SPOTLIGHT ON: PROFESSIONAL SERVICES ACHIEVABLE CAREER GOALS PAST EXAM PRIZEWINNERS’ TIPS AND ADVICE INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL BROADENING YOUR CAREER NET PROFIT
FINANCE DRIVING WIMBLEDON 2013
editor’s choice Welcome to the JULY issue of Student Accountant This month we take an in-depth view of ACCA’s Competency Framework - an online, interactive tool which demonstrates the different competencies developed through all elements of the ACCA Qualification and links these competencies to jobs in finance. We investigate how the jobs market is faring in 2013, speak to previous ACCA prizewinners about how they set their career goals, and take a look at whistleblowing as part of a series on ethics. Our sector focus is on finance careers in aviation and shipping. The cover story focuses on finances at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in
London, home of the Wimbledon tennis championships. We speak to FD Richard Atkinson about how the tennis tour has changed over the years. We also take a look at how the ACCA Qualification can help you travel the world. You can also find out how to personalise your issue of Student Accountant and find out the ACCA website can help support your in your ACCA studies. If you have any feedback about this issue, please email us at email@example.com Victoria Morgan Editor, Student Accountant magazine
Published by the Certified Accountants Educational Trust in cooperation with ACCA. The Council of ACCA and the publishers do not guarantee the accuracy of statements made by contributors or advertisers, or accept any responsibility for any statement which they may make in this publication. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publishers. © CAET 2013 ISSN 1473‑0979
WELCOME | CONTENTS FEATURES | COMMUNICATION
06 GRAPHICS NEWS 08 PICTURE NEWS 10 NEWS ROUNDUP
28 NET PROFIT: WIMBLEDON 2013 32 PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FIRMS 36 ACHIEVABLE CAREER GOALS 40 INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE 44 SECTOR FOCUS: AEROSPACE, AVIATION, SHIPPING AND DEFENCE
learning centre 12 GLOBAL FINANCE JOB MARKET 2013 15 AFFILIATE PROFILE 16 ETHICS: WHISTLEBLOWING 20 ACCA’s CPD REQUIREMENT 22 ACCA COMPETENCY FRAMEWORK 26 PER: THE LOWDOWN
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40 Student Accountant | JULY 2013
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Martin Turner | Vice President Helen Brand | Chief Executive Editorial Team Victoria Morgan | Editor
technical 48 TECHNICAL RESOURCES Access the technical article archive at: www.accaglobal.com/ en/student/accaqual-student-journey/
resources 51 NOTICEBOARD ESSENTIAL INFORMATION ABOUT ACCA AND YOUR STUDIES ACCA Connect, exam entry, subscriptions, recording your PER, rules and regulations and important information about the OBU degree programme
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DISPATCH | GRAPHICS NEWS UP IN THE AIR
Airlines in Asia Pacific will take delivery of around 9,870 new passenger and cargo aircraft in the coming 20 years, valued at us$1.6tr, according to aircraft manufacturer Airbus. This represents 35% of all new aircraft deliveries worldwide over the next 20 years, and is ahead of Europe and North America. In the passenger market, the fleet of aircraft operated by Asia-Pacific carriers is expected to more than double in the coming 20 years, from 4,300 aircraft today to a total of 10,440 jets.
1 bangkok 2 London 3 paris 4 singapore 5 new york 6 istanbul 7 dubai 8 kuala lumpur 9 hong kong bangkok is top Travel hotspot
The top destination city by international visitor arrivals, according to the Global Destination Cities Index released by MasterCard for the second quarter of 2013, is Bangkok, which has edged out London. Numbers of visitors increased to all top 20 cities with the exception of Paris.
KEy Less than 25% of respondents
bn us$67 ates bill g (US)
us$73bn carlos slim helu (mexico)
25.1% to 49.9% of respondents More than 50% of respondents
MARKET SENTIMENTS UP Ernst the &billionaires’ Young’s eighth Global billionaires Capital Confidence Barometer for South-East Asia shows a rebound in corporate
confidence The eight richest after men yearson ofthe conservative planet, according decision-making. to the Optimism is up over access to capital, with 83% of South-East latest ForbesAsian ranking. respondents The richest believing woman, that France’s credit Liliane availability will improve or at least remain stable. The graphic illustrates Bettencourt, the was current rated ninth debt-to-capital with US$30bn. ratio of respondents’ companies. Student Accountant | APRIL DECEMBER 2013 2012
More GUIDANCE on tax, please
The vast majority of businesses would welcome more global cooperation and guidance from tax authorities on what is acceptable and unacceptable tax planning, even if it resulted in less opportunity to reduce tax liabilities across borders, according to the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report.
85% Latin america 75% eurozone
Will increase tax transparency 86%
The call for more guidance
the international business report
The report (at http://bit.ly/1a5K5m0) is a quarterly survey of 3,000 businesses in 44 countries. Data is collected by Experian.
54% north america
do you want more global cooperation/guidance from tax authorities?
ARe you planning to be more tax-transparent?
Malaysia germany singapore mainland china
DISPATCH | NEWS IN PICTURES
TURKEY TURKEY Turkish stocks tumbled after Istanbul was rocked by anti-government protests over creeping authoritarianism GERMANY Thousands of people were evacuated in Germany after a dam burst on the flood‑swollen River Elbe
GERMANY Student Accountant | JULY 2013
MYANMAR Myanmar’s pro‑democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi announces her plans to run for president at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in the capital Naypyidaw
UK UK British gas owner Centrica paid £40m for a licence to explore shale gas deposits in northern England, boosting the UK’s fracking prospects, despite efforts by campaigners to stop the controversial process ETHIOPIA Guides in traditional costume walk past the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The 21st AU Summit was held in May to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the union
TRINIDAD China’s president Xi Jinping visited Trinidad and Tobago on the first stop of a four-country regional tour. Xi and Trinidadian PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar signed a memorandum of understanding HONG KONG Art Basel, the world’s most prominent art fair, makes its Asian debut in Hong Kong
DISPATCH | NEWS ROUNDUP INVESTORS LOSE CONFIDENCE Investors’ confidence in the accuracy and truth of corporate reports has fallen since the onset of the global financial crisis, according to ACCA research. In the report Understanding Investors: Directions for Corporate Reporting, more than two-thirds of 300 investors surveyed say they have become more sceptical about company reports. Almost as many suggest that managers have too much discretion over the financial information they report. A sizeable majority of investors say they place more importance on information generated outside the company than on annual reports, while 45% regard the annual report as being of no use. There was overwhelming – 93% – support for integrated reporting. View the report at www.accaglobal. com/reporting G4 IS GO The latest generation of Sustainable Reporting Guidelines – G4 – has been launched at Global Reporting Initiative’s 2013 conference. Large corporations are being urged to adopt the guidelines, which have already been backed by some of the world’s biggest businesses, including General Electric and Enel. G4 adopts an increased focus on transparency and is more accessible for corporations that have not previously used sustainability guidelines. GRI chief executive Ernst Ligteringen said G4 had been produced in consultation with hundreds of experts drawing on international best practice. APPLE IN EYE OF TAX STORM Apple avoided paying billions of dollars in US taxes by structuring most of its operations offshore and failing to return profits to the US, according to a Congressional investigation. Some offshore operations that were a conduit for vast revenues did not have any employees and were run out of California, the investigation found. Student Accountant | JULY 2013
US-CHINA AUDIT DEAL AGREED US regulators will be able to gain access to Chinese companies’ audit documents, and therefore be able to investigate the books of US-listed Chinese companies accused of accountancy fraud, following a deal struck after two years of negotiations. While the deal applies only to enforcement cases against auditors, and not those merely suspected of fraud, it is described as ‘a step in the right direction’ by James Doty,
chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the US regulator for audit firms, which negotiated the agreement with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and China’s Ministry of Finance. ‘We will be proceeding on a good-faith basis that this is going to open up some access to work papers for us,’ he added. Investors have lost billions of dollars on Chinese companies selling shares on US exchanges in accounting scandals since 2010.
It also named Ireland as one of the main offshore jurisdictions that enabled businesses to operate as if they were ‘stateless’. Carl Levin, chairman of the investigations committee, said: ‘[Apple] has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars while claiming to be tax-resident nowhere.’ In his evidence to the committee, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: ‘Last year, our US federal cash effective tax rate was about 30.5%, and we paid the US Treasury nearly US$6bn in cash.’
internationalisation and expanded business lines. Now is the time to position SMPs for growth so that by the time the economic recovery gains more momentum globally, SMPs and the small businesses they serve can lead the way.’
SMPs: ‘POSITION FOR GROWTH’ The seventh annual International Federation of Accountants Small and Medium Practices Forum has been held in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, attracting delegates from 30 countries. The focus of this year’s conference – of which ACCA was gold sponsor – was on trends affecting small businesses and how small and medium practices (SMPs) deliver their services. IFAC SMP committee chair Giancarlo Attolini said: ‘There are vast opportunities for SMPs, including
IMF ADMITS GREEK MISTAKES The harsh rescue package for Greece was based on mistaken assumptions by the Troika of the International Money Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, a report from the IMF has admitted. It says that the rescue and support programme made over‑optimistic assumptions about the capacity of Greece to recover while an austerity spending plan was in place. The report suggested that better risk-sharing arrangements and faster sovereign debt restructuring should have been agreed. There are lessons for the future, it said, in terms of ensuring adequate finance is in place, with strong ownership of rescue programmes and sufficient capacity to properly design programmes.
