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PQ magazine www.pqmagazine.co.uk

April 2013

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

LECTURERS’ CONFERENCE

COMPETITION COMMISSION

AAT: ALL CHANGE

PQ’s editor was the only journalist at the Nottingham event. Read all about it inside

Report on the audit market puts the cat among the pigeons with its controversial conclusions

Revamp of the qualification explained

Watchdog: where’s the independence? The audit market is not serving shareholders, and auditors seem to be working for ‘the management’, says the provisional findings from the Competition Commission (CC). The commission’s investigation into the supply of statutory audit services discovered that well over half of FTSE 250 companies

have had the same auditors for more than 10 years. It is now looking at the need to introduce mandatory tendering and mandatory rotation of audit firms. Lead investigator Laura Carstensen said that despite the presence of audit committees and other safeguards audit firms seem to be

focusing on management interests over those of shareholders. She was worried “management might have incentives to present their accounts in the most favourable light, whereas shareholders interests can be quite different”. However, Big 4 firm Ernst & Young strongly Continued on page 10

THE FUTURE IS FOUR SITTINGS EACH YEAR Major changes to way students examined, says ACCA e-learning chief

The ACCA is aiming for a fourexam sittings a year approach post-2014, according to director of e-learning Clare Michington. She told a packed Nottingham Lecturers’ Conference that PQs can also expect major changes to the way students are examined. The ACCA feels it is vital that the exams reflect what is happening in the workplace today, not 10 years ago. “It is what employers and students need,” she stressed. The proposal is to offer exams four times a year: in March, June, September and December. Minchington felt that this approach will provide the flexibility key stakeholders want, as well as

maintaining rigour and security. To begin with the exams will also be offered on computers and paper, so there will be parallel running of some of the exams. The ACCA vision is to keep CBE on demand for F1, F2 and F3. It also plans to add F4 to this list. In an exclusive interview with PQ magazine at the conference, Michington said that the ‘P’ papers will still need paper-based exams, although they will be made available on computer. She explained that the same paper could be offered on several days, say at the new March sitting. This would mean students wouldn’t all be sitting the same exam. The

Minchington: multiple options new approach means the ACCA will have to create banks of questions with the examiner taking an overview of the exam and not

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necessarily writing all the questions. Minchington promised that she would give students and learning providers plenty of notice before making any significant changes. The ACCA also announced that it will no longer be naming the examiners. The association said it is the only professional body that releases the names of its examiners – and it appears students have been using social media to contact them ‘inappropriately’. Director of Learning Alan Hatfield stressed that students shouldn’t be blaming examiners for what appears in the final paper. “If it is a bad exam and we sign it off, then it is the ACCA that has to take the blame.”


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contents PQ

CONTENTS

News 08CIMA calculator ‘issues’ Not one but two tales of woe 10AAT developments Be prepared for ‘AQ2013’ 12ACCA’s US concessions Association introduces waiver for sought-after CMA qualification Features, etc 06Have your say CIMA’s view on exam re-sits; taxing times; and a round-up of your views via the mediums of Twitter and LinkedIn 14Competition Commission A shake-up of the large firms statutory audit market is likely

16ATT focus Guiding you through the personal pensions maze

182013 ACCA Lecturers’

Conference The first of our reports – our pull-out of all the news from Nottingham will be published in the next issue

20CIMA exam guidance Real pointers for May’s exam sitters

21Great giveaways We got loads of fab stuff hand-picked for you

April 2013 28Careers #2 Meet Ross Walton,

chair of CIPFA’s Europe branch, who lives and works in Brussels 29Careers #3 Life at UHY Hacker Young; why your CV should be just 140 characters long; and our Book Club reviews

THE VOICE OF ALL NQs Contact us

email: graham@pqaccountant twitter: @pqmagazine facebook: pqmag call 020 7216 6427

34 Fun time An award-winning

trip down memory lane, a visit to the Raffles Hotel, the cost of healthy living; and our sudoku The columnists Robert Bruce IFRS is a boon for ambitious accountants 8 Prem Sikka We are all being let down by credit rating agencies 10 Subscribe to PQ magazine It’s FREE – see page 31 or go to www.pqmagazine.co.uk ABC July 2011–June 2012

33,315

25Pestel analysis There’s no

excuse for not scoring heavily on Pestel-related questions

27Careers #1 Beware the pitfalls of posting your CV on the web

Publisher’s statement: We have a digital issue of the magazine which is sent to 12,641 requested readers

What are the new ‘imperatives’?

WHO OWNS YOUR CV? P11 Lisa Dendle on how you can ‘manage’ your CV

P20

STILL ILL…?

