twentysix is a leading digital agency with offices in Leeds (HQ) and London helping progressive brands outstrip their best and imagine better. They have over 150 digital specialists working across everything from strategy, user experience, digital customer acquisition, content, website design and development, data analytics and CRO.
A proud part of MSQ Partners – one of the UK’s fastest growing independent multi-disciplinary marketing groups, they have been named ‘Large Integrated Agency of the Year’ (Prolific London Awards 2019) and ‘Best Large Integrated Agency’ (UK Search Awards 2018) and most recently were rated the Drum’s No.1 UK Digital Agency 2021 (Digital Census)’.
Amanda O’Neill first met Rob at University in Leeds many years ago. After graduating, Rob decided to pursue a career in finance, and in 2001 Amanda introduced him to the WWAV Rapp Collins business, where he was successful in securing employment. This was the start of his twenty-year journey working within finance across four agencies in the marketing sector – an industry that he has always loved and has chosen to remain within. Fast forward to 2021 and Amanda is delighted to have re-connected with Rob once again at Pratap Partnership and was keen to speak to him to share his views and experiences of how he has forged such a successful career working within the marketing industry and what makes this sector so enjoyable and appealing
Has it always been your ambition to be an accountant?
No, I started my career in Hospitality as the Manager of a bar and restaurant. It wasn’t long before I knew it wasn’t for me and was fortunately able to draw from my experience of this to decide on my next career move.
I began looking for a role in a finance whilst enrolling myself onto CIMA, I’d studied for about 2 months when I got a position in purchase ledger at WWAV, my first role in finance and the marketing industry. From there I’ve worked in various agencies and my ever growing experience and love for the industry makes it difficult to leave. I’ve also always wanted to be an Electrician and still haven’t ruled this out. I can’t really explain why.
Many finance professionals progress their career across various sectors. What’s kept you within the marketing sector?
From my first few months at WWAV, I knew I was going to love it. Working with great brands throughout my whole career at various agencies, seeing our work on the TV, in the press, on billboards and online always made me feel proud that I worked for the agencies that had created it.
There also seems to be a great atmosphere and friendliness around agencies that makes going to work enjoyable. There are the cliché’s about slides, pool tables, table tennis tables, beer fridges etc in the office of marketing agencies and I have experienced all of these, which again leads to a different work experience than the stereotypical corporate environment.
Tell us what it’s like to be the FD of twentysix?
As FD I’m fortunate to touch every part of the business and at twentysix we are extremely lucky to be part of MSQ, a group of agencies across the globe with expertise in various different marketing disciplines, however, we are very much independent to make our own decisions and operate the business how we think best. But we also have other colleagues on which to draw opinions and collaborate with. The best of both worlds really.
We have over 150 digital specialists across our fantastic offices in Leeds and London and are lucky to work with some of the UK and world’s top brands including Arla, ASDA, P&G, Fortnum & Mason, Wilkos, Tag Heuer, Christian Dior, Mercedes Benz, UGG and Tommee Tippee to name a few.
Due to the nature of our work, we are first and foremost a people business and do our best to treat our people as such. This includes life insurance, private medical insurance, many wellbeing activities and benefits including massage days, early finish Fridays, regular agency breakfasts and Pizza lunches.
What have been the impacts on the marketing sector during the pandemic and what will be the future legacy and impact?
The shift of many retailers to digital has boosted a great deal of our existing clients focus away from physical stores (partly as many were closed) to online. We’ve been able to help these clients with that shift and in some cases through a whole digital transformation process.
Being a digital agency this has obviously benefited us and will hopefully continue to do so as more and more businesses move to digital first strategies. On the flip side, all of our travel clients all but stopped activity during the lockdown periods and therefore this had a impact on revenue during that period, however, I’m absolutely sure this will be back to previous levels pretty quickly now.
What would be your advice for anyone at school or university considering a career in finance?
Start your qualifications as early as possible, the sooner you start the sooner you finish. I didn’t start until I was in my late 20s and really wished I’d begun CIMA earlier.
I was fortunate in some respects to start as a junior in purchase ledger and work my way through. This has really benefitted me throughout my career in really understanding each part of the finance function and help develop other in those roles. I’ve been lucky enough so see many of my team progress through AAT and CIMA the same as I did and it really is rewarding.
I’d also say, try and choose an industry that interests you. It’s not always easy as finding your first role in finance can be difficult without experience, but finding the right company in the right industry can make a big difference.
In 2019 you were the winner of the Northern FD of the Year Awards – these awards shine a spotlight on the people who are often the unsung heroes of successful businesses, highlighting the achievements of Finance Directors working across the North of England– an amazing recognition for the work you do. How did this make you feel and what have you learnt from this?
I really enjoyed the whole process of the awards, from the nominations to the interviews, the shortlist and of course the awards night itself. I got to meet some great people from a wide variety of industries, all working in great businesses and doing great things and it was a honour to be considered alongside these people.
It was great to be recognised for my achievements by the interview panel and the judges, but it also made me realise how important it is to work in a business that lets you get on with the things where you add most value, give you autonomy to operate as you see best and also give support to new ideas and innovative processes that benefit everyone.
Tell us about Rob when he is not being a Finance Director
I’m a keen golfer and try to play at least once a week. It’s a great game to get fresh air and spend time with friends.
I love to spend time in the garden, embarking on many outdoor projects, and moving into a new house this year has kept me busy with this and also indoor jobs that seem to be never ending.
Patrick Lynch is a Director with Castle Square Corporate Finance, he's been involved in some fantastic deals over the last 2 years and its no surprise he was crowned South Yorkshires Emerging Dealmaker 2021.
2022 has started strong for Pratap Partnership with two new team members.
Ciara Allan epitomises everything that is good about the modern CFO – Her career has been built upon strong technical knowledge at the highest level, and is an inspiration to people across the board.
There have been more executive finance appointments across the Yorkshire region over the last quarter than any quarter in the past three years.
Paul Denvers is an Investment Director for the Enact Fund, a finance professional with twelve years’ experience at Grant Thornton, Deloitte & Enact and a very close contact for our business.