Working in accounting in the UK vs. NZ: the good, the bad, the ugly

Kurt Schmidt - Head of Finance at Ford Motors

Thinking of relocating to New Zealand? Wondering what it would mean for your career? Or just curious to find out more on how to navigate your way in the accounting and finance industry? We speak with Kurt Schmidt to get an insider’s view of the good, the bad and the ugly – from his career choices to how he has juggled the transfer of his personal life and his tips for those looking at following his footsteps.



What motivated your move to the UK?

After becoming a Chartered Accountant, I started my career in treasury for the largest telecommunications organisation in Wellington. A few years in, my mentors in the finance and accounting space recommended I gain some overseas experience as it would benefit my long term career plans and provide greater opportunities in New Zealand.

I packed my bags and with my wife in tow I took the plunge of moving to London where I worked for a large pharmaceutical organisation. Starting in treasury, I then moved to the finance department of the firm, being appointed Finance Director.

What made you want to move back to NZ?

Two years after our move to London, my wife and I became the proud parents of identical twins. For five years we managed to juggle parenting and working life without the support of our family network. However, we always wondered where would be the best location for them to grow up when they started their education.

For us, New Zealand offered more benefits as a family, due to the great outdoors and the weather, as well as the level of safety for our kids. Education was another drawcard for us to head back. Private schooling in New Zealand is much more affordable than it is in the UK.

The reason behind my transition from treasury to finance was to broaden my skillset as I knew it would open a greater range of opportunity the day I’d decide to move home.  

What is the current economic situation in NZ?

Despite the election, New Zealand has a buoyant and growing economy, which makes it desirable for people to migrate to. As a result of the growing economy, there are a number of roles currently available for those looking at jobs such as finance partner or financial accountant.

What opportunities were available in the accounting & finance space at the time of relocation and what do you do now you’re back?

Before returning home, I reached out to my network to see what roles were currently available.  Working with the team at Robert Walters, I managed to secure my current role within a month – Head of Finance at Ford Motors. The process was seamless and the support and knowledge provided by Robert Walters was unparalleled. I’m aware of other kiwis that've had similar positive experiences in securing a role after a few weeks of heading back home, as a result of the growing market and skills gained overseas.

What does a day in your role as Head of Finance for Ford Motors look like?

My role involves overseeing the financial function and leading the local finance team. I help to increase the profitability of our marketing and sales teams whilst also being cost conscious. My role requires a fair amount of people management and collaboration with the teams across the APAC region to drive innovation.

After spending eight weeks on an air bed, we'd never been happier to settle in your new home. If you decide to move back, take it one step at the time. Contact recruitment consultants and real estate agents to assist you and everything will fall into place. 

Were there many challenges to moving back and what advice would you give someone ready to return?

Moving a full house, planning the shipment timing so it tied in with our arrival and trying to secure a home while still living in the UK was challenging. Most landlords expect you to be onsite when renting but we got lucky and managed to secure a rental property while still living in the UK. For those looking at buying a property, a 40% deposit rule applies. 

Has your view of NZ changed following your experience abroad?

It’s taken six months but we've now settled in nicely. The UK is great for its history and culture but coming home means being close to friends and family which is important to us and our children. New Zealand is certainly the furthest possible place that you can think of but that’s also what makes it preserved and authentic. We get to enjoy stunning scenery, quality local food and wine on our doorstep. Since moving back, we've been looking at buying our first home, with settlement due to be finalised this month. 


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