediscovered my love of sketching.

Around this time, the firm was promoting a national fundraising campaign for NHS Charities Together, called ‘Move Create Compete’. On our Intranet, colleagues were already doing some fun and unusual things to raise money. Budding athletes took on marathon distances, gamers played football online and musicians shared songs. Having seen all this, I mused, 'would people be interested in my sketches?’

A sketch in time

People don’t really shout about what they do outside work. So, with some trepidation, I emailed our Manchester office to offer sketches in exchange for donations to NHS Charities Together. I also posted on our Yammer internal social media channel and also on Twitter.

It was borne of hope rather than expectation. Yet, gradually, people were getting in touch.

I had all kinds of enquiries, but pet portraits were by far the most popular! People asked me to draw their cats and dogs - that was new territory for me.

I’ve always been fascinated with space and physics; I’ve even met some moonwalkers! So, I couldn’t resist doing a few pictures of Mars, the Moon landings and SpaceX, which people snapped up.

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Wellbeing and connection

When you’re being creative, you need to focus your mind, sit down and scribble. I’ve seen how lockdown can be tough on people’s mental health. I’m grateful drawing boosted my wellbeing and motivation by offering my skills up for a good cause. People donate and get something they want, all proceeds go to charity and I do something I enjoy. That’s a win all round.

It also brings people together. I never dreamed picking up a pencil would open up conversations and rekindle relationships. When I joined the firm years ago, I had lunch with Karen Campbell Williams, who now sits on our Strategic Leadership team. And here we were discussing portraits. When doing a sketch for Fiona Baldwin, our Head of Audit, I learned she had also volunteered with Cyril Flint.

Positive relationships arose out of a difficult situation. It was lovely to be reconnected with people.

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I also realised there were other fellow creatives. I loved seeing colleagues share paintings, sculptures and music. It’s rewarding to know the difference you’re making a difference as a team.

Although the campaign is over now, I’ve got an opportunity to apply what I learned as our Manchester office’s sustainability representative. Even better, my colleagues chose Cyril Flint Befrienders as our local office charity. My experience of Move Create Compete means I’m in a better position to help this new relationship thrive and raise funds.

As for sketching, people still ask occasionally. I’ve often told myself 'just one more'. What else could I say? It’s hard to resist. Especially when I love to help people.

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