LEARNING CENTRE | ACCA CAREERS
The global finance job market 2013
Student Accountant | JULY 2013
neil johnson, acca careers editor, speaks to paul mcdonald, senior executive director at robert half international, about how the global finance market is shaping up for jobseekers in 2013 Is it an employers’ or candidates’ market? We’re seeing two job markets. The general job market remains very competitive, but for specialised positions – such as those in accountancy and finance – the outlook is much brighter. In fact, talent shortages persist in these areas, and companies are having a difficult time finding candidates with the skills they need. As a result, experienced professionals have options and commonly attract multiple offers. Employers are responding by enhancing their compensation packages to attract these candidates. Conversely, firms that don’t sweeten their compensation are missing out on their top choices. Which direction have salary levels gone? In general, starting salaries are expected to see moderate gains in 2013, with professionals who can fill in-demand roles such as financial analyst, staff accountant and business systems analyst receiving greater increases. Have you seen any major trends in accountancy recruitment during 2013? The biggest trend affecting hiring is the dual job market at play. Top performers are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Some companies recognise this and are making the necessary adjustments – namely, offering higher salaries and
speeding up the hiring process – to ensure they hire their top choices. However, other companies have yet to understand what’s happening in the market and are losing out on good candidates as a result. Are the roles and perceptions of accountants and finance teams changing? Accounting and finance professionals play an increasingly strategic role in business, something savvy companies have understood for years. Organisations need professionals who have strong financial expertise but who are also analytical, problem solvers and excellent communicators. In fact, it’s often the critical non-technical skills, or ‘soft skills’, that distinguish one candidate from another. Is there still a very high demand for experienced talent? Demand persists for highly skilled accounting and finance professionals. What many employers are finding out today is that if they don’t move quickly and offer attractive compensation, they risk missing out on top candidates. Is it easier for accountancy students to get work? The market for new graduates and entry-level finance professionals remains competitive but, like the general job market, has improved. Is there a major difference between opportunities at
Demand persists for highly skilled accounting and finance
small to medium‑sized businesses and large ones? Both large organisations and small to medium-sized ones offer valuable career opportunities. Employees at small companies are often able to gain more exposure more quickly to different business areas, responsibilities and contacts. This can provide a solid career foundation and help professionals identify the type of position or specialty they would like to pursue further. At large companies, professionals often have greater resources, and there can be more opportunities for travel. The international experience gained at global organisations can be particularly valuable as accountants advance in their careers. When evaluating the type of company where they would like to work, accounting and finance professionals need to look at both their short- and long-term goals and how each opportunity will help them achieve these objectives. If you don’t have experience, how do you sell yourself to an employer? Although it’s a challenge – landing a job without experience is difficult, but so is gaining experience without a job – previous work experience is often a prerequisite for getting your foot in the door with employers. Students should obtain an internship to gain a competitive advantage.
Register you r CV on ACCA Caree rs and start your jo b search ▶
LEARNING CENTRE | ACCA CAREERS | AFFILIATE PROFILE Temporary work is another way to gain experience and build your CVs while still in school. In your CV and discussions with hiring managers, emphasise your skills and expertise that will help you contribute to their organisation. There are transferable skills you can gain in almost any role. For example, highlight ways you’ve helped past employers find methods to reduce costs, increase sales or improve customer service. Let your communication skills shine through a well-crafted CV or elevator pitch. Which skills are top of a recruiter’s list in 2013? Employers are looking for accounting and finance staff with a comprehensive skill set. Technical expertise is just the first part of the equation for today’s professionals. They also must be excellent communicators, be business savvy and understand finance beyond the numbers. It’s no longer enough to simply report the data. Professionals today must know the story behind the data, be able to decipher and communicate what the findings mean for the company, and make sound strategic recommendations based on the information. IT skills also remain in demand. Companies look for professionals proficient with Microsoft Excel and Access and those who have experience with financial software packages and systems upgrades. In addition, verbal and written
Student Accountant | JULY 2013
Employers are looking for accounting and finance staff with a comprehensive skill set communication skills are important for professionals at all levels. What are employers’ most common complaints about candidates? Perhaps the biggest issue for employers is finding candidates who possess the in-demand skills. Compounding the problem for hiring managers is that these professionals typically have multiple options, meaning businesses that don’t move fast enough and offer attractive compensation packages in many cases are losing out on the chance to hire their top candidates. Is online visibility really important? Professional visibility is very important for career advancement, and the online component is a major part of this. Ensure your profiles are current, accurate and free of errors or other issues that could portray you in a negative light. Online profiles and social networks are just one factor in visibility. Professionals also should comment on blogs as appropriate and offer to submit articles to trade outlets as a way to highlight their expertise. At the same time, in-person networking and participation in industry associations and events remain critical ways to enhance professional marketability. Is networking worth it and how do I do it? Networking is valuable at every career stage. It’s helpful during the job search but shouldn’t be abandoned once you land a new position. CFOs in a Robert Half survey said the primary purposes of their networking efforts are business development and keeping up with industry news. Interacting with people in person and online are key. Just as important to keep in mind – if not more so – is that networking requires you to
be a resource. If all you do is ask others for help, your professional relationships will suffer. Provide job leads to contacts looking for new opportunities, for example, and share insights on industry news you gain through seminars and training you attend. What’s the best piece of advice you could give a jobseeker? Take employment news with a grain of salt. Frequently, the news about the economy and job market remain negative but apply to the general outlook, not specifically accounting and finance, where the unemployment rates are often much lower than the national average. Employers are finding it challenging when hiring for financial roles and are bumping up salaries to hire for them. Step away from the computer. Online tools can be valuable in the job search, but they’re still just tools. Remember, hiring is about building business relationships, and managers want to hire people they’ll like working with. Get out and meet people at industry events and informational interviews, and volunteer for community organisations. Connect with former colleagues, classmates and recruiters, and ask for introductions to new contacts. These professional relationships will put you on the right path and serve you well throughout your career. VIEW ROBERT HALF’S COMPLETE SALARY SURVEYS AND OTHER RESOURCES ▶
TAUSEEF AHMED Group management accountant, Wandsworth Medical Centre (National Health Service, Wandsworth CCG), London, UK After two years of pre-medical study in his home country of Pakistan, financial pressure – together with limited opportunities – forced ACCA affiliate Tauseef Ahmed to reconsider his future and, as a result, switch to accountancy. Starting with almost no accounting knowledge, Tauseef began by choosing a professional body. ‘I opted for ACCA because of its global reputation and its flexibility, as you can combine work and study,’ he explains. ‘I began with the CAT Qualification, passing that in 2008, and then decided to move to London to study for the ACCA Qualification as the UK offered more opportunities not only for study but also for part‑time work. ‘Coming to the UK was a challenge, but it has been successful and enjoyable. After enrolling at a London
‘practical experience enhances technical, professional and ethical behaviour and brings access to a wider range of international opportunities’ business school I found work as a part-time class assistant at a private maths school before moving on to become an assistant finance officer at a major charity after passing my first ACCA exam. I also took an internship at a firm of chartered accountants and auditors, where I further developed my skills.’ Tauseef’s ACCA studies also went well, culminating in a final, challenging year. ‘Between June 2010 and March 2012 I passed my final ACCA exams, gained a top-up MSc in accounting and finance, and submitted my Research and Analysis Project to gain the Oxford Brookes BSc degree. Time management was a real challenge,’ he says. ‘I worked day and night to achieve these results, and I am grateful to my tutors, friends and family in the UK for their support.’ An affiliate since December 2011, Tauseef welcomes the opportunity to gain more professional experience: ‘Many students and affiliates feel that the exams give them all the accounting skills they need but I strongly believe that practical experience enhances technical, professional and ethical behaviour, and brings access to a wider range of international opportunities.’
In August 2012, Tauseef joined the Wandsworth Medical Centre (part of the UK’s National Health Service) and, within a few months, was promoted to group management accountant. ‘The Medical Centre serves over 15,000 local residents,’ he explains, ‘and the group also includes travel clinics and a skin care clinic. Among my many responsibilities, I prepare monthly management reports for the partners and directors, I attend monthly board meetings, I produce budgets, forecasts and drawing schedules, I process monthly payrolls, and I deal with the NHS pension scheme. With my employer I’m working through my performance objectives, currently focusing on budget control and planning, preparing financial information, and evaluating and computing tax.’ Tauseef hopes to gain membership in 2014. Already aware that his ACCA studies helped him secure his current role, he hopes that membership will bring even more opportunities. ‘It should give me the practical and ethical experience I need to enhance my accounting skills further,’ he says, adding that he plans to return to his studies and complete the Oxford Brookes Global MBA specifically designed for ACCA members.
