"It seems a lot more relevant for small business," she told me one day. "The other qualifications all focus on larger businesses. I know what you said about audit being a good skill to learn, Allie, but I think Paul might be right - audit is less relevant to the businesses we work with. And when would I ever need to know about mergers and acquisitions? Or a discounted cash flow forecast - whatever that is!"
She has a point. I've never had to use so much of what I learned for my exams.
"I want a qualification that'll be meaningful to small businesses, Allie. That's who I want to work with. I don't want to go and work for a gigantic business that's rolling in cash. I want to work with small business owners who are struggling to keep their books, to prepare and file their VAT returns, to understand why they have to send forms to the government. I want to work with real people!"
"Do you want to learn about tax?" I asked her. "Will AAT teach you that?"
"You get a choice of five papers, and two of them are business tax and personal tax. The others are audit, cash and treasury management, and credit management. That's for the professional diploma, which I think is the highest qualification they offer. I think I will do the tax papers, Allie. I want to be able to prepare tax returns too."
"You don't think you'll change your mind and want to work with big businesses in the future, Maria?" I asked. "Because you may find you need to do ACCA, ACA or CIMA if you ever find you want to move into the finance department of a large business, rather than working with small businesses."
"No, Allie, my mind's made up. I want to work with small businesses."
I promised I'd help her put together a case to persuade Henry to come up with some funding and some time off to study. Maria is the first staff member to be doing exams here in some time, so there's no current workplace policy for funding and study leave, and I would like to see her given both. She is going to write a letter of application to Henry, which I'll review and comment on for her.