Accountancy Age Awards – The high flyers

Awards often centre around those who have been in their particularqualified accountants who demonstrate excellence. business for some years, building up a reputation that needs time to establish. But many awards often ignore the humble beginners who are juggling work and study to complete their exams and start the journey towards senior management.

That is why Accountancy Age has decided to introduce a new award to recognise the value of part-qualified accountants who are the foundations of the profession. This year, we announce the launch of the Trainee Accountant of the Year award.

To be eligible, a part-qualified accountant must be a member of one of the major accountancy institutes – ACCA, ICAEW, ICAS, CIPFA and CIMA.

They can be at any stage in the qualification process, although they must have taken their most recent exam within the past year.

Sponsored by Michael Page Finance, the award identifies excellence at work and applauds trainees whose involvement within their organisations is above that which is expected at this stage in their careers.

And that means our judges will be looking beyond exam results to other key skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership, as well as a firm grasp of the commercial issues that affect today’s businesses.

Peter Wyman, English ICA chairman of education and training and PricewaterhouseCoopers partner, has headed a number of initiatives to identify what makes a successful qualified accountant.

He says: ‘The most obvious thing that students need is intellectual ability in order to understand complex issues. And good communication skills, coupled with commercial acumen, is vital if they are to offer advice to management. If I were looking for excellence, I would expect to find these characteristics being clearly developed.’

He adds that the best students are easy to spot when they come for an interview because they inspire confidence, and this is often what sets them apart from the others.

But, with the rigours of the job combined with the pressures of the exams, is it realistic to expect more?

Wyman says he is impressed when he find students involving themselves in other pursuits, whether inside or outside the office.

‘Sometimes you come across people who are playing rugby for England. When you find people competing at such a high level, it does show immense ability,’ he says.

But one former trainee with a Big Five firm wonders whether it is reasonable to expect a student to find the time to achieve high examination marks and shine at work as well as excelling outside the workplace. In many cases, excellence will lie in how far a trainee exceeds the demands of their immediate role.

‘Trainees work on big jobs but only see a small part of them. Excellence is when someone can manage conflicting time demands while doing a consistently good job. That can mean taking an interest in the job beyond your allotted task,’ he says.

Accountancy is all about balanced judgement, he says, adding that whoever wins the award should be able to demonstrate that in their life. ‘It is not about staying in the office until 9pm every night,’ he says.

AAT chief executive Jane Scott-Paul adds further weight to the call for balance given that she would like to see the judges consider trainees who challenge conventional stereotypes, such as background or the age at which the students started studying for accountancy exams.

Many AAT students, she explains, go on to become members of the institutes without the traditional achievements of university education; by just developing their potential over time. However, she agrees with Wyman in that an excellent student should be one who contributes to the organisation as a whole rather than just restricting themselves to their role as a trainee. These could include involvement in quality initiatives or change management.

This view of awarding a rounded personality is also shared by CIMA, which highlights the need to recognise a student with good communication and interpersonal skills.

A spokesman says: ‘The winner needs to be someone sensitive to different points of view, who is able to explain accounting and business complexities to non-accountants. They also need to successfully manage their own learning and practical experience in a commendably progressive manner and involve themselves in the community.’

Accountancy Age is keen to hear from any fully qualified accountant who would like to nominate a part-qualified trainee for the award.


Michael Page Finance is the European market leader in temporary and permanent financial recruitment, from trainee to executive level. Servicing clients and candidates from small businesses through to large multinationals, the recruitment agency provides expertise in the distinct areas of industry and commerce, financial services, public sector, private practice, tax, treasury, consultancy and Eastern Europe.


Free entry

Closing date for entries: 30 July 1999

Ceremony: 3 November 1999

Venue: Natural History Museum, London

For an entry form: call 0171 316 9554


visit: If you want to enter this year’s award, now is the time to start framing your submission. Judges are looking for innovation, demonstrable results and an energetic approach to today’s professional challenges.

The Business Reports and Accounts category, for instance, provides enterprises with a chance to promote their financial reporting strategy. UK company reports filed with Companies House and published between September 1998 and July 1999 are eligible.

Given changes in corporate governance, for instance, non-financial disclosures may attract the judges. The extent to which companies map issues such as employee or shareholder relations, measurement of customer satisfaction, environmental impact and relations with the public in their reports will attract the judges.

E-commerce is also a growing tool in company reporting. If presenting results on the Web is a key part of your investor relations, you may want to consider entering this category.

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