By Eleanor O’Neill, CA Today
Jonny Jacobs CA has been named as the ICAS One Young CA 2017 in the culmination of this year’s 35 CAs under 35 competition, held in association with Investec Click & Invest.
Jonny is Head of Supply Chain Finance for pladis UK & Ireland, the global biscuit and confectionery company which brings together some of the world’s most iconic snacking brands. Currently also operating as Interim CFO at pladis North America, his experience ranges from world famous companies like Heineken and Diageo to senior roles at John Menzies.
He is also a Trustee and Treasurer of Aspire, a UK charity that offers support and practical assistance to people paralysed by spinal cord injuries.
He will now represent ICAS and the chartered accountancy profession at the One Young World Summit in Colombia next month. The summit brings together inspiring young people who are committed to making a positive difference.
Jonny spoke to Eleanor O’Neill about receiving the award and the career that has brought him thus far.
What does the title of One Young CA mean to you?
It embodies a lot of the values I hold as important. It reinforces that what you are doing is important in the wider environment and that, beyond just coming in and doing your job, taking the time to support others and pursue a wider agenda pays off. You get a lot of confidence from that.
I had seen the coverage and interviews from previous years in The CA magazine and online but these things can often seem quite remote – you don’t necessarily think that could be you.
Rimla and Indy have done amazing work in their respective fields, from disaster relief to women in sport, and to be mentioned in the same breath as them is quite humbling.
Being One Young CA is a big opportunity. It’s a commitment and a responsibility that gives you the visibility as a CA and a business professional to further the cause of ICAS.
What do you like about working with big brands like pladis?
I like being a part of something that people can buy into. When you’re young, things resonate with you and brands that you grow up with become close to your heart. Biscuits, for example, are just a part of British society and something that everybody loves. To be able to work with some of the biggest and best names in that industry, where you can really feel the passion and love for those products, is quite cool.
How did you get into that sector?
I’ve always had a huge affinity for well-known brands and, in particular, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). A lot of that came from the summer placement I had with Diageo while in university. Being a part of that environment really stuck with me and I developed a real interest in it.
The heart of my career at KPMG was always with industry and I was keen to then move to a business and get stuck into an operational role. An opportunity came up at Heineken that ticked all the boxes for me. It was FMCG, it was food and drink, it was a big brand and I was working with the sales team so I was getting really in amongst the business. I couldn’t turn that down.
What else are you passionate about?
The best part of the roles I’ve had has always been the people. I’ve worked with some really great teams and am a great believer in the importance of developing people and helping them be the best that they can be. One of my old bosses used to say that the most fulfilling thing you can experience as a manager is seeing people grow.
That’s very true and mentoring is something that I’ve done a lot of through graduate schemes and I actually started the internship programme at pladis (was then United Biscuits) six years ago.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I think the most impactful project I’ve ever been involved in was recovering our flooded factory in Carlisle.
At the end of 2015, Storm Desmond swept across North England and our factory found itself under six feet of water. We immediately assembled a crisis management team to work out how to respond to the fact Britain’s oldest biscuit factory, which makes a quarter of all our biscuits and employs hundreds of people was underwater. What do you do?
My role as the team’s finance leader was to manage the end-to-end insurance claim, which became the largest insurance claim of its’ kind in the UK in 2016. Our team’s biggest achievement was managing that into an insurance claim programme and ensuring we could recover the factory. Getting it back up and running, getting our products back on sale and getting our consumers to pick their much-loved biscuits back up into their shopping baskets.
All that cost a significant amount of money and at the end of it, we had a settlement that everyone felt was a good result. To be involved in that type of recovery, and work with such a talented cross-functional team, was definitely the highlight of my career.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’ve got a huge drive and ambition to keep going, keep developing, and for me, it’s about being in a place where I can be the best version of myself and contribute in the best way to the people around me.
pladis is a great place to be. It’s constantly growing and developing. The entrepreneurial spirit of the company supports my speed of change and encourages the way that I want to operate and grow. It’s really about continuing to be a part of positive change.
What are you looking forward to at One Young World?
To be part of a conference that has featured people like Richard Branson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and welcomes both types of people that make such an impact on the world is just going to be such a huge learning experience.
I do hope to leave with a much stronger network of people that can help me grow in the areas that I then want to try and support. Last year’s agenda was packed with absorbing debates of different topics across the political, environmental, economic and cultural spectrums and that’s something I’m looking forward to.
This article was originally published in CA Today.