FEATURES | CENTRE LEARNING COMMUNICATION | ETHICS
Student Accountant | JULY DECEMBER 2013 2012
ISSUE OF CONCERN ACCA will not only train you to be a good accountant, but also an accountant that is good. In this article, we consider blowing the whistle on wrongdoing in a firm and why no responsible employee should ignore corporate malpractice It is turning into the worst working day of your life. You’re sitting at your desk and you’ve just stumbled across some information which you know can’t be right. In fact, it’s very wrong. Possibly criminal. And you’re not sure what to do about it. A fantasy nightmare? Not, if newspaper headlines are anything to go by, for a growing number of employees in companies and public sector bodies. Scandals such as Libor rate rigging, falsely labelled food, cruel treatment of hospital patients, and many others, indicate that there are plenty of organisations where bad things happen. So if the trouble landed on your desk, could you blow the whistle? Michael Woodford did when, as president and chief executive of Japanese camera and optical instruments company Olympus, he uncovered a billion-pound scam involving shadowy payments to anonymous bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. The action cost him his job and he fled Japan in fear of his life. He has just started work as a member of the Commission on Whistleblowing, set up by corporate governance organisation Public Concern at Work, to review the law on whistleblowing and identify improvements. He took time out to offer some personal advice on how to blow the whistle and survive. The first step is to get the facts right. ‘You can’t make allegations
Stood up, shot down: Michael Woodford (top) and Paul Moore (above) without substantiation,’ he says. ‘You need to be forensic in making sure that what you have can be supported by evidence. Otherwise the regulatory authorities will be able to do very little.’ In Japan, Woodford came up against colleagues who wanted to hush up misdeeds and a corporate
culture that preferred to turn its back on trouble. Woodford has described his experiences in Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal – not so much a dry business book as a thriller with real-life heroes and villains. In Britain, unlike Japan, whistleblowers have had some protection since the Public Interest Disclosure Act became law in 1998. Even so, protecting your interests when you blow the whistle, depends what you’re blowing the whistle on, says David Lewis, professor of employment law at the UK’s Middlesex University and convenor of the International Whistleblowing Research Network. Reporting a corrupt line manager is easier than exposing an organisation that is rotten at the top – Woodford’s dilemma. ‘There is no guarantee you won’t be hurt and you have to make a calculation as to how the organisation is going to respond,’ says Lewis. For instance, after Paul Moore, former head of financial risk management at HBOS, warned senior colleagues that the bank’s aggressive sales tactics were out of sync with its systems and controls, he lost his job. It is only natural that whistleblowers should worry about losing jobs, incomes and careers, says Suelette Dreyfus, principal researcher for the World Online Whistleblowing Survey, who is based at the University of Melbourne. ‘These concerns are often quite legitimate as many organisations are
FEATURES | CENTRE LEARNING COMMUNICATION | ETHICS depends on what arrangements your organisation has in place. ‘Every company should have a whistleblowing procedure,’ says John Davies, head of technical at ACCA. ‘There should be a means whereby people who have genuine ethical or conduct concerns can raise them through a channel that does not expose them to any sort of recrimination through line management.’ For a growing number of organisations, that means providing a whistleblowing hotline (see panel, next page). really only now beginning to turn the corner from viewing whistleblowers as snitches to being part of any integrity system that prevents malfeasance and corrupt behaviour.’ Whatever the difficulties, Woodford maintains that no responsible employee should ignore wrongdoing. ‘You must investigate, examine and pursue whatever leads you have. Otherwise, you’re just walking away.’ For accountants, used to teasing the truth out of figures, quiet investigation should come as second nature. But it is not always easy to uncover the secrets behind the suspicions. ‘Like many things in life, you have to work at it,’ says Woodford. Another problem is that organisations tend to protect themselves. ‘Very few people will stand at your side once the proverbial hits the fan,’ says Woodford. ‘They will distance themselves from you. I always thought I was a good judge of character, but when I raised my concerns, people I’d known for 30 years ran with the pack – although there were exceptions. ‘You’re not going to be liked, and sometimes the rights or wrongs or strength of your case makes little difference. Organisations will protect themselves and people will protect their own interests.’ So, if you’ve plucked up courage, just how should you blow the whistle in a way that protects you? Much Student Accountant | JULY 2013
protected if they bypass management to raise concerns with a regulatory body such as the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, financial regulators, the Serious Fraud Office or the Charity Commission. If you are a UK accountant employed in practice, you are also protected by PIDA if you blow the whistle on misconduct within your own firm or one of its clients – subject to the proviso about honesty and genuine concern. But the accountancy firm as a whole and
‘VERY FEW PEOPLE WILL STAND AT YOUR SIDE ONCE THE PROVERBIAL HITS THE FAN. THEY WILL distance themselves from you’ Discretion or collusion? As Davies points out, it is strongly in the interest of an organisation to provide a means of dealing with problems in a way that doesn’t expose those problems to the outside world. But there is a danger here in that discretion where criminal activity is involved may turn into collusion. People in many walks of life become whistleblowers, but there are some reasons why accountants may be in a better position to blow the whistle – especially about financial wrongdoing – than other employees. ‘Accountants are often in the front-line of whistleblowing,’ says Cathy James, chief executive of Public Concern at Work. She points out that UK accountants working in industry are protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA). This means that if you raise a serious concern with management and it is not dealt with, you are entitled to take it to an outside body – providing you act honestly and can point to the reasons why your worries about financial wrongdoing were valid. In these circumstances, accountants should be fully
its partners in general don’t have protection. That is because PIDA applies to individual workers rather than partnerships or companies. James believes it is worth campaigning to have partners in accounting (and other firms) covered by PIDA protection. Public Concern at Work has also floated the idea of giving a company’s external auditors a ‘prescribed person’ role under the terms of PIDA. This would mean that an employee of an audited firm could raise a matter with the auditor and receive PIDA protection. But James concedes: ‘There would need to be considerable work undertaken to ensure that this would work properly. What the law is seeking to achieve is quite a fine balance between the legitimate interests of employers to keep information confidential in some circumstances and the public interest in exposing and investigating wrongdoing and malpractice.’ And Davies is concerned about changes that place new requirements on what accountants should do when they encounter illegal activity. ‘Those requirements should be laid down in law rather than in codes
of practice,’ he says. He points out that commercial law is so complex it is not always immediately clear whether some activity is illegal or not. ‘Besides, something is not illegal until a court says so,’ he adds. In a quandary Organisations need to appreciate that accountants will be placed in a dilemma if they encounter suspected wrongdoing, Davies argues. ‘They have to accommodate their own professional obligations as accountants with their obligations to their employer.’ Many companies still fall short of the best practice on whistleblowing recommended by organisations such as Public Concern at Work. If it came to it, could you really blow that whistle? Woodford admits that it takes personal and professional courage – especially as colleagues and friends distance themselves from you. ‘You mustn’t let that affect your resolve,’ he says. ‘If you think you’re right, and have the evidence, you mustn’t feel there is something wrong with your actions just because you are out of the mainstream. It is the opposite of that. ‘If you believe that something is wrong and you don’t investigate and report it, you become complicit yourself. You can be held liable – and the more senior your role, the more likely that is to be the case.’ Peter Bartram, journalist
HOW TO SET UP A HOTLINE Centrica is a FTSE 100 company that has a whistleblowers’ hotline. It was set up as an external hotline with the aid of Expolink, a specialist call centre firm that runs hotlines for more than 400 organisations around the world. Centrica has a set of business principles that it expects employees to follow. It also has a group anti-bribery and corruption policy. But if any employee sees activity that they believe needs reporting, either among fellow employees or Centrica’s business partners, they can call the hotline. Since the line opened, calls have triggered investigations that have resulted in disciplinary action and, in a small number of cases, dismissal. Centrica believes issues reported to the hotline have helped it make improvements in areas such as health and safety, and security. Scott Bridgen, global hotline manager at Expolink, says the first step in establishing an effective whistleblowing policy is for senior management to understand what the goal of the hotline is. ‘It’s not a magic wand for solving problems,’ he warns.
But it can make a big contribution to ensuring that issues get looked at rather than brushed under the carpet. Bridgen says that it is important to make sure that the whistleblowing policy and the hotline are designed to fit with the culture of the organisation and the kind of people who work in it. Then it has to comply with all relevant legislation in the territory it is operating in. That could involve observing data protection laws or consulting with works councils. He says there is no point in having a hotline unless there are effective ways to investigate complaints. ‘You must make sure you have the mechanisms and controls in place to investigate complaints in a confidential way,’ he says. That means having a clear investigations policy. ‘Whistleblowers want to know what happens,’ he says. In the past, whistleblowers have been worried about the consequences of their actions. But companies such as Centrica recognise that a well-run whistleblowing policy can have benefits for both the company and employees. ‘Attitudes are beginning to change and people are starting to celebrate whistleblowers,’ says Bridgen.
FEATURES | CENTRE LEARNING COMMUNICATION | ACCA MEMBERSHIP
ACCA’s CPD requirement – it’s flexible and rewarding Once you have achieved ACCA membership you will be required to undertake relevant CPD to ensure that you maintain and develop the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in today’s dynamic and demanding business environment. But what exactly does the CPD requirement entail? Two members who achieved their first year’s CPD requirement in 2012 tell us about their experiences so far Student Accountant | JULY 2013
Mohammed Rafiq works as a finance manager for LLH Hospital in Abu Dhabi. He arrived in the UAE in 2004 from his home country of India as an already experienced accountant, but decided to gain the ACCA Qualification to improve his career opportunities. He achieved ACCA membership in 2011 and completed his first CPD year without his employer’s help. ‘I think CPD is a wonderful process,’ says Mohammed. ‘It keeps you alive as a member and enables you to refresh your knowledge and learn about new developments in the profession, ultimately helping you develop your career’. ‘I used the ACCA website as my main source of information for CPD and, although I managed to meet my CPD requirement, this year I have approached my employer to ask for more help. I have explained the benefits CPD can deliver, not only for me but also for the hospital, and I am hopeful that I will have more support for my second year.’ ACCA member Atif Waheed will definitely be organising his own CPD as he is a self-employed financial consultant, based in Pakistan. Atif has worked in the accountancy profession since leaving school and, most recently, was an audit senior at a Lahore-based firm of chartered accountants. He began to think about CPD while still an affiliate. ‘When I began my ACCA studies I did not know about CPD, and only became aware of it the closer I got to membership,’ he says. ‘I was worried that CPD might be a burden and that I might have to take a number of courses, but when I became an ACCA member in 2011 I discovered that ACCA’s CPD approach is very flexible – you can meet the requirement through webinars, technical articles, attending ACCA events, and even learning while at work.
‘Life is a continuous learning experience – CPD is part of this’ ‘Life is a continuous learning experience – CPD is part of this, and supports you throughout your career.’ ACCA’s CPD requirement starts in the January of the year following admittance to membership. As both Mohammed and Atif have therefore only recently started to fulfil their requirement, do they have any advice for current students
concerned that CPD might prove difficult to manage? ‘Remember, you only need 40 hours of relevant CPD activity to meet your requirement – and that’s over an entire year,’ says Mohammed. ‘Planning ahead makes this easy to achieve, but also remember, through CPD, you will gain the knowledge you need to remain competitive within the profession.’
MY CPD STRATEGY Mohammed Rafiq, finance manager, LLH Hospital, Abu Dhabi, UAE ¤ CPD does not require a lot of time, especially if you plan your CPD strategy properly ¤ I regularly visit the ACCA website, and read AB magazine, to find out about CPD opportunities that are relevant to me ¤ My focus for CPD is on areas that are new to me and on areas where my current exposure is insufficient. For example, I currently work in the healthcare sector, which is a new area for me, but my role also demands an understanding of the insurance industry, so I will use CPD to learn more about this sector as well ¤ I fully expect my CPD strategy to change over time, and so it should – the whole point of CPD is to keep you up to date with industry developments
Atif Waheed, self-employed financial consultant, Lahore, Pakistan ¤ I attend CPD events organised by my local ACCA office – most of these are free and not only provide learning opportunities but also the chance to network with other ACCA members ¤ I read technical CPD articles in AB magazine, sign up for ACCA webinars, and subscribe to online CPD courses ¤ There is an incredible range of CPD resources available – from articles to events, and on every topic, from business management to auditing. I have decided to take a wide-ranging approach to CPD rather than focus on one area as I believe that, as an ACCA member, I have to be prepared to deal with a comprehensive range of business areas ¤ A useful quote I conform to when planning my CPD is: ‘Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise’
LEARNING CENTRE | ACCA journey
ACCA Competency Framework You are probably enjoying a well‑deserved break from studying for your ACCA exams, and rightly so. However, without the distraction of exams you could be using this time to good effect to think about your future, such as what area of accountancy and finance you want to work in, which performance objectives you are going to complete to help satisfy ACCA’s practical experience requirements (PER) or which Options papers you are going to take at the Professional level. There is a lot to think about but don’t worry. ACCA has developed an online interactive tool to help you make these important decisions. The ACCA Competency Framework is an online, interactive tool that demonstrates the different competencies developed through all elements of the ACCA Qualification (exams, ethics module and experience requirement) and links these competencies to jobs in finance. It is a valuable tool to illustrate how – when you become an ACCA member – you will be a complete finance professional and have a comprehensive skills set to work in a variety of accountancy and finance roles across different industries. How is it useful for me? It will show you how ACCA relates to specific jobs and different business sectors and will help you identify which performance objectives you Student Accountant | JULY 2013
USE YOUR SPARE TIME TO GOOD EFFECT BY PLANNING YOUR JOURNEY TO ACCA MEMBERSHIP with this useful tool
should be getting signed off by your workplace mentor. Showing career pathways and progression routes The ACCA Competency Framework shows you the type of jobs ACCA members do, how to get these jobs and progress through your career in finance. You will also be able to see what type of skills you have developed that will help you show your achievements to employers.
‘It is an excellent package of valuable information that every Professional level student like myself should know. It has given me a clear path to my membership’
Helping you with PER The ACCA Competency Framework links the exams, jobs and the performance objectives you need to have signed off as part of the PER. This helps you identify which performance objectives you should target and get signed off. Choose the right Options The Options papers are the last exam hurdle before membership. It is important you choose the Options papers that best reflect the job you are doing or want to do. The ACCA Competency Framework makes these links and can help you make the right choice. It is a useful tool to use in lots of different ways. But don’t just take our word for it. Take a look at the speech bubble quotes in this article from students who have used the ACCA Competency Framework.
‘I am really impressed by ACCA’s commitment to assist its students. It reminds me why I chose ACCA’
‘This will definitely help students in mapping their study and career growth’
Visit the ACCA website to start using the ACCA Competency Framework ▶
â€˜It is definitely a most useful tool. I wish I had known about the framework or had access to it when I started ACCA. It helps you to see where you are heading and makes your decisions easier in terms of which subjects to takeâ€™
FEATURES | CENTRE LEARNING COMMUNICATION | PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE
As you know, becoming an ACCA-qualified accountant does not just involve passing your exams and the Professional Ethics module â€“ you also need to complete the practical experience requirement (PER). Here, we answer some of the more common PER queries
PER: the lowdown Student Accountant | JULY 2013
What do I have to do to complete the practical experience requirement (PER) of the ACCA Qualification? There are three components to the PER: ¤ completing three years’ employment in an accounting or finance-related role(s) ¤ achieving nine Essentials and at least four Options performance objectives to the satisfaction of your workplace mentor ¤ recording and reporting your PER progress through the online My Experience record. Can I use work experience that I gained prior to becoming an ACCA student to meet my PER? If so, how many years can I go back? Yes. You can use experience from previous job roles (before or after registering as an ACCA student) to help you claim a performance objective. There is no specific time limit. However, a workplace mentor must be available to review and sign off the answers to your challenge questions. Also, as the profession continually evolves, consider carefully if experience gained more than five years ago is still relevant. Is it better to get your work experience in a small or large organisation? ACCA’s PER can be achieved in all sectors and sizes of organisation. The first thing you need to do is find a workplace mentor you can work with to achieve your PER. Who is a workplace mentor? A workplace mentor is an individual who supports your development in the workplace and reviews your progress and achievements at work. S/he plays an important role in the achievement of your PER. Your
PER is completely transferable – across organisations, sectors and geographical locations workplace mentor should guide and support you by: ¤ helping you identify which performance objectives you should aim to achieve ¤ setting targets in terms of performance and timescales ¤ providing access to appropriate work experience and supporting your development. This may mean helping arrange job rotations, project work or other opportunities to gain relevant experience ¤ evaluating and reviewing your progress on a regular and ongoing basis ¤ signing off performance objectives you have achieved. My organisation does not employ a professionally qualified accountant. Who can I get to verify my work experience and act as my workplace mentor? If you work for a small organisation or are the most senior finance person in the organisation, or your organisation does not employ a professionally qualified accountant who can act as your workplace mentor, you could consider the following options: ¤ Are there any consultants or external contacts – not necessarily employees – who know your work, are qualified accountants, and could act as your workplace mentor? For example, your organisation may have external accountants or the organisation’s auditor might be willing to fulfil this role – but make sure they do not feel there
is any conflict of interest if they agree to do this. A trainee could act as your workplace mentor. ACCA requires that the trainee fulfilling the workplace mentor role be in a more senior role to the trainee they are supporting. This seniority should derive from them having progressed further in their development and having acquired greater experience. It is not sufficient for the workplace mentor to have the same level of experience as the trainee that they support or simply more years in a similar role at the same level. ¤ ACCA manages the associated risk by classifying any trainee with another trainee as their workplace mentor in a higher risk category for PER audit. This risk is further mitigated by requiring a second level of sign-off for performance objectives by a suitably qualified training supervisor. Can I gain my practical experience from working in different countries? Absolutely, you could start your qualification in one country and complete it somewhere entirely different – many of our trainees do. PER is completely transferable – across organisations, sectors and geographical locations. To support trainees around the world, we have a network of national offices providing support and information for trainees including, in many cases, national websites. Get yourself on track ▶
FEATURES | FD COMMUNICATION INTERVIEW
Student Accountant | JULY 2013
with Wimbledon 2013 under way, All England Lawn Tennis Club FD Richard Atkinson discusses the major financial issues driving the sport and the most prestigious tournament in the game Over the past few years tennis has enjoyed arguably its greatest period thanks to some of the best players ever to grace a court, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, all competing for the game’s top prizes. Among the leading forces aiming to ensure the halcyon days keep on rolling is the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the organisation that manages Wimbledon, the most prestigious tournament in the sport. The All England Club has recently made several announcements to cement the status of Wimbledon and boost elite tennis in general: a retractable roof will be built over No. 1 Court in time for the 2019 tournament, and there will be 40% more prize money for the 2013 Championships, making it the largest pot in the sport’s history. Players at this summer’s grass‑court event will receive a total of £22.6m, an increase of £6.5m on 2012. The winners of the men’s and ladies’ singles titles will each receive £1.6m this year – Roger Federer and Serena Williams each took home £1.15m in 2012. As the All England Club’s FD, Richard Atkinson is the man responsible for driving the financials of the business. He is proud of the recent announcements: ‘The prize‑money decision was the right thing for Wimbledon to do. We wanted to be competitive [with other Grand Slam tournaments] and I think we have achieved that. We also needed to show some leadership.
