An Open Door Where You Least Expect It

Mar 08, 2023   Written by Claire Bogle
Lisa Halford, Senior Global Payroll Manager at KBC

Having a degree certainly opens doors, but for many people the traditional education to career pathway doesn’t suit. Lisa Halford, Senior Global Payroll Manager at KBC (A Yokogawa Company), started her career in payroll following a temporary job via an agency. “I struggled at school due to dyslexia which I didn’t know I had until later in life. It led me to being quite unhappy and not moving onto further education. I thought to myself I’ll look for a job.” As Lisa opened the door to a private London Harley Street hospital little did she know it would change her life.

As a bold 16-year-old with aspirations of being a physiotherapist she was willing to give anything a go. When the agency said about a job at a London hospital Lisa went along with no real idea what it was. The role turned out to be running the hospital’s payroll. With thorough training and the support of her boss she was offered a permanent role as a Junior Payroll Assistant. “Back then we had no computers, so it was all done manually with a calculator and counting the money out into people’s pay packets, which was quite fun. There was no Googling so if you didn’t know something you needed to find the answer in a book.” Lisa later went on to manage the department and realized she was good at what she was doing. She enjoyed it and liked the structure.

Eventually Lisa moved on to work for a British multinational consumer goods company, again processing payroll but gained some expatriate knowledge and dealt with expatriate tax returns. “I realized I was quite good at the expatriate side of things and found it interesting.”

Lisa’s career then took her to a financial services company where she was able to set up her own department from scratch. She learnt how to calculate commission and saw different sides of payroll. “It was interesting. I wanted to do and learn more, and I realized the only thing my dyslexia was holding me back on was my spelling.”

The next career move for Lisa brought her to KBC where she could use all her knowledge and experience and over time grow the role. “I was running the UK payroll and expenses, but gradually took over the responsibility of running the US, Canada, Singapore, China and Japan payrolls,” said Lisa. “I realized this was the bit I was missing in my experience and to keep me attracted to working in payroll. I learnt the taxation and legislation in each country so if I had to, I could manually calculate it. Manually calculating tax using tax tables is a lost skill, it’s not taught anymore as computers do the work, but it can give you a greater understanding of what you’re doing.”

In Lisa’s role at KBC she also looks after the tax returns for expatriate employees and payroll related returns, posting payroll related entries into the company’s accounts and preparing reports and analysis for various stakeholders.

In a global company the payrolls run once and twice a month depending on the country the employee is based so there’s never a quiet moment. “You have to be very organized in how you run, and prepare payrolls and be detailed because HMRC, the IRS or auditors may want further information,” explains Lisa. “You need patience because it takes time to process the payroll, have the ability to stick to strict deadlines as people want to be paid on time, be adaptable to stop and pick up something else that may be urgent, and you need to like numbers!”

Lisa has been with KBC for 23 years and worked in payroll her whole working life. Her willingness to learn has allowed her to grow each role and expand her skills, experience and gain confidence. “Being in the work environment was what I needed. School wasn’t a place where I flourished and there wasn’t the support for me.” Lisa recently gave a talk to a group of primary school children about dyslexia and her advice to them was “Never give up, have a go at different things and keep searching for what you like and feel comfortable doing. Everyone has skills and certain strengths. Don’t let anything hold you back.”