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    Adjunct professor garners top article award

    When Andrew Graham, an adjunct professor at Queen’s School of Policy Studies, talks about financial management in the public sector it’s not only his students who are listening. 

    Andrew Graham

    His article “What is financial literacy for the public manager?” recently earned him the Alan G. Ross Award for Writing Excellence from the Financial Management Institute of Canada as the best article published in the fmi-igf Journal – Canada's leading magazine for public sector professionals involved in financial management – for 2013-14.

    It’s a high honour, and Mr. Graham knows it.

    “It’s kind of thrilling actually,” he says. “The Financial Management Institute of Canada is the premier organization in the financial management world, and to have gotten this award is fantastic.”

    Mr. Graham says the article was inspired by work he previously did with the Ontario government and a number of senior executives who were concerned about the financial skills of their managers.

    What he learned, he says, was that the managers didn’t need accountant-level financial skills but they did need to have what he calls financial literacy, such as the ability to read a financial report, to understand what the numbers mean, and that they were smart enough to ask questions of a financial advisor.

    But he didn’t stop there.

    “I think the big revelation that came out of the article that I think kind of moved a lot of people, because it was a bit of a surprise, was that I said it was all very well to say that the people need to have a financial literacy, but so does the organization,” Mr. Graham says. “In other words they have to take the numbers seriously, they have to actually manage their resources really effectively and create a culture that encourages all of this. The reason that was a bit of a surprise is that I basically said to executives ‘You know it’s not just you hiring the right people but you acting in the right way as executives.’”

    As he explains, he wrote the article in a ‘words to the wise’ style and the message didn’t get bogged down in numbers. Communication is key and that’s something he also brought up.

    “The other part of the article that I thought really landed well was that people have to learn to ask stupid questions really smartly and they have to be unafraid to ask,” he says. “If you don’t know what that number means you should not be embarrassed by that and the financial people should not throw numbers at people in order to confuse them. They have a job to communicate too.”