Louise Manuel, Property Development Accountant

My role at GPE

A lot of my job is about checking the viability of projects. It can take years for them to go from initial idea to fully approved scheme. I’ll work with the development manager and project manager of every scheme in our pipeline, running scenarios and sensitivities for them. Basically, answering the question: ‘What if…?’

It’s like solving the most complex of puzzles – but in real life!

Louise Manuel Property Development Accountant

With the help of my assistant, I’ll also monitor costs and performance during development and run letting scenarios on prospective tenants for the leasing team.

Project accounting is mostly forward looking – that’s why I enjoy it. Every project is different, with different challenges. We need to adapt our models to work for a joint venture or for mixed use or for phased development so you do need an analytical mind – and you should always question the validity of the output.

Focused and friendly

This is a quality company and the people are enthusiastic and dedicated. You can expect to work hard, play hard – and to laugh a lot!

I love that I’m working for a company that’s both very large and very small. The projects are worth hundreds of millions when they’re finished, and it’s exciting to be a part of that, but at the same time we are small in people terms. I never feel like a cog in a big machine.

That also means that most people have a unique role. I find that rewarding too - I may not know exactly what the week will hold but it’s likely that I’ll be the only one with the answers when someone comes to me for help.

Meeting the challenge

To do this job well you need to pay attention to detail and have a highly enquiring mind (I like to relax by doing the hardest logic puzzles I can find). You should also have an accountancy qualification. I’d put my CIMA qualification on hold while raising a family – GPE encouraged me to complete it and supported me with a study package.

The biggest challenge for me is maintaining the robustness of the models and the credibility of the output. There are over 70,000 formulae in the basic template model! It not only needs to be accurately populated and adapted for each project but also make sense for the development managers so they can play with the numbers and run scenarios of their own. My spreadsheets are full of error messages that should pop up should they accidently break the model!

A typical day?

My day could involve…

  • Running spreadsheet models to assess the viability of projects in our development pipeline
  • Monitoring the costs and performance of projects in development
  • Looking at letting scenarios
  • Getting involved in buying or selling properties where there’s a development aspect
  • In the run up to year end, providing the development numbers for the Analysts’ presentation