Archives For Careers

Rosemary Hilary

By Rosemary Hilary FCCA, audit director, TSB

When I started my career I knew I wanted to have a respected qualification that would give me flexibility and choices.  As I was naturally attracted to the world of accountancy, ACCA seemed the number one choice for me.

I developed my early career in insurance (management accounting) and industry (financial accounting) and then I joined a commercial bank first as Internal Auditor then as Treasury Accountant.  From there I joined the Bank of England and that led to a fascinating period in financial services regulation, in a number of senior roles, transitioning to the Financial Services Authority and, briefly, the Financial Conduct Authority. In my last seven years at the FSA/FCA I was the Director of Internal Audit. My ACCA qualification provided an excellent foundation on which to develop the skills required for Internal Audit.

But in 2013, after working through the effects of the financial crisis, I decided it was time to return to my private sector roots in banking.

I joined the executive team at TSB, as Director of Internal Audit, in October 2013. Once again my ACCA qualification was a key factor that qualified me for the role and, on a day-to-day basis, I still draw on the skills and knowledge that I learned during my accountancy training.

TSB is a new challenger bank for Britain, but with a traditional and trusted brand and the capabilities of an established organisation. This sense of continuity and history is central to the new Bank’s culture – TSB is benefiting from the trust and reputation it built up over its long history and also setting out its own agenda as a straightforward and transparent bank pioneering a return to local banking for Britain. We still have a sense of the old TSB community and the essence of its values, but the new TSB provides an exciting opportunity to have a hard think about strategy and shape our role as a challenger bank.

I am now building up the Internal Audit function to the size and scale that we need for our operation in future. I’m doubling the size of the team to 40 internal auditors and will also bring in specialists when necessary. Apart from sheer intellectual ability, I am looking for the team to have the core skills that I feel I developed as part of my ACCA training. Top of the list is good communications skills. You must be able to write down findings clearly and be impactful when talking to colleagues.  Next is good stakeholder management – knowing how to convey messages as a ‘critical friend’ and with gravitas and ‘clout’ and the ability to inspire respect from colleagues across the organisation, including the Board of Directors. Internal Audit gives you a great, 360-degree view of the business-constantly taking the pulse of the organisation.

In addition to my work at TSB I also feel privileged to have been selected, four years ago, to be on the board of Shelter, the national homelessness charity.  As a member of its Audit, Risk and Finance Committee, my ACCA qualification provides the underlying skills and knowledge that I need.

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By Sarah Hathaway, head of ACCA UK

Ask the question ‘what do you want to be when you are older?’ to a group of 12 year olds and you will get a variety of answers from premiership footballer to X-Factor winner, to more familiar careers like teacher. Having those dreams at that age is important, it’s good for children to strive to be famous or rich or to enter a career that helps others. In reality only a very tiny proportion of those that answer premiership footballer will have a career in sport. An even smaller number will be lucky enough to have a career in the music industry. A much larger number will end up in one of the many professions that are vital to the global economy, but how many of those 12 year olds that you ask will mention one of those professions – very few.

There are a couple of good reasons for this. Firstly, many of the professions are not considered aspirational – very few aspire to be an accountant, a banker, an HR manager. However, if you phrased the question differently you might get a different response. If you asked: ‘When you are older would like to work for Facebook, for Apple, for Manchester United, for Universal Records, for an organisation that has offices in New York, Sydney, Singapore and London?’ It would be expected that the number putting their hands up would increase significantly.

The second reason is that young people are often not aware of the vast range of professions out there, and even if they are, have little idea whether they can gain access to that type of career. Social mobility is a buzzword of the moment, but it’s critical that if we want to make sure young talent comes into the professions, we have to ensure they are aware of the opportunities.

While a career in the professions may not be aspirational it is highly rewarding, secure and challenging. During the recent financial crisis most finance professionals, especially accountants, not only remained in employment and received pay rises but also became more and more vital to their organisations. They are now playing a major role in forward planning and business strategy, not just tax returns and audit.

Professions are hugely important to the health of the economy: they keep businesses running, employing staff, paying tax and keeping GDP ticking over. So while being a professional might initially not seem an exciting role, the reality is that you will be at the forefront of your company, your decisions will carry weight right up to boardroom level and you will have the respect of the people who shape the company.

ACCA is one of the founding members of the UK’s first ever Professions Week, and I am the chair of the initiative’s steering group. Starting next week, it aims to raise awareness of what potential career and employment opportunities there are. Get more information via the Twitterfeed too.

We’ve all been through it: how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd and convince potential employers that you are the one to hire.

Here recruitment expert Fiona Wilson of FJWilson gives her top tips on making yourself more attractive to employers especially if you are entering the job market for the first time.

 

  1. Your CV – It sounds obvious but a well written CV is vital, with no spelling or grammatical errors. Your CV is the first contact you have with an employer: make sure it gives the right impression. Get someone else to read it through before sending they might pick up something you have missed
  2. Social media – Develop a professional profile on social media. Recruiters/ employers are increasingly looking at on-line activity when long-listing. Make sure your profile photos on Facebook, Twitter etc. are what you would like a prospective employer to see; ensure you have the relevant security settings and that any photos/ tweets/ comments that you wouldn’t want an employer seeing are hidden from public view.
  3. Market yourself – Make sure you have a profile on LinkedIn and that your profile/ title contains the obvious search words that a recruiter/ employer would be using to search for candidates for the role you want to get.
  4. Job boards – Make sure your CV is uploaded to key job boards such as Monster, Total Jobs and Reed
  5. Be concise – avoid wordy paragraphs. Go instead for clear bullet points which draw out what you have done and achieved in each of the roles you’ve had (whether as the captain of the rugby team, in a part-time role or work placement). Always try to summarise the impact you personally made.
  6. After the interview – Once you’d done all of the above and had the interview, always follow up with a brief, personalised thank you note or email. It makes a difference.

If you don’t get the job, then remember: only a small minority of people land their dream job straight from university so don’t let rejection get you down. If you retain your enthusiasm, your hard work will pay off.

Changing careers is a big decision to make, especially if you have no qualifications to fall back on, but that shouldn’t put you off. Lauren Lockwood ACCA member and former Gold Medal winning student explains how she moved from a career in retail to accountancy

I decided I wanted a change of career after working for 7 years in retail. My role was very sales focused but I had started to become involved in payroll and other financial matters with running a retail unit. I really enjoyed this part of my job however, it was only a small part of the role.

I went to see an adult career adviser and explained that I enjoyed working with numbers and managing budgets and he suggested that I should aim for a career in accounting. He helped me to update my CV. He pulled forward the areas that were key to a career in accounting such as organisation, time management and accuracy. He also explained that I would need to gain a qualification if I wanted to progress in this industry and he suggested ACCA as I had no previous experience in this area, no academic qualifications past my GCSEs and at the time I was not working in accounting.

I was really excited at the prospect of going back to college and at first I was really positive and I couldn’t wait to embark on my new career. However, it was not quite the fairytale I had imagined.

I applied to every accountancy firm in my home-town and neighbouring cities, explaining that I was really keen to become an accountant and that I was looking for a role with them to start my accountancy career. Although some of the companies did respond to let me know there were no vacancies, most didn’t even reply.

I was also applying for jobs online during this period, most through agencies, but the majority wouldn’t even consider me as I had no experience in the field.

I was recalled for a second interview which was looking for a school leaver at GCSE level to embark on an apprenticeship scheme, but in the end the role went to someone else. I was feeling quite deflated and I was desperate for an organisation to recognise my accountancy potential.

Fortunately a recruitment agency called Sewell Moorhouse replied to one of my applications and they thought they would be able to help me find a role. Very quickly they had an interview lined up for me; I didn’t get the first one but I received some very good feedback and I was ready to try again.

The second one which I applied for was to cover the maternity leave of a Purchase Ledger Junior with a company called Bramall Construction where I got the job. I was a little worried at first at being a junior when I was 23, but I shouldn’t have been as the company was fantastic. I worked very hard and I really loved the role. It was completely different to what I had imagined and involved a lot of administration but it turned out I was a natural at it and I just couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to get into accountancy.

This was only a temporary assignment so I was still looking for a permanent position while I studied. Sewell Moorhouse found me a role as a Sales Ledger Administrator at ABP UK, I am certain that one of the things that helped me to get the role was that I was about to start to study for my ACCA and it demonstrated that I was committed to improving myself and that with time I would be able to offer a lot more to the organisation.

That was five years ago and I am still with ABP UK. I have been exposed to many areas of accounting during my time with the company, gaining experience in Sales Ledger, Purchase Ledger, Management Accounts and I am currently supporting the Financial Accountant in her role.

I am delighted that I was able to change careers when I did and I have enjoyed every second that I have worked in accountancy. During the last five years I have finished my exams and I have also achieved a First Class Honours Degree with Oxford Brooks University, through ACCA.

It has been very hard as I have had to study as well as work full time but I wouldn’t change a second of it. I would recommend accountancy to anyone who enjoys working with numbers, keeping organised and being busy.

ACCA student Ali Ryder from Ensors Chartered Accountants guides new accountancy trainees through the early stages of their accountancy career…

Every year accountancy firms take on a new intake of trainee accountants. If you are one of them, congratulations and welcome to the profession. You made it through the interviews but now the hard work really starts! To be successful within your firm, it goes without saying that working hard and passing your exams is essential, but what else can you do to ensure you stand out for all the right reasons? Here are my top tips:

  1. Go the extra mile for your clients. When you are training it is tempting to just follow the work that was done last year but circumstances change and if you think there is a way you can provide a better service to your client, take the initiative and suggest it to your manager.
  2. Take a genuine interest in business. Read a good quality newspaper and keep up to date with what is happening in your local area. In many ways this is just as important as learning your accountancy theory because you need to demonstrate that you understand the economic conditions facing your clients.
  3. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities that arise. Whether it is a transfer to another department or a secondment to a different office, meeting new people and broadening your experience can only enhance your career prospects.
  4. Meet other young professionals in your area. Getting to know the people you go to college with is a good place to start. Then you can move on to networking events such as the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Whilst this may be daunting at first, you will make some valuable contacts for the future. Today’s trainees are the partners of the future so it is never too early to start building these professional relationships.
  5. Make the effort to attend staff social events and charity fundraisers. This may be the best opportunity you get to spend time with your firm’s partners, have a chat about your career aspirations and demonstrate that you have the right personality to do well at the firm.

This may be a lot to take on while you are still training so your work and study commitments inevitably come first. Nevertheless it gives you something to think about if you find yourself with some extra time and want to give your career prospects a boost. I wish you the best of luck!