The US tournament announced a 32% increase two weeks before we made our announcement and that was the point we decided on exactly how much we would increase. ‘We will be a little behind the US and Australians in terms of singles prizewinners, but we have skewed our purse towards the early round losers and that is where we have shown leadership. It is about making sure that the young men and women trying to make a living in the game are rewarded for getting into Wimbledon.’
and real estate industries. This experience will prove as invaluable as it did during the four-year construction of the Centre Court roof. When he arrived at London SW19 in February 2007, the east side of Centre Court had already been demolished and Centre Court itself was effectively an empty bowl with no roof. ‘I can’t imagine I would have been truly effective as FD without a construction background,’ says Atkinson. ‘At times it was about looking a quantity surveyor in
‘THE PRIZE-MONEY DECISION WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. WE WANTED TO BE COMPETITIVE and i think we have achieved that’ As far as No. 1 Court is concerned, it is a relatively modern building (less than 20 years old) and can support a roof similar to that already on the Centre Court. ‘It will be simpler in terms of design,’ explains Atkinson. ‘I know we have the financial firepower to fund the thing, but until you’ve got a relatively advanced design the cost is just a guess really. We’ve shown the bank we can comfortably support the borrowing if indeed we need that. It is quite possible that we will be able to do this out of our own resources.’ Building experience Atkinson, 53, spent much of his early career in the construction
the eye and asking questions, watching their body language and expressions to detect whether they really knew what things were going to cost or whether they were guessing.’ Raising the roof The Centre Court roof cost ‘many tens of millions’. The All England Club borrowed £75m to build it, half of which has since been paid off. ‘It was easily the most money the organisation had ever borrowed, so managing the banking relationship, putting up a one-of-a-kind piece of engineering and dealing with the financial implications was quite a task. It was not like putting up a routine six-storey office building in
FEATURES | FD INTERVIEW
Appointed FD of the All England Lawn Tennis Club
Various roles at Time Warner: FD of the European magazine publishing department, CFO of magazine publishing division
Financial controller, Richard Ellis Chartered Surveyors
John Mowlem Construction a business park where someone could tell you within 2% what it was going to cost you. Nobody had ever done it before.’ Although the Centre Court roof came in over budget, it did come in within the funding arrangements Atkinson had put in place with the bank. The amount of money borrowed contained a little contingency so the All England Club didn’t have to go back to the bank and ask for any more – common‑sense financial management on a project of this nature. ‘We will know even more when we do No. 1 Court,’ says Atkinson. ‘It Student Accountant | JULY 2013
won’t be exactly the same, but it will be a similar set of challenges. I will go into that with a much higher degree of confidence and, indeed, the engineers will too. When they say costs will be between x and y, it will cost between x and y.’ Atkinson has spent the majority of his career in a place ‘where finance ends and running a business starts – a kind of grey area in between’. All of his jobs have been commercial finance and FD roles. ‘I can be pretty boring on technical accounting stuff, but in my spare time I’m always much more interested in what’s going on in the business,’ he confesses. Another major plus he brings to the All England Club is his vast experience with media giant Time Warner in New York – invaluable for a club eager to grow and stay at the forefront of commercial activities within the sport. And a massive part of that comes in the form of television contracts. ‘As a business proposition the Centre Court roof works great for us and from a financial justification point of view it has taken away the single biggest objection to tennis from the television companies,’ he says. ‘With the new roof you now know the men’s final will take place at two o’clock on Sunday afternoon.
‘CONSTRUCTING THE CENTRE COURT ROOF WAS NOT LIKE PUTTING UP A ROUTINE SIX-STOREY office building in a business park’ ‘We have been able to sign up a succession of significantly enhanced contracts over the past three or four years,’ Atkinson adds. ‘The roof is certainly a strong selling point for us in discussions with television companies and spectators as well. Our ticket and debenture sales have been stronger than ever over the last few years too.’
Business sector Tennis – and sport in general – has enjoyed great changes over the last 10 to 15 years, becoming a fully fledged business sector in its own right. When Bjorn Borg won the last of his five titles in 1980 he won £20,000; this year’s winner will bank 80 times that amount. Last year Wimbledon posted record profits of £37.8m (referred
THE BASICS WIMBLEDON £37.8M
Record profit (surplus) posted by Wimbledon last year
Player prize fund available at Wimbledon in 2013, an increase of £6.5m on 2012
The winners of the men’s and ladies’ singles titles will each receive £1.6m this year – up from the £1.15m Roger Federer and Serena Williams each took home in 2012
Amount Bjorn Borg banked for the last of his five titles in 1980
Amount the All England Club borrowed to build the Centre Court roof to as ‘surplus’ and which bankrolls grassroots tennis through the Lawn Tennis Association). It has changed from a cottage industry into a slick operation, and the finance function should reflect and drive that change. ‘It’s not just the magnitude either,’ explains Atkinson, ‘it’s the complexity of the thing and that in itself causes challenges behind the scenes. But it is a finance job and it should be done behind the scenes. ‘If you put a new payroll system in and someone notices, then you’ve done something wrong. IT is a good example of how we have raised our
game over the past five or six years to make sure we have got the right support functions we need in an enterprise on this kind of scale.’ Maintaining standards But while change is a constant at Wimbledon it is reassuring to know that some standards remain the same. ‘I want to be professional,’ he says. ‘That has to be ingrained in you. You just do things the right way; that’s an essential aspect of the job, particularly in a relatively small place like this where I don’t have a large team.
TOP TIPS ¤ ‘You’ve got to be technically strong on the accounting and you’ve also got to be someone who is genuinely interested in how business works – you’ve got to be both. In the old days you could be either one or the other. I spent a lot of time in the US and a lot of people there with MBAs were doing finance jobs and didn’t really understand how the accounting worked behind it. You always felt you were operating on quite shaky foundations when you were talking about financial stuff because you really didn’t feel they understood the accounting side of things.’ ¤ ‘You are better off doing a relatively senior job at a relatively small place at the early stage of your career. I spent most of my 20s working for manageable-sized organisations where you can get your mind around it. I think that is an ideal route to follow.’ ‘You have to have people you completely trust technically and ethically. In a place like this you can’t carry passengers. I want people who will take responsibility. You help them, advise them and guide them, but in the end you want them to get hold of a project and run with it. I’ve always prized people like that; that is the culture here and one of the reasons why we are running our 127th tournament. But if you want to run the 227th you’ve got to keep on doing it better.’ Alex Miller, journalist
FEATURES | professional services firms
Professional services firms have a single focus: serving their clients and helping them solve their problems. To deliver value, they utilise the knowledge and skills of their people. Iwona Tokc-Wilde reports
Student Accountant | JULY DECEMBER 2013 2012
professional services firms Professional services firms (or PSFs) are found throughout industry and are held in high regard as the go-to financial experts. They provide accountancy and tax services to individuals, businesses and governments, and the largest, high-profile accountancy firms are known as the Big Four. Chances are that you will work in a PSF at some point in your career, so it is useful to know how they operate and – most importantly – what they expect from you. Typical ownership and management model ‘Most professional services firms adopt a partnership structure, as opposed to a corporate business structure,’ says Heather Townsend, executive coach and co-author of How to Make Partner and Still Have a Life. The partners are the firm’s owners, equivalent to shareholders in an incorporated business. The big difference is that, unlike most shareholders, all partners work in the business. For this reason a partnership has a very different dynamic than a limited company, says Townsend: ‘Partners will expect to have a say in most matters; in a limited company, shareholders wouldn’t enjoy the same rights.’ Larger partnerships are usually run by a management or leadership board composed of senior partners. ‘We have a National
Leadership Board (NLB) led by our chief executive officer Scott Barnes,’ says Jonathan Simons, assistant manager at Grant Thornton UK. ‘The NLB is responsible for the strategic direction and growth of the firm.’ Partners who head up sectors or service lines such as audit, tax and corporate finance – as well as those who are responsible for support teams such as marketing, business development and communications – report directly to the management board. Partners’ earnings come from the profits a firm makes, and most partners share in those profits based on what their partnership share agreement stipulates. ‘However, some firms are starting to adopt practices from the corporate world, such as paying their partners a fixed “salary” and giving them a bonus dependent on their individual performance,’ says Townsend.
Selling services v selling products Professional services firms make money from selling services rather than products, and this distinction is key. ‘A product is tangible: customers can look at it and, potentially, test it before they commit to the purchase,’ says Simons. On the other hand, service is intangible – it is not a physical item that you can touch. In effect, PSFs sell your knowledge and expertise and the time you
have expended in giving the benefit of these to the firm’s clients. You record this time on a timesheet, your employer assigns value to it and then charges a fee to the client based on these variables. Then, one of two things usually happens: a client satisfied with the service he received pays the fee, while a client who is dissatisfied does not and takes his business to another firm. In fact, a PSF lives or dies by its ability to acquire, serve and retain clients. ‘The client is king – everything the firm delivers is driven by the client and is in service of the client, so client satisfaction is paramount,’ says Townsend. The firm’s vision, values and culture are driven by client service too. ‘At Grant Thornton, the client comes first, but we also feel very strongly about working together to achieve goals,’ says Simons. Clients also drive a firm’s image and brand – each firm must decide how it wants to be perceived and what type of clients it wants to attract. ‘Not every firm wants to be the biggest or best known,’ says Nicholas Nicou, consultant at financial recruiter Morgan McKinley. Many firms decide to limit their focus. ‘Some clients prefer a smaller firm that is a specialist in their sector and will therefore understand their business better,’ says Nicou. ‘A good example is charity specialists or media and entertainment specialists.’
FEATURES | professional services firms Reputation is everything Image, credibility and reputation are some of our most important assets, says Ed Gooderham, partner at Green & Co Accountants: ‘Clients entrust us to act on their behalf, so upholding high standards to ensure they continue to have confidence in our work is vital to our success.’ If all this sounds like you mustn’t ever put a foot wrong, in reality your firm’s reputation will often depend on how you manage expectations and how you respond to unhappy clients. ‘It’s virtually impossible to deliver every assignment absolutely perfectly because the nature of service is relationship-based and relationships can be tricky to manage,’ says Ciaran Fenton from career management consultancy Fenton & Co LLP. It can therefore be said that a firm’s reputation is its people. You interact with clients from early on in your career, and your opinions and contributions are expected and valued. For you to be able to perform and deliver at this level, a professional firm invests in your training, development and mentoring. ‘Each firm’s development programme is different but it typically involves both a structured training programme and “on the job” training,’ says Nicou. The ‘on the job’ training never stops, regardless of your position within the firm. ‘All members of our firm receive ongoing training to ensure awareness of any new developments in legislation, regulation and economic change,’ says Simons. ‘It’s a mix of secondments, work shadowing and special projects, buddying, remote learning modules, reading and coaching and formal workshops and training courses.’ Professional proficiency Working in a PSF generally means individuals choose areas in which they specialise. ‘In smaller accountancy firms, they can be as broad as audit, accounts preparation, tax or consultancy,’ Student Accountant | JULY 2013
says Gooderham. ‘In larger firms, they can be quite specific – for example, an area of tax or audit of a certain sector or type of business. However, any business or tax planning decision often affects a wide variety of factors, so an in-depth understanding of accountancy as a whole is always essential.’ The industry and the profession are constantly evolving too, and you are expected to keep up to date with the ever-changing legislation and standards by following your firm’s continuing professional development (CPD) programme. But your professional learning and development is not just about gaining technical skills and qualifications. ‘Delivering professional services often means delivering good counsel,’ says Fenton. ‘You need to impart it in a manner in which the client feels you have listened to them. Yes, you need a lot of knowledge – but you need high emotion intelligence too.’
This is why learning soft or people skills such as good communication, conflict resolution and negotiation is so important. ‘You build up these skills over time, with experience,’ says Simons. In addition to gaining proficiency in a host of skills, people in PSFs must learn to be flexible and adaptive. ‘You work on multiple clients at any one time, so you need to be prepared to report to different managers and partners,’ says Nicou. ‘You are part of different teams working on different projects, so the ability to multitask and stay up to date with the progress of each assignment is a must.’ For many, this diversity of clients and projects is what makes working for a PSF so exciting. ‘Your technical qualification is just the beginning – if you have a genuine interest in clients, as well as learning to build and nurture client relationships, you get to help them achieve their potential,’ says Simons.
PARTNERSHIP v LIMITED COMpany What makes a partnership different from a limited company? Heather Townsend reveals all PARTNERSHIP
¤ All owners of the business work in the business ¤ Partners own the business
¤M ost owners of the business don’t work in the business ¤ Shareholders own the business
¤ Partners are the senior decision makers ¤ Decision making by committee ¤ Partners are considered to be self-employed ¤ Loosely defined teams and structure ¤ Collegiate atmosphere ¤ Managing partner and management board elected and appointed on the basis of their influence within the partnership
¤ Directors are the senior decision makers ¤ Decision making by role ¤ Directors are employed by the business ¤ Typically clearly defined teams and structure ¤ Corporate atmosphere ¤ Managing director and board members appointed on their suitability to run the company
FEATURES | CAREERs COMMUNICATION
ACHIEVABLE CAREER GOALS Setting achievable career goals is essential to ensure you have targets to aim for that are attainable through hard work and dedication. Alex Miller talks to some of our past exam prizewinners about how to go about achieving them
Chloe Wood, 30
Status: Qualified as a member in August 2012 Job title: Finance business partner at the Department of Health Studied with: BPP in Leeds, UK. Won the global bronze award for the June 2012 session, which means that the results from my five Professional level papers were the third highest in the world when I became an affiliate.
Natasha Jones, 26
Status: Qualified as a member in March 2013 Job title: Management accountant at Gunnebo UK Ltd Studied with: Birmingham City University and BPP Online. I won the gold medal for the highest cumulative score in the Professional level papers for the December 2012 session. I also won the prize for the highest mark in Paper P6 in December 2012.
SAM BAILEY, 22
Status: Passed final exams in December 2012 and in the process of completing the requirements for membership Job title: Audit executive at Grant Thornton Studied with: Kaplan. I am the silver medal winner for the December 2012 session for scoring the second highest aggregate mark worldwide across the five Professional level papers.
Student Accountant | JULY 2013
What are your career ambitions in the short-term? Chloe: I would like to become a senior finance business partner or senior accountant during the next 12 months. Natasha: I aim to move into a financial controller position relatively soon. I am also thinking about my future CPD options and possibly considering further study of either an MBA or the CTA qualification. Sam: To become an assistant manager within the audit department at Grant Thornton and progress to managerial level once I have sufficient experience.
What are your longer‑term goals? Chloe: I would like to become a head of finance at a branch or department, rather than the finance director. Natasha: To become a financial director or possibly a managing director. Sam: To gain experience in industry either as a financial controller or finance director, or via a secondment from Grant Thornton. At some point I would like to gain some experience of working abroad.. Starting my own company is something that I would love to do aside from my day job. I would like to own a number of properties
FEATURES | COMMUNICATION CAREERs some day, which I can rent out without it taking up too much of my time, allowing me to continue working in accounting/finance.
How long will it take to reach your targets? Chloe: It will probably take over five years to achieve my long-term goal; it’s difficult to predict, as you never know what the future holds. Natasha: I hope to move into a financial controller position relatively soon, within the next 18 months. My aspiration to become a financial director is probably some time away, perhaps seven years. Sam: Hopefully my ambitions in the mid term can be fulfilled during the next two to three years. Beyond that, achieving my longer-term ambitions may depend on when an opportunity arises. It is possible to realise my ambitions at my existing firm – however, I would like to achieve these within the next five to seven years. In terms of owning my own company, I expect this is something I can achieve within 10 years.
What are you doing to ensure you achieve your goals? Chloe: I am exploring my options now that I am an ACCA member by looking for jobs internally and externally at higher levels. Once
‘it is important to build up a network of people who may have particular influence or knowledge when it comes to being made aware of these opportunities’ Student Accountant | JULY 2013
‘I try to get involved in as many areas of the business as I can to gain a wide breadth of experience’ I have found a suitable role, I will work incredibly hard to demonstrate my potential and merit and build a reputation of being fit for a senior finance role. Natasha: I work very closely with my employer, making sure that I gain all the necessary experience that I require to move into these types of positions. I am very honest with my manager (the financial director) about where I want to be in my career, which enables him to push me in the right direction and offer advice to address areas where I lack experience. I try to get involved
in as many areas of the business as I can to gain a wide breadth of experience. Sam: I am becoming more involved in meetings with clients and developing my accounting technical knowledge through reading and applying key accounting issues and topics. To reach this level requires a robust technical knowledge and an ability to influence clients. The key piece of advice that I have been given throughout my career is to ‘do your manager’s job’ – this is something that I actively seek to achieve. I keep my eyes open for opportunities in industry and abroad through Grant Thornton’s internal opportunities, as I am keen to remain with the firm. However, it is important to build up a network of people who may have particular influence or knowledge when it comes to being made aware of these opportunities.
FEATURES | CAREERS
International experience Travel broadens the mind, so the saying goes, but does it broaden the career? asks dean gurden
Student Accountant | JULY DECEMBER 2013 2012
With a recent survey by specialist financial recruiter Marks Satin showing that seven out of 10 accountants would consider a move abroad, Student Accountant decided to find out just how easy or even beneficial it is for accountants to think about upping sticks and heading off to pastures new, and what they should consider before doing so. It sounds obvious, but do your research, advises Josh Blackmore, manager of the Robert Walters Wellington finance team in New Zealand. ‘Accountants should investigate
whether their qualifications and accreditations are recognised in the country they are thinking of working in,’ he says. ‘Investigate the local job market and the types of roles that are available, and then evaluate where your experience would fit into the domestic job market. For instance, the financial services market in London is considerably more developed than New Zealand’s, which means candidates migrating from the UK who have been in a specialist role often need to move into a more generalist role.’
Nicholas Kirk, managing director at Page Personnel Finance, believes it is imperative to consider how long you plan to work aboard and what career risks you may face entering the new market or returning to your home country. ‘Different countries have different accounting standards and not everywhere accepts the same qualifications,’ he warns. ‘Make sure that you check your qualifications will be valid in the country you’re moving to and, if not, what are the requirements to convert.’
FEATURES | CAREERS Investigate the local job market and the types of roles that are available, and then evaluate where your experience would fit into the domestic It is also important to seriously consider the financial implications of moving. The change of scenery, better weather and job opportunities may be a huge appeal to venturing abroad, adds Kirk, but you need to consider the extra costs involved. ‘Do you need to get a visa? What is the cost of living where you are moving to? It’s worth considering the cost of travel if you need to urgently return home or have occasions coming up where you know you will be returning home more.’ If you don’t have a job upon arrival, you should definitely have enough savings to last a few months, depending on the state of the job market, suggests Phil Sheridan, UK managing director of financial recruitment consultancy Robert Half. ‘Often, companies are looking for qualified or part‑qualified accountants for temporary and interim roles,’ he says, ‘and accountants who can hit the ground running with a valid work permit are extremely sought after. Also, depending on the country, other financial considerations should be taken into account – for instance, expatriates in the Middle East generally put their children in private school or have domestic help, although this is generally reflected in their compensation.’ Again, it cannot be stressed enough to do your research. Be aware of what the role entails and that you know where you are moving to. Your recruiter may be able to give you some good insights, but don’t forget to ask your new employer lots of questions too. Student Accountant | JULY 2013
Go and visit the area before committing. This way you will be able to see what opportunities there are and if you and/or your family would enjoy the lifestyle abroad. And make sure you thoroughly check the contract details for your position. As Kirk points out, your employee legal rights may be completely different abroad.
As for ways to go about making the leap abroad, international transfers with an existing employer are a great way to relocate. ‘They provide a softer landing and guarantee employment from day one,’ says Blackmore. Kirk agrees: ‘The support available when moving abroad through your existing company can be invaluable and, if the move is part of a structured programme, you may even get assistance with your living expenses.’ Anouska Serich, a consultant in Morgan McKinley’s talent acquisition team and also an expat herself, says the internal route is fine for newly
Peter Liska senior finance manager, Orange Group UK (moved from Slovakia to UK) Why did you decide to work abroad? I have always wanted to have an international experience of working and living abroad, preferably in an English-speaking country. Because I love London I did not hesitate for long when the new opportunity there came along. What was the most difficult thing about the process? As my partner did not relocate with me, we had to come up with ways to make the long-distance relationship work. Workwise the transfer was pretty smooth, as I had already been working with the team in London before the move. What are the best things about working abroad? Working abroad gives you the unique opportunity to work in a multinational environment, as well as seeing the business from a different perspective. What are the downsides? At the beginning there were many logistical difficulties with relocating but, in hindsight, they were easily overcome. However, I am still learning to master some of the cultural differences of working in the UK. And one of the main downsides of living and working in London is the weather, of course! What advice would you give to others considering working abroad? For me, the most important thing to consider was whether I would fit in the country as a person, and that comes from positive attitude to building networks and personal relationships both at work and socially.
qualified accountants who want to stay in practice. However, she has some advice for those looking to move into financial services or industry: ‘Why not consider a working holiday visa overseas, or opportunities in other countries? Get two to three years’ experience of practice and then more global opportunities will open up to you.’ This works on the assumption that prospective employers look favourably on international experience, so is that really the case? It is certainly a great way for job seekers to differentiate themselves from the competition, believes Blackmore. ‘Employers like people who are versatile and adaptable, and listing international experience on a CV demonstrates an ability to succeed in a new environment and a willingness to seek out new experiences,’ he says. ‘However, accountants should go to the effort of putting their experience in a context that’s relevant to the opportunity and the employer. They should highlight the skills they have learnt that are transferable, and discuss in the cover letter how their experience will adapt to the local market.’ This transferability is absolutely key, agrees Kirk. As well as making sure the skills they have learnt are relevant or beneficial to a potential employer and will help the company add value or win new business, accountants need to be careful that they are developing experience that will be recognised in the country to which they may eventually return. The value placed on international experience can also vary by industry, role and even individual,
but is generally always considered a positive, says Sheridan. ‘Having international experience will expose you to different business climates and markets, often allowing you to learn new accountancy standards and regulations.’ The soft skills gained, however, are even more pronounced, he stresses, as expatriates practise their communication and interpersonal skills and demonstrate their independence and ability to organise themselves personally and professionally. ‘Sometimes you may even learn a new language or business etiquette that will be particularly valuable should you
‘Having international experience will expose you to different business climates and markets, often allowing you to learn new accountancy standards and regulations’
work for a large, global organisation in the future,’ he says. As for Serich, she believes that international experience is crucial to those looking to go that little bit further up the career ladder. ‘Almost all CFOs or managerial-level financial planning and analysis roles and financial controllers have experience of working abroad at some point in their careers. Generally, anything from six to 12 months to two to four years’ experience abroad is typical,’ she says. Ultimately, the ACCA Qualification may be a truly international qualification and a passport to potential travel, but do spend some time examining your motives for pursuing such opportunities. As Sheridan says: ‘Are you looking for the skills and experiences offered from a career abroad or the personal and social opportunity to travel and experience new surroundings – or even both? This will help you identify some potentially good locations in which to pursue your accountancy career, while also having some great life experiences along the way.’ So good luck wherever you end up – but, again, whatever else you do, just don’t forget to do the research first! Dean Gurden, journalist
FEATURES | SECTOR COMMUNICATION FOCUS
DEFENDERS OF THE WORLD
Sometimes, industries can cover an awful lot of ground, both literally and metaphorically. Aerospace, aviation, shipping and defence is one such sector Although there are many distinguishing features between aerospace, aviation, shipping and defence, for the purposes of this article we will consider them as one fascinating sector in which accountants of all levels can really cut their teeth and develop their careers. The relationship between these ‘transportation’ methods and defence is clear. While both the aviation and aerospace industries concern products and services related to aircraft, they are often distinguished in the following manner – the aviation industry is responsible for the operation, flight and flight management of passenger, commercial and military and government aircraft. The aerospace industry designs,
Student Accountant | JULY 2013
engineers and manufactures aircraft for civilian (airlines, commercial, surveillance, law enforcement) and military aviation. The aerospace industry is also responsible for the development and production of vehicles capable of going into space, like shuttles and rockets, and spacecraft including extra‑terrestrial vehicles and satellites. The largest consumers of aerospace and aircraft technology in the US are the Department of Defence and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Shipping too is inextricably linked with international security. For example, as Europe prepares for emerging threats
on the African continent, in the Middle East and in international shipping lanes, maritime platform programmes are under pressure to be commercial – while facing the same cost‑cutting measures as the rest of the world – and safe. Naval power may seem like an old-fashioned phrase but effective control of the seas is still important and it needs expensive technology for better modern ships, as well as manufacturing capacity. All of which provides the most fertile ground for intelligent, inquisitive, tenacious finance professionals who want to work in the sector. But how on earth do you get a foot in the door and what can you expect when you step inside?
‘Candidates should maintain a keen eye on trade publications. The sector itself is affected by numerous variables, so keeping up to date on developments in political and current affairs is vital’ Peter Howarth, operations director, accounting and finance, Badenoch and Clark, says that the type of jobs available for newly qualified and trainee accountants in this sector include: ‘Group accounting, so consolidating key information, building relationships with wider business and reporting; management accounting, which involves the preparation of management accounts, P&L analysis and budgets; and financial accountant roles, as well as project finance‑related roles involving cost reduction, efficiencies and analysis of processes.’ The cuts in global defence budgets have meant there has been a reduction in demand across aerospace and defence. In some instances, companies are hiring in response to changes in strategies or growth. Recent candidate placements have been recruited to prepare to change their business models or adapt to the changing markets. Brodie McDougall, director of Michael Page in Australia, agrees: ‘Current trading conditions are challenging, but teams within the aerospace, aviation and shipping sectors are still hiring qualified accountants.
