Some people spend years contemplating what they want to do for a career but for Jirsch Sutherland Senior Manager Emma Mos – who recently received her Registered Liquidator Registration, nothing piqued her interest, even when she was in the midst of tertiary studies. Instead, the Maths whizz who graduated from the University of Bath in England with a Master of Mathematics (1st Class Honours) says she stumbled into the insolvency sector with the help of the world’s most efficient PA: Google.
“My fellow graduates were accepting jobs for large accounting firms in the city and that just didn’t appeal to me,” she says. “I didn’t want to move to London and work with the PwCs and KPMGs of this world and go through the brutal interview and assessment process, which lasted for days.”
With a goal to work close to home, Emma searched online for graduate jobs where she stumbled across an insolvency position. “I hadn’t looked at working in that sector, but the mix of accounting and law sounded really interesting. The firm, Bishop Fleming, was really well known in the area and had a great reputation so I applied for the job,” she recalls.
Starting in August 2005, Emma spent seven-and-a-half years with the same firm before upping stumps to move to Australia with her Aussie husband in 2013. “We talked about if for years, so finally made the decision to relocate,” she says. “We absolutely love it.”
Curve balls and financial counselling
While Emma has gained significant experience working across a variety of industries including engineering, retail, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, she says the insolvency process “is exactly the same”.
“For every liquidation we have to lodge the same forms and go through the same processes, but what makes every single one different are the personalities involved,” she says. “That’s where the curve balls come from because you’re dealing with creditors and directors, often under highly stressful circumstances. You certainly see the very best and worst in people in those moments.”
Insolvency specialists are required to maintain composure under a myriad of circumstances, which can be tricky to navigate when a conversation about finances suddenly segues to personal feelings.
“When people start to discuss their business, things can often head in a completely different direction, so the conversation can move outside the constraints of purely the business,” says Emma. “Sometimes you just have to allow them that opportunity to offload and hopefully feel better for it.”
Keeping jobs and services in the community
For every terminal insolvency story that makes the news, there are countless examples of successful turnarounds that, companies like Jirsch Sutherland, have helped to execute. Emma has played a major role in many jobs since joining the firm in January 2014. One recent example involved a highly specialised business in Newcastle providing the only service of its kind between North Sydney and Byron Bay.
“Basically, the business grew too quickly and didn’t have the capital to sustain the growth. The growth was funded by not paying the Australian Taxation Office so the business ended up owing substantial money to the ATO,” she explains. “The underlying business was viable but couldn’t deal with the historic debt. The solution was for the company to go through Voluntary Administration and a Deed of Company Arrangement (DoCA). We are about to pay creditors, including the ATO, a cents in the dollar dividend and hand everything back to the director. It ended up being a great outcome for all involved – the absolute dream of a job for everyone involved.”
Not only did 50-odd employees with very specialist skills retain their positions – “they would have struggled to find jobs in such a specialised area of the market at the same time” – but the service is running business as usual.
“If we hadn’t been able to get the DoCA across the line with the ATO, the whole thing would have fallen over and gone into liquidation,” Emma continues. “People would have lost their jobs and the community would have lost a valuable service.”
While Emma says there are few differences between the UK and Australia regarding the insolvency sector, she says she would be happier if the two could merge. “Both have their pros and cons but essentially they both involve the same strategies, principles, and logic. It’s just the section numbers and regulations which are different.”