I always wanted to work for a firm where I could gain a wide range of experience and would be valued as an employee and wasn’t just a number. I found SWAT through the ICAEW’s website. As they specialise in recruiting for a number of medium-sized firms, it seemed sensible to apply through them. I applied online before being invited to an interview day where we did a maths and English test. If you passed, you went on to have a competency-based interview. We were then asked to rank the SWAT firms in order of preference we would like to work for. Whilst I had no media experience other than watching films and television, I liked the idea of working with clients that would be looking for a more human approach to finance than your typical corporate environment. Also, as the creative industry is worth £87bn a year to the UK economy and 1 in 11 people in the UK are employed by the entertainment industry, I knew that there must be more to it than I was aware of at that point.
I could see from Blinkhorn’s website that they had a number of Partners that focused on high-profile individuals, production companies, agents and other associated roles. However, they also had a wealth of other clients from other industries, meaning that I would get a broad range of experience.
As a trainee at Blinkhorns you work your way up; starting with simple bookkeeping tasks for personal tax returns, through to leading audits and preparing consolidated statutory accounts. I think that variety at an early stage is an important part of learning to be a well-rounded professional. Within the first six months you are allocated to one of the Partners’ teams. Each team has at least two managers and several trainees at different stages of their training, so there is always someone who can help you. The team members work closely together and support each other through work and study. The Partners are very approachable and are genuinely interested in your progress.
Over the course of my training I undertook a variety of tasks including preparing personal tax returns; statutory accounts; corporation tax returns; management accounts for dentists, recruitment companies and start-ups; carrying out audits of builders merchants, technology, property, theatre and post-production companies. You get to see the bigger picture as well as understand the issues that businesses face on a day to day basis.
As a trainee in a SWAT firm you go to college together, which means you also get to know other trainees in similar firms and positions to you. I still see some of the people I trained with on courses and at events we go to now we are qualified. Once I was qualified, I took on more responsibility and shortly after gaining my qualification I was promoted to a Manager of the team I was in: just four years after I first applied to SWAT.