In Australia, we have noticed a consistent level of recruitment for newly qualified accountants with a proven track record of providing commentary and analysis.’ Of course, making sure that you are familiar with an industry before going for the job of your dreams is crucial, and there are several ways you can do this. ‘An internship will considerably help a candidate’s prospects,’ advises Howarth. ‘It’s important to balance your qualification with appropriate industry experience; those without appropriate experience will often struggle to secure their first role. ‘Candidates should maintain a keen eye on trade publications. The sector itself is affected by numerous variables, so keeping up to date on developments in political and current affairs is vital. Candidates should look at trying to gain experience while studying for their qualification as this will help once they are fully qualified or later in their career.’ ‘It is important to leverage your technical and commercial experience and track record of influencing management teams to drive profitability based on objective data,’ continues McDougall, as well as ‘an ability to demonstrate strong technical
skills and attention to detail, which is key. Furthermore, using this information to influence management teams by providing considerations and a recommendation is important.’ All of this is vital, while not forgetting the nuts and bolts of what makes a good finance professional. ‘Strong Excel skills, a firm understanding of cost and project management principles and the ability to translate complex financial concepts into plain English for non-finance users will all serve candidates well in their search,’ adds Howarth. Remuneration is dependent on the prospective role – but, generally, higher salaries are commanded by specialist, front office roles,’ says Howarth. McDougall adds: ‘In the southern hemisphere, over the past three years, salaries in these sectors have increased between 3% and 5% year on year, with the upside achieved through driving profitability by maintaining costs and increasing revenue.’ A key challenge if you choose to work in this highly pressurised environment is the need to maintain current low costs and drive value-add through reviewing new revenue streams, as well as
FEATURES | sector focus
‘Accountants must now demonstrate that they are adaptable and able to add real value to the wider business’ driving existing revenue. But these skills can be invaluable on your CV. ‘Accountants must now demonstrate that they are adaptable and able to add real value to the wider business,’ says Howarth. ‘Accountants are increasingly being asked and are expected to input into business decisions rather than just working in accounts.’ Candidates should also be able to demonstrate an ability to deal well with a multitude of different personalities and working situations, he adds. ‘An ability to demonstrate strength of character and humility is important. Candidates should demonstrate a technical grasp of major industry issues, though the depth of understanding expected will of course depend on the role.’ And it is hard to think of a sector where there would be a greater chance to travel the world and work in a variety of different continents, whether it is on longer-term secondment or working from a base in your home country. ‘If an organisation has international reach, and partners and the candidate can exhibit a drive and commitment to the business, then overseas travel can be a very real possibility,’ says Howarth.
What sector do you want us to focus on next? Email us at studentaccountant@ accaglobal.com ▶
Student Accountant | JULY 2013
TECHNICAL | student support
Have you seen the changes that we have made to the student support web pages? To help you through your ACCA journey we have made it much easier to find the information need. You have been telling us how difficult you find it to navigate our website and find the resources you want. Well, we have taken your feedback on board and over the past few months have restructured the content so it is available in one place.
IMPROSUVPPEOD RT STUDENT WEBSITE
So what are the changes? ¤ Content is now organised by qualification and exam paper. ¤ Syllabus guides, examiner interviews and past papers now sit with the exam paper that they relate to. ¤ Information about work experience and PER are located in one place. ¤ Resources like Student Accountant and ACCA Careers are easy to find. This new structure will make it easier for you to Student Accountant | JULY 2013
find the content you need so you can focus your efforts on studying to pass your exams. We would recommend that you set up a bookmark in your web browser for the exam paper you are studying to make it even easier to access.
Haven’t seen the changes? Well go to our website and see for yourself! ▶ These changes are all part of a new programme to enhance the support and services that we provide our students in their journey towards ACCA membership. We are also developing a new suite of products to help you pass your exams and develop your workplace skills. Our students are very important to ACCA – you are the future of the profession, and we are going to be investing a lot to ensure that you get the support you need to become successful finance professionals.
TECHNICAL | COMMUNICATION
Do you want to receive personalised resources from Student Accountant? Tell us what you are studying now and we will send you personalised ezines and updates relevant to the papers that you’re working on. The all-new version of Student Accountant also comes in mobile and desktop-friendly versions and you will be able to customise your editions by region, your career aspirations, and your media preferences. COMPLETE OUR CUSTOMISE YOUR EDITION PAGE NOW
ALSO, don’t forget to take advantage of these other valuable resources: ACCA’s Competency Framework ▶ Student planner app for Android and iPhone ▶ Tuition providers directory ▶ Exam technique videos
▶ 49 37
A DEGREE of confidence ‘Gaining the degree shows employers that you have the key graduate skills of self-reflection and communication.’ Affan Ali
Gain a BSc Degree in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University while studying for your ACCA Qualification, and get two qualifications without doubling your workload.
For more information visit www.accaglobal.com
RESOURCES all you need to know From exam entry to recording practical experience, the following pages contain essential information for your journey to membership
52 staying connected
ACCA Connect: contact us 24/7
Exam fees and ways to pay
53 RULES AND REGULATIONS
Information about ACCA’s Rulebook and recent disciplinary proceedings
53 MY EXPERIENCE
Your online tool for recording practical experience
53 EXAM ENTRY
Information on entering for exams and claiming exemptions
54 OXFORD BROOKEs UNIVERSITY bsc (hons) Information about the BSc (Hons) in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University
54 June 2013 exam results
Receive your results by email or SMS
APPROVED LEARNING PARTNERS
Search for a tuition provider using ACCA’s Tuition Provider Directory
FEES Annual subscription – 2013 Please note, as a student, you are required to pay an annual subscription for each year you are registered with ACCA. The payment enables ACCA to provide you with services and support to assist you with your studies and training as you work towards gaining your qualification. Students who fail to pay fees when due (including exam/exemption fees) will have their names removed from the ACCA register. The following fees and subscriptions apply: Initial registration £79 Re-registration *£79 Annual subscription £79 *plus unpaid fee(s)
firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)141 582 2000
For all enquiries, simply contact ACCA Connect – our global customer service centre. However you want to contact us – by phone or email – one of our expert advisers will be happy to assist you.
stay connected ACCA Connect is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year providing global support at times convenient to you. You can also access your myACCA account and the ACCA website for answers to many queries.
Contact details ACCA Connect tel: +44 (0)141 582 2000 email: email@example.com myACCA: https://portal.accaglobal.com Student Accountant | JULY 2013
Exam fees for DECEMBER 2013 (per exam) FOUNDATION LEVEL QUALIFICATIONS Papers FA1, MA1, FA2 and MA2 Early (8 September 2013) Standard (8 October 2013) Late (8 November 2013)
£43 £50 £201
Papers FAB, FMA, FFA, FTX, FAU and FFM Early Standard Late
£64 £73 £224
FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL SKILLS MODULE EXAMS Papers F4, F5, F6, F7, F8 and F9 Early £81 Standard £92 Late £242 Professional level exams Papers P1, P2 and P3 (and any two from Papers P4, P5, P6 and P7) Early £94 Standard £106 Late £259
Rules and Regulations
ACCA’s disciplinary procedures cover matters such as professional misconduct, misconduct in exams and breaches of regulations which include any actions likely to bring discredit to you, ACCA, or the accountancy profession.
If you already have some qualifications, you may not have to take all of the exams in the ACCA Qualification or Foundation level awards.These are called exemptions and mean that you will start your studies at the right level
READ THE ACCA RULEBOOK online
SHOULD I CLAIM? ▶
My Experience is ACCA’s tool for recording your practical experience. Its launch followed a consultation with trainees globally, the aim of which was to improve the process of recording practical experience and, therefore, make the journey to membership easier. FIND OUT MORE
HOW DO I CLAIM? ▶
Computer-based exams (CBEs) are available for the first seven of the Foundation level exams – Papers FA1, MA1, FA2, MA2, FAB, FMA and FFA (but not the specialist papers) – as well as for the Knowledge module exams (Papers F1, F2 and F3) of the ACCA Qualification. Sitting CBEs provides the following benefits: ¤ Flexibility – You are not restricted to June and December paper-based exam sessions as you can sit CBEs at any time of year. CBEs also offer flexibility for re-sits, which you can take at any time. There is no restriction on the number of times you can resit the exams by CBE. ¤ Instant results – Your result is displayed on the computer screen at the end of the exam. ¤ Results – Your results are uploaded by the licensed centre and will be transferred to your ACCA account within 72 hours. FIND OUT MORE
EXAM ENTRY information ACCA’s exam entry process offers you flexibility and can save you money. You can now access myACCA to: ¤ submit an exam entry at any time of the year ¤ enter for exams early and save money ¤ enter for the next two exam sessions ¤ make amendments to existing exam entries up until the standard entry closing date – including changing exam centre, variant papers or entering for exams.
oxford brookes bsc (hons)
Eligibility The degree must be completed within 10 years of your initial registration on to ACCA’s professional qualification, otherwise your eligibility will be withdrawn.
Check your eligibility STATUS ▶ Professional Ethics module In order to qualify for the BSc (Hons) in Applied Accounting, all students must first complete the nine Fundamental exams as well as the online Professional Ethics module. The Professional Ethics module is accessed via myACCA, but you
will only be given access to the module once you are eligible to sit Paper P1. The module does not need to be completed in one go, and you may therefore find yourself re-visiting the module as it takes approximately two to three hours in total to complete. Once you have fully completed it, you are required to write a completion statement, and a certificate will subsequently be sent to you. By completing this module, you will be gaining a better understanding of ethical issues in accounting, while giving you a chance to reflect on your own behaviours.
ACCESS myACCA ▶
KEEPING YOU INFORMED The quickest way for us to send you important information such as changes to exam entry and exam results is by e-communication (such as email or SMS) but we need you to give us your permission – it’s the law.
UPDATE YOUR DETAILS AND COMMUNICATION METHOD ▶ Student Accountant | JULY 2013
ACCA will release the June 2013 exam results electronically by email or SMS and make them available to view online from 8 August 2013. Make sure you are opted in to receive results by email or SMS by 12pm (BST) on 2 August 2013. Simply log on to myACCA and update your preference and contact details within ‘account administration’. You can only sign up for one of these services. Paper results will follow one week later from 15 August 2013 for those students who are eligible to receive paper copies. Online exam results are available via your exam status report. In order to view your exam status report, please log into your myACCA account. You should then select ‘Exam Status and Results’, which will be listed on the left hand side. On the page displayed, you will see an option to ‘View your status report’. Please click on this wording for your report to appear.