BusinessCorporate FinanceProfile: Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission

Profile: Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission

When Andrew Hind decided to use his financial skills to make a real difference, he was told he was throwing away his career. More than two decades later, as the chief executive of the Charity Commission

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission

It was 1981. Clad in a safari suit to brave the hot frontiers, and with only
his briefcase in hand, Andrew Hind thought himself ready to audit Somalia’s
Commercial and Savings Bank.

But the sight of masses of desperately poor and destitute Ethiopian refugees
thronging the streets of Hargeisa made such a lasting impression on him that it
forced him to question his purpose as an accountant.

‘I’d never experienced anything like that. I thought, well, there’s got to be
more to being an accountant than auditing banks ­ important though that is,’ he

Twenty-seven years on and Hind, chief executive of the
­ the regulator of charities in England and Wales – has this year
been presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the prestigious

Hind says the turning point for him was that first impression in Somalia when
he saw hopeless refugees spill over from troubled Ethiopia ­ so much so that he
was determined to make use of his financial experience and qualifications in the
charity sector. Since then he’s worked his way in, in what has become a life
choice. Unlike his peers at the time, Hind took a job with
PKF in Nairobi, as manager
of the East Africa practice, choosing it over glitzy Hong Kong and other exotic

‘I wanted a high quality name, but I didn’t want to just be working with one
of the Big Four or Five, which were almost exclusively working on international
subsidiaries. What I really wanted was a firm that had deep roots in Africa and
had a sort of pro-African approach to developing local people,’ Hind says.

At the time, South Africa didn’t appeal to an ethically conscious Hind.

‘The main motivation was really to get to know the country and try to make a
contribution as well as furthering my own career. I was really lucky to find
PKF, which had grown up out of a colonial practice, so it bought into a practice
that was very well embedded in Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya,’ he says.

Hind was also impressed by PKF’s policy of encouraging local talent ­ which
seemed advanced for its time. The firm in Africa constituted 50% African
partners and managers, while it made further investments by giving young African
men and women the opportunity to train in the UK through the ICAEW or ACCA, and
to then return.

Its policies meant PKF had ‘fantastic’ relationships with governments of the
four countries in which it had practices. ‘A lot of work relating to
international aid and development came to PKF, often flowing into governments,
and into bilateral aid activity,’ says Hind.

Diplomatic role

He compares his first work experience to that of the 1950s when British
youngsters left university to join the diplomatic service. ‘My equivalent to
that was arriving in 1980 and finding an East African community, which was a bit
like the European Union, constituting Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.’

The three countries shared post and telecommunications networks, a railway
system and an airline. But in 1979 it all fell apart due to the Tanzania/Uganda

Hind was based at one of the PKF branches that was asked to work with the
Swiss UN-appointed mediator, to work out who should claim these assets, which
amounted to huge swathes of infrastructure. ‘I’d only been in Africa for four
weeks and found myself being asked to chair meetings of the ministers from these
three countries, deciding who was going to get what, and why,’ he says.

By the time he left in 1983, Hind had resolved that he was going to somehow
enter the charity sector ­ a big decision to make for a man still in his
twenties. ‘If you go overseas quite early in your career as I did, it’s very te
mpting to stay and make your life in a wonderful climate, given the opportunity
to have a very happy and lucrative career as a partner working internationally
in a major firm. But I rather wanted to establish myself in the charity sector
here [the UK] working for an NGO,’ says Hind.

His first port of call on returning to his homeland was to a
newly-established firm of charity head hunters to ask their advice on how best
to get a foothold in the non-profit sector as a finance executive.

‘They asked me why I was throwing away a really promising career by moving
into the charity world. The only people who did that, it seemed, were retired
managers and people with no further career aspiration,’ Hind says.

The advice came as a blow to the enthusiastic Hind, who felt he desperately
had something to offer. ‘But what they did say is that if I was really serious,
I would need to have a bit more to offer than purely commercial experience in

So he went away and worked for three years at the BICC group (now Balfour
Beatty) as essentially an international financial trouble-shooter, based in
London, but with his territory in Africa and the middle east.

