All posts on The Smarter CEO are written by Adam Arnold
Adam Arnold as a schoolboy
I was born in Wordsley in 1983 and went to Haden Hill School until it was knocked down and replaced with a housing estate. I can vaguely remember looking round quite a few possible alternatives, eventually ending up at Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire.
The bulk of my life to date is taken up by my time there – gathering some 12 or so GCSEs and 4 A Levels, captaining the odd team here or there and spending my final year as Head of House and a School Monitor, which had it perks; I could walk across cut lawns and wasn’t bound by white or blue shirts. Frankly this is nothing on the Head Boy, who was permitted a full-on beard, could smoke a pipe and keep a goat on ‘Gordon Green’.
To my dismay, my extra curricular achievements combined with exceptional marks on my Economics paper and A’s in Maths and Physics, London School of Economics refused my application to read Economics. At the time LSE was the #1 place to obtain the degree and I didn’t like the idea of 2nd best so I decided to take a ‘gap’ year and try again.
Adam Arnold as an employee
Arthur Andersen offered a fantastic placement scheme and I seemed to swan my way through to the final interview, to be held at their Head Offices on The Strand in London. An unlikely combination of numerous train delays, an early morning/late night fire in my hotel and a near-crash in the cab on the way to the interview resulted in only half of my cylinders firing throughout the assessment day. Perhaps this is fate, as my lack of mental agility saw me dig an ‘Adam Arnold‘ sized hole during my time with their HR director.
Defending my lowly ‘C’ grade in GCSE RE I tried to explain I didn’t place a great deal of value on the subject as my interest was always Maths, Science and, later, Economics/Business. If people want to believe in some higher form, that’s fine – but 10 years of compulsory Chapel 3 times a week put me off the whole idea. Religion should be out of choice…..
An anti-religion rant to a ‘believer’ is a sure fire way to turn an otherwise positive interview into a very negative one. Years of forced attendance, tiredness and persistent questioning of that ‘C’ grade didn’t mix well in this instance.
In hindsight, the events leading up to the final interview were probably a good thing, as Arthur Andersen collapsed amongst the Enron scandal soon after the placements began. Not deterred by yet another rejection, I applied to KPMG who offered me a 10 month placement in their Birmingham Tax Office.
KPMG is a fantastic company and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, despite tax being a generally dull subject. In a constant battle against the tax man, our team advised a range of clients on ways to reduce company taxes. At times this was simple; for instance NHS trust had a list of ‘contracted out services’ on which they could reclaim VAT. We’d just sit in an accounts room (usually near the mortuary!), sifting through invoices and making a note of those which had reclaimable VAT. We’d submit a total to the VAT man and take a percentage of what was recovered. In other instances work would involve trawling through tax documentation and years’ worth of client correspondence with the HM Revenue & Customs.