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Trainee to Qualified: Practice Excellence tips

6th May 2015
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Audit semi senior at Haslers Andrew Murray scooped the title of Trainee of the Year in last year's Practice Excellence Awards. 

This year, the trainee is hoping to be a trainee no longer as he sits his final ACA exams.

Six months on from his win at the 2014 PEPs, Andrew shares his experiences and insight of being a young accountant on the brink of being fully qualified. 

Getting into accountancy

Like so many who find themselves in the profession, the original path was down a different route. Originally, Andrew had endeavoured to be a commercial airline pilot. 

“Straight from school, I applied for the commercial airline pilot training school. I got in, I had all the funding set up but needed a medical certificate.

“Then my eyes got a lot worse and the rules got stricter so I couldn’t get that.”

On speaking to friends and family in accountancy – coupled with it being at the start of the recession, he decided accountancy was the way for him. With two days left in the UCAS deadline, he popped it down as his first option.

Years later, he qualified with a first class degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Kent.

Becoming qualified

After graduating, Andrew started his ACA qualification. He's due to sit his final three exams in July.

The trainee accountant passed all of his ICAEW exams to date first time and achieved an average score of 75.3%. Andrew's highest written exam score was Taxation with 81% and best computer based assessment was accounting with 90%.

Practical experience

Andrew has worked at accounting firm Haslers as an audit trainee for over three years to complement his theoretical experience.

His first year was an industrial placement year, after which he was offered a graduate position. Initially after graduating, he worked mainly on audits as a junior.

Since then, he has progressed to leading audits and undertaking larger accounts preparation jobs, working directly for managers and partners. He's also part of the Academies team at Haslers and has worked on some of its first Academy clients.

"I have designed several tests specific for Academy audits. These have been used on other Academy clients which has helped to improve the efficiency of our audits in this sector," he said.

In addition to this, he is a member of the business services group at the firm, where he prepares monthly management accounts for clients, including detailed sales reports and key ratio analysis for clients’ management teams. Andrew also prepares VAT returns, CT computations, associated iXBRL tagging for submission to HMRC.

View of accountancy

There was a lot to get used to in terms of being a trainee, Andrew said. One of the biggest challenges is the experience of dealing with multiple clients and managing time and client expectations.

"If you’re working on one job a couple of days, there’s a lot of things going on with a niche client but you’ve got to balance your time well.

"This leads back to client expectations. You need to deal with them well. The client needs to know what you’re dealing with specifically, managing times between jobs when overlapping and managing deadlines. You need to ensure the client gets what they want."

The part of the job Andrew enjoys most is receiving positive client feedback.

"Sometimes they ask me to come back next year. I find that clients appreciating my work is rewarding. You feel like you’re adding value." 

Future of the profession

Andrew is coming into the profession at a time of a lot of change for the accounting profession. Not only is technology and process changing how many practitioners work in huge ways – including Haslers, as it is a paperless, cloud-based firm – but regulation is shifting the landscape too.

"Smaller firms will change quite a lot,” Andrew predicts.

“Audit thresholds have gone up, and smaller firms have had clients on the edge of those thresholds. The fee goes down quite a bit, and they get more reliant on other services, i.e. advisory.

I've also ready lots about smaller firms merging or breaking up - so there's another change for small firms. In addition, FRS102 is going to change practices, too."

And for his own future, Andrew is focusing on his exams for now. But in years to come, he hopes to continue his work at Haslers. In the very long term future, he hopes to gain experience in industry.

"Once I have finished studying I want to continue to gain a wide experience of audit and accounts preparation work because this helps to develop such a broad range of skills and knowledge in so many areas.

"In the long term I aim to build on the skills and knowledge I have gained to develop a successful career in accounting and finance, eventually achieving a role such as a CFO whose role is not only to manage ‘the numbers’ but also help manage the performance of the entity as well as other important aspects of a business."

We'll be keeping in touch with Andrew on his journey from trainee to qualified. If you're a trainee, part-qualified, apprentice or student or know someone who is and deserves recognition, why not enter the 2015 Practice Excellence Awards trainee category? Find out how at 11am on Friday morning. 

The 2015 Practice Excellence Awards are supported by SAP.

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By johnjenkins
07th May 2015 11:26

Andrew you

are a credit to the profession. Fantastic article which should be pinned up in all Accountancy offices.

Of course there's a "but". Andrew you are not "adding value" YOU are the "value". I'm sure you will make a great Accountant whichever way you choose to go. I doubt if Haslers will allow you to leave. They've probably already earmarked you for partnership material.

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