‘I spent three years flying all over the place, trying to sort out major
contractual problems they had with their international contracts ­ such as those
involving building of microwave and telephone networking in Cameroon. They had
to build a series of masts through forest country and develop a microwave
wireless system to replace the absolutely hopeless fixed line systems that never
worked in Africa. My job was to make sure that financially and contractually, it
worked,’ he says.

The job massively broadened his international experience ­ but his next
window of opportunity came, he says, upon opening Accountancy Age. ‘I’d
been there three years and one day I opened Accountancy Age and I saw my
absolute dream job ­ FD of Action Aid. There it was, on the page, in black and
white… I can still see it now. And I thought this is it, this is the one.’

It took some effort to convince them that although he was 20 years younger
than they envisaged, he had several other attributes that were a necessity for
the job. ‘I had to show them that I had energy, passion and commitment and quite
a lot of on-the-ground experience, having done a lot of reporting back to
lenders about the effectiveness of aid projects.

‘It was a combination they were happy to go with and take a bit of a risk, I
suppose. That taught me quite early in my career that if you’re good enough,
you’re old enough to do something,’ he says.

He spent five years at Action Aid, then took two more roles ­ as director of
finance at Barnados, and then ten years as chief operating officer of the BBC
World Service.

But he has continued to be actively part of the voluntary sector ­ also
serving for the Voluntary Service Overseas, Unicef UK and The Diana, Princess of
Wales Memorial fund ­ and he came full circle when he joined the Charity
Commission in 2004.

His strong views ­ on accountability in how money donated by the public is
spent ­ have translated into Hind being one of the founders of the Statement of
Recommended Practice for accounting in the charity sector.

He has further plans for SORP. ‘We want to develop the next SORP around IFRS,
but to recognise the complexity of full IFRS would be an issue for many
charities ­ the adoption of an SME standard or the development of an
IFRS-compliant FRSSE by the ASB could be a big help to a large part of our
sector and could provide a more proportionate framework around which to develop
the next SORP,’ he says.

Better communication

He also believes that accountants have a crucial role to play in helping
charities think through how they can communicate better with the public to
describe what they’re doing.

‘You see all kinds of great work going on all over the place, but charities
are still not putting enough time and effort into reporting back to the donating
public about what they’ve done with the money,’ he says.

Hind thinks he knows what the problem is. ‘You need that passion [for the
charity work] but you’ve then got to lock it away in a box because it can take
you over and get you to leave your business sense chained up outside. A lot of
charities have lots of people that either work for them or on their
non-executive boards who are very motivated by the cause and sometimes forget
the strategic analysis and the business disciplines that they would never leave
behind if they were in a city boardroom,’ he says.

Hind may be pricking ears in the sector ­ but he is not about to stop beating

Charity’s case

Hind sight
Hind co-founded the Charity Finance Directors’ Group in 1987 and was its second
chair from 1992-94. In 1995, he published The Governance and Management of
Charities, which is widely considered to have made a major contribution to good
practice in the sector.

Charity Commission numbers
The Charity Commission, which is funded by government, spent a total of £33.5m
on operating activity and capital investment for the year 2007/08.

There are more than 190,000 charities registered with the Charity Commission,
with total incoming resources of nearly £45bn, including more than 600,000 paid
staff and over 927,000 trustee positions.

The commission ran a campaign, Accounts aren’t Optional, in the last year in
which it highlighted the fact that 10% of the leading 100 charities failed to
file their accounts on time. This year, it reported that each of the charities
had now met the deadline, indicating a growing awareness of the timely filing of

Going forward
Last October HM Treasury announced the Charity Commission’s 2007 Comprehensive
Spending Review settlement for 2008-11.
This will see an annual reduction of 5% in real terms to the budget for each of
these years, reducing the funding baseline from £31.7m in 2007/08 to £29.5m in

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