How will ICAEW support you in your accounting career?

How will ICAEW support you in your accounting career?

Accountancy Age spoke to ICAEW about how they support accountants on their career journeys

Accountancy Age spoke to two employees of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) about how they support accountants in their careers from beginning to end.

Hazel Garvey is Business Development Director at ICAEW and Shaun Robertson is Head of Learning at ICAEW.

1. In what ways do you contribute to ICAEW in your role?

Shaun: I’ve been here for eleven and a half years, but I’ve always been close to ICAEW because I was a student here, and I taught exams for 12 years. Day to day, my team and I look after the process someone would go through to become a chartered accountant; looking after the syllabus, working with the tuition provider, setting the exams. We ensure we are very transparent with the tutors and students so they know what they’ve got to do to qualify. It’s not a scary process; it’s a demanding process but a fair process.

The syllabus changes every year, for lots of reasons. The legislation changes like law, tax and accounting standards change and also the environment we are working in is so fast-moving that we have to change to meet employers’ and students’ needs. What we’re trying to do is future-proof these accountants so it’s not just about qualifying today, it’s qualifying for their career.

Hazel: Like Shaun, I was also a student many moons ago. After doing technical, training, student recruitment and auditing roles, I moved into ICAEW’s Monitoring Unit, which was responsible for reviewing the work of our audit firms. I only intended to stay at ICAEW for five years but have been really lucky to have had a number of very different roles and am still here nearly 24 years later! My current role is Director of Business Development in the Learning and Professional Development team where we work with organisations of all size, across all sectors, encouraging them to train Chartered Accountants of the future.

2. What’s the best thing about your job?

Shaun: It is the positive aspect of helping people from a variety of backgrounds, and all the countries round the world, to get on with their life and qualify. Being part of that process and allowing students to do that is a great, positive feeling for me.

3. Can you give an overview of what ICAEW do?

Shaun: We are the professional body that looks after members to ensure they are at the level they want to be at. We are collaborative, a big community of accountants. We make sure that we have all got to an appropriate standard, and that we all look after each other as well.

Hazel: We have over 147,000 chartered accountant members. We provide qualifications and ongoing careers support for them as well as offering retraining. ICAEW also works in the public interest. It has members in over 150 countries around the world.

4. What different courses do you offer?

Shaun: For the students who are training to be chartered accountants, we collaborate in partner with other institutions to deliver training around the world. We’ve got a partner learning scheme so in the UK our big partners for students are BPP but also, more increasingly, universities like Durham, Newcastle, and Reading, offering a combination of professional and academic education. We have partners all around the world, from Sheffield to Shanghai!

We provide resources to tutors, from syllabuses to mock exams, and so there is exactly the same standard all round the world. We also take this content and re-render it so it is suitable for the students as well. I spend a lot of my year meeting with tutors and universities around the world ensuring they are of an appropriate standard. You can see that from our high pass rates and student satisfaction that it does work.

Hazel: The first six papers in the ACA qualification can be taken as a separate qualification – ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business. There are no entry requirements to CFAB and once you’ve passed the exams you can continue onto the remainder of the ACA. The fact there are no entry requirements is excellent for people who may wish to change careers and is helping us broaden access into the Profession.

Our learning materials are written so that students can self-study if they wish, making CFAB flexible and cost effective.

Towards the end of 2017 we introduced designatory letters – BFP (Business Finance Professional). People who have passed the CFAB exams alongside our ethics learning module and who have 12 months’ work experience, can apply for the deignatory letters and receive a programme of support from ICAEW.

5. Do you have anything specifically for people returning to work or retraining?

Shaun: We have the ICAEW Academy which we own and run ourselves around the country and that’s focused more on maintaining your CPD when you are qualified, including refresher courses. So it’s useful if you are getting back into the workforce or even if you are changing the direction of your career.

Hazel: If you’re returning to work, there are courses which will bring you up to speed technically. We also provide for people who are changing career direction, for example if you want to move from practice into the corporate world. There is a focus on leadership development and we’ve also got societies, including regional ones, so it’s not just London.

Shaun: For people who want to refresh their whole career, we have a suite of courses so that once you’re a qualified accountant you can go back and top up to a university master’s program. You can take your professional qualification and get credit towards a master’s by working with the likes of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Winchester and get an Msc or an MA. So we try to cover a whole variety of fields and different educational routes to suit all the different needs of our members.

6. What does ICAEW do to improve diversity in the accountancy profession?

Hazel: At qualification level, we’ve been working with employers and developed an apprenticeship. We have a Level 4 apprenticeship, and we will very shortly have a Level 7, which will be the whole of the ACA. We also have the CFAB (Certificate in Finance, Accounting, and Business) which is standalone and has no entry requirements.

Our scheme for 16-19-year-olds tries to help people see what accountancy would be like and what type of work you would be doing. It encourages more people that don’t think they could do a job as an accountant, saying that they’re not very good at maths. I say it’s more about communication and problem solving for instance. It has been really successful.

7. Why should someone become a member of ICAEW?

Hazel: I would say that it opens the doors to all sorts of things. Our members work across practice, public sector, corporate, financial services, they’re everywhere. For me it’s the whole parcel. You can really choose where you want to go once you’ve got the qualification.

Shaun: It’s about reputation and quality. There are a few bodies offering qualifications, but we have been here since 1880 and we’ve got the reputation of our members and the quality of jobs so you’re joining a club that looks after its members and the community respects that.

8. How is ICAEW different to the other professional accounting bodies?

Shaun: Quality and reputation again – we have a very very strong legacy. People who started firms like Deloitte and PwC were at one point in time presidents of ICAEW. This sounds cheesy, but it’s very humbling to walk down the stairs and think ‘I’m now looking after something from someone who set up Deloitte’. Every time I make a decision, I’ve got 147,000 members and 130 years on top of me going ‘is that the right thing to do’.

Going forwards it’s about trust. The public have got to trust professionals, and I think people do trust us, and we’ve got to maintain that level of trust and always be seen to be doing the right thing, even if it’s not quite what people want. Through everything, stock market crashes, credit crunches, people still trust an ICAEW chartered accountant.

9. What events or networking do you offer to your members?

Hazel: In a nutshell, it’s that emotional and wellbeing aspect of working. It is also networking and the ability to discuss and debate issues.

Shaun: We have academic communities, like online forums and support networks per industry. We’ve just created an academic community with over 3000 members working in an academic environment, and we’re about to launch a diversity community as well so people from a wider diverse background, from the LGBT space for instance, can all share best practice with each other.

Knowledge is very important but it’s what you do with that knowledge; soft skills, communication, the actual talking. If I’m a chartered accountant advising a dentist from Scotland, I need to be able to speak to that dentist; I’ve got to have a diverse form of emotional intelligence and soft skills.

10. What is ICAEW hoping to achieve in 2018?

Hazel: We will be continuing to develop the ACA, to make sure it is relevant for tomorrow in terms of content, skills, and ethics. And then we will continue supporting members in their careers. We will also be navigating Brexit, understanding the impact it will have on our members and our members’ clients. We will continue to work on things like trust in the profession.

Shaun: We deliver in a constantly changing environment, and so the best thing we can do in 2018 is be on that journey with our members and our students. Whether it be technology skills, diversity, apprenticeships, we’ve got to make sure we give support to our members. Thinking about this year as the centenary of women getting the vote, we have got to change with the times as well, we’ve got to make sure we’re fit for purpose in 2018, not harking back to 1918.

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