I am a manager in the accounts and audit department of Saffery, a mid-tier UK accountancy firm. My areas of focus are primarily with landed estates, charities and owner-managed businesses.
In my third and fourth years at university, I attended courses on career planning and development. These courses were predominantly led by two ex-employees of large, multinational businesses, one of which was a ‘Big Four’ accountancy firm.
They suggested a number of careers and highlighted accountancy in particular as being a career that could offer a vast array of long-term opportunities. I looked around various sources of information (university, accountancy bodies) and gained a deeper understanding of the different careers within accountancy. I decided that I wanted to go into practice and thought that mid-tier firms would suit me best, given that I would get exposure to some larger clients but also be a key part of the team, rather than being one of a large number of trainees.
As a trainee I studied and sat accountancy exams through the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS). This involved three stages, each of which had its own set of exams:
The first stage introduces general accounting, auditing, finance and law principles to give you a base understanding of these areas. I found these to be quite demanding as there are a lot of key principles to learn over a relatively short three-month period, but they are invaluable for your long-term career.
The second stage takes what is learned at stage one and further develops this to give you a deeper technical understanding of the topics, introducing more complex areas. This stage was interesting as I was able to pull from experiences working with clients but also apply more technical detail to the work I was doing in the office at that time.
The last stage of ICAS is a five and a half hour case study. The case study includes aspects of accountancy, audit, finance, tax and other areas that you study, and applies them to a real-life situation.
In addition to the above external ICAS training, Saffery provided additional internal training at various stages throughout my training contract. These courses were either residential or based in the firm’s London office and tailored to relevant accountancy topics as well as developing soft skills and IT training. Post-qualification, the internal courses change in nature and have a larger focus on soft skills. Technical training becomes more focused on updates in the accountancy, audit and tax arenas and is often implanted at an office level. Soft skill training helps you develop management and IT skills that are useful on a daily basis