Another dimension: Stephen Ibbotson

Stephen Ibbotson, director of business at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), offers his peers in the finance profession a view from outside government

By Winnie Agbonlahor

05 Dec 2014

What do you think the public sector does well?

I think the cost savings achieved have been very impressive. A lot of that has come from reducing services, but a big part is also down to re-organising back office functions, combining things and reducing administrative burdens.

What would attract you to and deter you from applying for a job in the civil service?

I would be attracted by the ability to make real change; because it’s not just about profit, you can change things that directly affect people’s lives. Equally, I would be put off by some of my colleagues’ experiences: they applied and were rejected at the last interview stage because they didn’t have any public sector experience. Why would I waste my time if they’re not going to appoint anyone without prior public sector experience? I would also be wary about my limited ability to change things. I could end up in a position where I have lots of new ideas but would not be able to drive them forward because people are resistant; not just the people you work for, but the rest of the organisation. I would only be a relatively small part of a big organisation.

What prejudices and expectations might people in your industry have of an experienced and qualified civil servant seeking work in the field?

They would think that the civil servant would lack flexibility, because they’re used to doing things in a certain way. And from my own experience working with former civil servants, they often lack commercial awareness: the ability to look at the bigger picture and assess all the commercial implications, and therefore the commercial benefit.

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