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Having over 20 years of experience in the finance sector, Karen Reed is a valuable asset to the Merlin team and puts all she knows into making the work/life balance achievable for local businesses. So let’s get to introducing her…

Name: Karen Reed
Role: Accounts Senior
Duration: Nearly 15 years

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Karen and I’ve been working at Merlin for nearly 15 years which means I’m very familiar with our clients – and with Giles.

I didn’t take the conventional route into accountancy. I enjoyed school but I found it hard to adapt to the less-structured atmosphere of college, so nearing the end of my second year of A-levels, I opted to pursue a more hands-on approach and got myself a job.

I was taken on in a junior office position at an accountants, working four days a week and attending college for the remainder of the week to finish my A-level in music – a passion which has been with me my whole life. Over the course of four years, I progressed from day-to-day admin jobs to working in the company’s computer department as its sole admin and accounts assistant. Lots of experience was gained in my first job and I got my foot on the career ladder.

Come 2006, I had the opportunity to take my skills and career forward. I joined a catering company as their bookkeeper/accountant and was tasked to help with the expansion of the business, and its transition to bigger premises. It was a learning curve and required a skillset that went beyond looking after all the bookkeeping requirements, with a café and conference facilities drawing on some unknown waitressing skills – knowing how to make a proper cup of coffee is as important as preparing the end of year accounts. It was during this time that I completed an Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) accounting qualification, before I joined Giles at Merlin for one day a week.

In 2010, I left the catering company and up until 2019 I worked concurrent part-time jobs with Merlin, Land Rover; a year of maternity cover, and Devon Communities Together (DCT) as its finance manager, reporting to the charity’s CEO and board of trustees.

In 2020, I finally began working full-time for Merlin after completing a five-year part-time business management degree. And since then I have been putting all my knowledge to good use, including undertaking a Masters, it’s also been incredibly enjoyable getting to know our clients that bit better and being even more on hand to help them.

Q. What does the working day look like for you?

If I’m first in the office, which is often, I’ll get to making sure the kettle is on for the team – it’s the little things that set you up for the day.

We like to make sure that communications from clients are answered within a days length of being sent, so I will go through emails etc. and respond while also prioritising work. On Mondays, I will have a sit down with Niki to make sure we’re set for the week on any areas she needs support or would like to expand her knowledge. The rest of the week varies between managing clients and their accounts to other business needs and mentoring Niki.

We also try to allocate time to making sure we are up-to-date on industry news, and we will also make time to brainstorm how to serve the local community better through charity work and support.

Q. What do you enjoy best about your job?

Knowing I can make a difference to a business owner’s life. Sometimes it’s just helping them see things a little more clearly, other times it’s about helping them identify what matters to them, right through to providing a full and comprehensive accountancy service.

Aside from music, charity work is another passion of mine and working with charities is something I really enjoy and can put my experience and knowledge of this sector to good use. Giles is also very good at putting my food knowledge to good use – be that for clients or restaurant recommendations.

Q. What are your aspirations?

My aspirations point towards continually learning through the business and industry to give our clients a service that serves them really well – if we can achieve that for them on a business front, then the benefits to their ‘life’ will follow.

As for outside of work, I’d love to pass the practical music exams I have in my sights. Travel is also on my list and I’d love to visit more of Africa – Namibia and Kenya, I’d like to stay in a tree top hotel – as well as India, Australia, and New Zealand.

Q. What opportunities have you benefited from?

The flexibility of the part-time period allowed me to complete a degree that has been useful to the business – I think having an open-minded approach gives you a much clearer bigger picture.

Over the last year, things have changed and Merlin has grown with Sally Livsey entrusting us with her clients in a passing of the baton. And from that we’ve been in a position to expand our team and take on new staff. Niki joined us in January in an apprentice role and has shown great zest – it’s been a brilliant opportunity for me to mentor her and we’re thrilled that she’s passed her first set of exams.

Q. What’s the best thing about working in the sector?

No day is the same! It’s a blessing, I’m never bored, and it’s an interesting time for the sector as it continues to develop digitally.

Q. What are your interests and hobbies outside of work?

Music is what I am completely hooked on. I play the flute, clarinet, and the piano – and I also love to sing. I have been in a choir for many years now and have travelled across Europe singing which has given me great pleasure. I am also partial to a good book, will sit down for the occasional rugby match, but I can also be found preparing for a long walk, or busy sorting things in my garden.

Quick fire

What’s your favourite drink? It’s a toss up between either a South African or New Zealand sauvignon blanc, or a refreshing gin and tonic – so really I have two favourite drinks!
What’s your favourite place? Italy – the food, scenery, and climate is very appealing.
What gets you through a tough day? Knowing that at the end of the day I can indulge in my music; a few hours singing can make all the difference.
What’s the weirdest thing on your desk? There is nothing wild or weird on my desk, just a box of herbal tea – although the cuppa diehards might think different.
Tell us something few people know about you… I’m doing a Masters in Accounting and Finance.

To find out more about our approach to helping clients achieve their goals, please contact us on 01392 272972 or email

No question is too small, it’s what we are here for, our clients say that it’s useful to have a numerate friend prodding their thinking, especially one who understands the issues. You will find us a good fit if you’re looking for an accountant as an investment – rather than just a cost.

Team member and champion of local businesses, Karen Reed

Tel: 01392 272972 Email: