Harry Pampiglione, Transaction Services and Data Analytics manager at PwC has had a few weeks to reflect on his victorious evening at the British Accountancy Awards, where he was crowned Rising Star of the Year. Despite the passing of time, it still feels like a bit of a shock.
“It was a big surprise to be put on the shortlist and even more surprising as they actually read my name out on the night,” Pampiglione says.
“It was quite funny, on the night I thought when everyone went up for different awards that they didn’t really seem that surprised. So, I was sitting there thinking ‘well, it’s great to get nominated and shortlisted but the person who has won it already knows’.
“I was actually quite relaxed on the evening fully thinking that I wasn’t actually going to win it,” he adds.
If the award came as a surprise to Pampiglione, it was unlikely to shock his colleagues at PwC who nominated him. In his short career at PwC, his rise has been quite remarkable.
After joining in 2016, Pampiglione was promoted to manager just 18 months later. In his time in the Transaction Services department, Pampiglione has also advised on over $60bn worth of M&A transactions. Indeed, he was also responsible for a £400m buy-side acquisition in the healthcare sector, where he conducted a complicated CAPEX analysis which led to a material price reduction for the client.
Using Python to get ahead
Perhaps more impressive than his rapid rise through the ranks has been Harry’s thirst for knowledge, particularly around using data analytics and coding. That started with teaching himself Python (a coding language) in his spare time.
“I was trying to understand how you could apply it to certain challenges I was facing, whether trying to automate something or trying to get a better insight from some of the data I was working with,” Pampiglione says.
“I saw that Python would be a good tool to use for that. I just spent time, maybe an hour or two after work for six months, learning the basics and then tried to apply it to the problems I found interesting. I just saw a lot of potential in it,” he adds.
But Pampiglione believes it is about more than just learning how to code or learning how to better use data analytics; it’s about learning how best to apply that technology to the problems you face at work.
“I think with any new technology, to actually use it in the context of work and use it in a productive way, you really need to find strong use cases for where someone can create value by using that tool.
“It’s all well and good creating something really interesting or really technologically advanced, but if you can’t actually apply that to the commercial problem then it’s very difficult.
“I have been able to use it, but it’s almost taken just as much time to learn the language as it has to learn how to apply it to a commercial context,” he says.
Pampiglione is playing down his achievements. In the past year, PwC say that he has “consistently pushed the standards and methods of how we do things”. Indeed, following a large M&A transaction, Pampiglione created a pricing tool which included a machine learning model using Python.
PwC say that in creating the product he did something which “had never been done in the team before”. He also did so from scratch after working with the technical team and getting senior stakeholder buy-in.
As a result of generating a six-figure fee for the firm, the model has now been productised and rolled out across different businesses.
You could be forgiven for thinking that someone like Pampiglione who sails so far ahead of the pack is something of a lone star, someone who enjoys forging their own path. However, he appears just as interested in bringing others with him as he is in pushing the boundaries of what accountants can do.
Internally, Pampiglione has become a data and analytics coach – helping colleagues interested in coding and analytics to learn and share ideas. Pampiglione maintains a stubborn sense of humility when we talk about it.
“It’s just a group of us who are quite interested in it. We all teach other and find different ways to solve problems and different algorithms that we have found to apply to things. We’re learning all the time, even today I’ve been coding and trying to do some predictive analytics. It’s really a never-ending process.”
Outside of PwC, Pampiglione continues to lead and bring others with him. After serving as Chair of the Chartered Accountants Students’ Society of London and a member of the ICAEW Student Council, he joined the ICAEW Council to act as a voice for the younger members of the ICAEW.
He is passionate about encouraging more top graduates into the profession and wants to drive engagement amongst young people. Pampiglione believes the key is for the accountancy profession to be agile and adaptable to change.
“It’s just recognising how quickly things can change and making sure that you’re offering the right thing for people graduating. The ICAEW is doing a lot of work into their qualification to make sure they’re equipping people and attracting people by thinking 15, 20 years ahead and making sure that they’re not just focussing on bookkeeping and accounting and tax regulations.
“They’re thinking about what new technologies are coming out, what advice, what analytic techniques people are using in their day-to-day.
As for his own future, Pampiglione is excited about the potential that data analytics holds for accountants.
“I think there’s so much potential for the profession in data analytics. We’ve only just started to scratch the surface with what you can do.
“When you think of the statistical techniques that you might see in academia, we’ve only just started to apply those to the audit profession. With regards to things like artificial intelligence, using predictive analytics, they’re only just beginning to impact the profession.
“And with that, it’s going to create a whole new host of challenges, so I just want to focus on how you can apply this new technology in a commercial context,” he adds.
Whatever progress is made with analytics, machine learning and AI, it seems clear that Pampiglione will be at the forefront, leading the way and bringing others along for the ride too.