What we can learn from the Mid-Staffs scandal

MARKETING MAKE EASY P16

GOVERNANCE UPDATE P18 Sir Roger Carr on Cadbury’s code – an antidote to risk

How to tackle the moral maze of local government

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LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

TENDERING & AUDIT P19

changes to the AAT’s offerings and how they can benefit you

Training Place’s New Cross HQ

It has been another busy month at PQ Towers. We travelled to Nottingham for the ACCA Lecturers’ Conference, attended the FRC annual open meeting and a HMRC tax agent strategy day – and had lunch at the Reform Club. In between, we have launched our new all-singing, all-dancing NQ e-mag. Now that is worth taking a look at – go to http://issuu.com/pqpublishing/docs/nqmagazine2. But, as they say, there is no rest for the wicked as we gear ourselves up for the AAT annual conference, CIPFA’s World Class Symposium, and the Asian Awards. After all, you don’t find out what is really happening out there by sitting in the office! It was at the ACCA conference that we discovered problems with the CIMA online calculator (page 8). We also got MEET JONATHAN, those exclusive interviews with both Clare AN NQ STAR Our NQ of the Year Minchington and Alan Hatfield. Even the examiners spills the beans TROUBLE seem to have got used to us and don’t mind a chat. AT THE TOWN HALL That all means we can give you a unique insight into what the movers and shakers of your world are thinking. As an independent voice we can also say it like it is – we have no axes to grind or party line to toe. That is more important than you think. Italy’s Five Star Movement’s Beppe Grillo is a perfect example of how the world is going. It is easy to dismiss him as a clown, but the trained accountant won nearly 9 million votes (see page 10). That vote reflects the fact that people everywhere want more accountability in a system they feel less and less part of. The establishment have to be careful or they will lose the key to the executive bathroom. PQ has also started to be more vocal on Linkedin and we will bring you regular updates about what is happening out there online, too. But don’t leave it to us – it is time for you to join up. If you are going to procrastinate instead of revising then at least make it something that might benefit you professionally! We also want to know what issues are rocking your boat. Email me and together we can change things; remember we were pushing for four ACCA sittings a year months ago! Graham Hambly, PQ magazine editor (graham@pqaccountant.com) MARCH 2013

22AAT developments We outline

26Practical training We visit the

Getting the word out

Louisa McKay

1st in World, ACCA P7, June 2012 Kaplan ACCA Distance Learning student

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PQ have your say

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Extra tuition helps I was very sorry to hear that a CIMA student is not satisfied with the conditions for our exam resits (PQ magazine, March 2013). Paper based exams are offered twice a year, in May and November, and are of course offered to all students. The additional exams were designed in conjunction with tuition providers to help students to succeed in their resits, and we have found that this extra tuition does indeed help. I accept that the current infrastructure is limited when compared to the May and November exams. We

“Right, that was easy. Now we’ve got to find a non-tuition provider for CIMA exam re-sits!”

are working hard towards making the additional provisions more widely available globally, however this will take time. There is some space for “non-tuition provider” students, but this is very limited. We have to ensure that the infrastructure for both paper based and PC exams is secure and robust. The requirements for PC based exams are considerable, and we are grateful to our tuition providers for their commitment to making these “extra” exams possible. I hope that this helps to clarify the situation. Graham Eaton, DirectorExaminations, CIMA

The writer of the star letter each month wins a fantastic ‘I ❤ PQ’ mug! Taxing and vexing

The government’s answers to tackling tax avoidance is the new General Anti Avoidance Rule coming in this year, but this does nothing more than question what the reasonable man thinks is reasonable, when it should be making it clear what counts as responsible tax planning and what is abusive tax avoidance. This is a scary proposition for tax professionals and highlights the future problems the profession is going to have with this. A change to the law would have had a clearer, wider and fairer impact. Margaret Hodge, the chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, continues to be gaining traction in her comments on tax professionals and I strongly believe we will be next on the agenda for unjustified scrutiny. Rather than alienating tax professionals, the Revenue could be working with us to help weed out companies that aggressively avoid tax. Government engagement and discussion with sector representatives of the professional advisors (e.g. STEP/CIOT) would be far more fruitful than professional bashing in the press. Richard Jordan, Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, Chichester The editor says: We would welcome a response from the professional tax bodies on the points raised here.

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Can I say I had to write after reading your story on page 12 headlined ‘Call for more timely post exam guidance’ (PQ magazine, March 2013). I thought I was a lone voice, so thank you. I am having to sit my November paper again (a resit) and I am still waiting for the PEG from November’s exam to go up. Some are there, but they all seem to be

put up at totally different times. Why can’t CIMA put them all up in one go so we know what is what? This is so confusing, please help us bewildered PQs! Name and address supplied The editor says: We are as fed up as you are. We really do think CIMA needs to get a grip here. They should be telling the examiners to work to a stricter deadline.

Hot & Tweet A quick look at our tweets will show that we love current issues almost as much as the examiners. Where else could you find that Disney’s morals were under attack from a huge public sector fund? It wanted them to split the role of chairman and CEO and cut excessive pay. And it also seemed that ‘DealsRBack’ in the first few weeks of February with Heinz, Virgin Media, Dell and US Airways all being fought over. Rolls-Royce’s pre-tax profits were also up for the tenth year in a row to £1.43bn (a rise of 23.5%). The group margin is now 12.2% and the new chairman Ian Davis was unveiled. We ended the month with the surprise Swiss vote to get tough on executive pay. Shareholders will in future be able to veto rewards and boards can be jailed if they don’t comply! