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Trainee turned mentor – introducing Director Karen Bell

Posted on 23 May 2024 / Business

Like many accountants, Karen was always keen on maths and commerce at school, and her dad encouraged her into the career because of the diverse opportunities it offered. She enrolled at Waikato University to study for her degree, but gave up her place just a few weeks before she was due to begin.

Instead, she took up an opportunity to study extramurally at Massey University, while gaining hands-on experience with a role as a trainee accountant at Bridge, then called Gilmore Brown.

“It was hard working and studying full time”, admits Karen, “but I was very fortunate to have the support and assistance of my workmates.”

She has now worked at Bridge (and its predecessor firms) for almost 20 years – over half of her life – and credits the support of her mentors for that.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had amazing mentors in Chantal (Gilmore) and Phillipa (Taylor), together with two other incredible managers during my career” she says. “They’ve helped guide my accounting journey.”

Karen is now a mother to three children, the youngest of which was born just after she became a Director. Having worked her way up to the most senior level in the firm with the support of her colleagues and mentors, Karen now naturally wants to help other budding accountants on a similar path.

“I’ve been fortunate to have support in my career, and now I’m enjoying doing the same for those coming through,” Karen says. “We have a great team, and we want to support them to build their careers.”

Over the last two decades Karen has worked with many clients and loves the variety of helping businesses from a range of sectors. But some of the most rewarding relationships are the ones that she has been involved with since her career began.

“I love seeing clients achieve their goals and increase their understanding of the financial side of their businesses”, she says. “And I really enjoy helping clients with mapping out their business journey – working with them on business plans, budgeting, forecasting and succession planning.”

While it was normal in the early days of her career for clients to deliver paper cashbooks and boxes of paperwork at tax time, these days Karen welcomes the ‘new era’ of accounting. “Technology means we can help clients in real time. If they have queries where we need to access information, we can get this instantly for them through Xero, MYOB or other apps,” she says.

Constantly learning and developing is part of the fabric of Bridge too, says Karen. “My first manager at work, Dianne Campbell, told me we are always learning, and we need to continue collaborating so we can continue to grow and give our clients the best service. I think when you look at how Chantal and Phillipa set up the firm, this is something ingrained in our culture.”

If you’d like Karen’s support with your business journey, feel free to give her a call. And if you’re a parent to young children too, you’ll very likely bump into her on the sidelines watching her kids play cricket, hockey and rugby.

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