Judith had, to put it mildly, a rather nomadic childhood. Her father was a Hungarian diplomat and she was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After that, Costa Rica and Nicaragua followed . The family then moved on to Australia. Judith’s first part-time job was at the age of 16 at the Bondi Beach branch of McDonalds. She did not actually apply for the role. Her mother drove her and her sister to the outlet, left them in the car and emerged both with burgers and having fixed their employment.
She started higher education at Macquarie University in Australia. Having enjoyed another part-time position, in a cinema where she wanted to become a projectionist, she enrolled to study Media and Communications with a particular emphasis on film production. Her mother perhaps had different ideas as after six months she was sent off to a careers adviser who informed her that the fields in which she aspired to make the grade were already saturated and that she should do something different which involved her strength with numbers. That the family were moving back to Hungary might also have been part of this intellectual ambush on her. So, Media and Communications were out, and a Bsc in Accounting and Management Information Systems were in, a course taken in Hungary but through an outpost of the University of Hertfordshire. Which was just as well because after a temporary return to his homeland, her father was on the move again, towards London.
Hence, in 2004 Judith found herself looking for a place to work in England. She acquired her opening with Haymarket Exhibitions as a Purchase Ledger Assistant. It was, sort of, a return to the media and as a big company with a large finance team and exciting activities around its exhibitions, it had the virtues of being a fast-learning curve and a lot of fun. It was not, though, a place to build her career.
She moved on to Paul McKenna Training in a broader role as a Finance Assistant. She started taking her accountancy qualifications (including cramming three papers into one semester while holding down a full-time post) and was, in effect, committing herself to a path which logically would lead in time to becoming a Finance Director. Her command of the subject made that a realistic ambition.
There were, however, destined to be some bumps in that road. Paul McKenna Training decided to concentrate on the American market and that was one move too far even for Ms Abelovszky. She switched to retail in the form of William Hollins & Company. The recession induced by the onset of the global financial crisis meant that this was a crisis management experience from the very outset.
The business and its finance division were downsizing drastically and a team that had once been 12 strong and based in Coventry, suddenly became four people in London. As a crash course it had its value. She was doing everything as the stores struggled for survival.
She needed to find somewhere new, and quickly. She became a management accountant for Lewis Ayr Ltd. It was best known for owning River Island at the time, but Judith was on the property side. It was a sizeable player in this regard, and she was responsible for 19 individual buildings. She then took on a similar role with Galleon Holdings PLC (her first listed company). This was a distinctly unusual entity in that it had two very diverse sides to it. One involved digital games and lifestyle brands. The other was about the production of small toys for the cereal packets and bags of crisps which were part of those lifestyle brands. The loss of one very large contract in this second sphere triggered a profits warning and not long after, the end was nigh with most of the team being made redundant.
Seeking some relative calm after all that turmoil, Judith enrolled as a Senior Accountant at Tie Rack. As well as ties (obviously), it also sold a variety of other products such as cufflinks and luggage. It was owned by an Italian investment firm, and it was a big step up as she managed the banking and stock control teams and she was very involved in rolling out superior tech for stock management into stores. She learnt a lot as she sought to steady the ship but had to make her own life-boat by moving on.
This led to her becoming a Financial Controller at Lucky Voice, a karaoke club chain. This was, she reflects today, probably the “funnest job” that she had ever found herself in. The social activities were exceptional. The people were immensely likeable. She was the most senior finance person and she reported directly to the Managing Director. She took on payroll duties as part of her repertoire. She was the number one finance person for the first time, an FD in all but name. Yet if she wanted to be an FD in name then Lucky Voice was very unlikely to lead to that title. There was no way up for her. As she was by now a fully qualified accountant, she now had the advantage of more options.
That led to a major moment of decision. She had two offers. One involved remaining as a Financial Controller but with the strong suggestion (but no certainty) of becoming the FD within a year. The other involved securing the FD title but in a sector that was likely to be very tough terrain indeed. This was with Root Capital LLP a private equity company, which invests in distressed and underperforming businesses.
Distress has that name for a reason. All of the businesses which Judith had to deal with had issues. It was incredibly hard work and consumed every hour in the waking day. Trying to create and liaise with finance teams across these companies and then introduce common systems across them was very challenging.On the plus side, she was a full FD also responsible for company secretary work as well as complex financial modelling and it was thus a vital stepping-stone in her career.
Next Judith secured herself an FD slot at Yopa Property, a founder-led business that was expanding at huge pace, with all the hallmarks of a start-up still in place and seeking to professionalise itself as it charged ahead. Judith was there for four years seeing staff numbers grow from 20 – 270 and amongst other things putting in a new ERP system and going through three investment rounds. Covid however forced it to downsize and Judith pivoted to Net Ventures Ltd on an experimental basis, which was a Singapore-based venture capital fund that hired her as it thought about setting up in the UK. The virus killed off that idea.
With an admirable sense of perseverance and glowing references despite all that she had endured, Judith took the FD helm at PGMBM a group litigation specialist. She aimed to introduce a much more rigorous form of financial systems into a business but in the midst of that strategy, it suddenly bought another law firm and notably more international in its character. It had become a different company from that which she had recently been recruited by.
Which is how she came to be where she is now, in a role that is in many ways totally ideal for her. She is the Finance and Operations Director at The Modern House, a much-admired on-line estate agency. She is part of the Board of Directors and has taken the finance function back in house and very much into her own hands. It is the first B-Corp certified business with which she has been associated and has a “young and fun” feel to every aspect of it and somewhere she feels she can make a massive impact.
Which would only be a just reward for her. Reflecting on her career, Judith has concluded that an aspiring FD needs to be able to rely on themselves, has to want to stretch themselves constantly and appreciate that while it will be very hard work indeed in certain circumstances, ability is recognised. That she has the ability is obvious to anyone who meets her. Some stamina is useful as well.