A day in the life of...an insolvency practitioner

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AccountingWEB has teamed up with its UK sister site, AccountingWEB.co.uk, to present a series that explores the lives of members of the accounting profession. This week, Karyn Jones, a partner at Kelmanson Insolvency Solutions, opens the door to her working life to AccountingWEB.

I don't think anyone ever chooses to become an insolvency practitioner – they tend to fall into it. I got into it after getting a summer job at an insolvency firm while I was a student. It was during the last big recession, so there was a lot going on and I enjoyed the excitement of getting my hands dirty and learning on the job.
Insolvency work requires a lot of practical experience – you can't start taking appointments and holding your license until you have 10 years' full-time experience. Nowadays there is a lot more emphasis on studying for exams, but it's the practical side that attracts me.
Since the professional qualifications are very rigorous, there are very few appointment takers in the country. We all have to go on regular CPD courses to keep up to date because legislation changes constantly, so you'll often find that many of us know each other.
As an insolvency practitioner, there's no such thing as typical. Our job is very much dependent on what comes through the door on any given day. There may be a big job where we need to go through a lot of creditors who are upset, with bailiffs trying to access assets, and perhaps a bank that's a chargeholder requesting an investigation, or there might be days when there aren't any new jobs coming in and you have to deal with existing jobs that are more hum drum, such as annual reports.
The most important skill for an insolvency practitioner is the ability to relate to different people. In this job you need to deal with people on all sorts of levels, from sole traders such as builders, for example, right through to solicitors, bankers, and High Court judges. 
Some of the most interesting jobs are the ones where you have to deal with lots of different assets; some of them may be finance, some not, so you're dealing with invoice finance, factoring, etc., and that makes it more interesting.
It's tough when you have to deal with shareholders and directors who don't want to talk to one another – often it's difficult to get information from anybody and they all pass the buck. We have a duty to gather the information and provide it but it's not easy!
Cases where people are being made redundant is the worst part. Quite often, although you're not the one who has put them in that situation, they use you to vent their anger and upset and there's nothing you can do other than try to help them put in their claims.
Being an insolvency practitioner can make you quite cynical. While you get plenty of genuine sob stories (and obviously you want to make things as easy for people as possible), you also have to be able to pick out the ones who aren't being 100% truthful with you. You've got to strike a balance in your relationship with people and be able to be friendly while allowing yourself to do the job properly.
The initial part of any job is always my favorite – getting to know the people, working out the best strategy for the company or individual (i.e. whether they're better off going into administration, liquidation, or voluntary agreement).
While I don't color coordinate my stationery, my desk is very organized. I like to be quite ordered, so everything coming in goes in my in tray, I'll only have one lot of files out at a time and everything gets tidied away at the end of the day.
We work to statute bound deadlines, so prioritization is very important. We have a diary system built into our insolvency software which prompts us when deadlines are coming up.
When I'm not working, my stress buster is going to the gym. I try to go about four or five times a week.


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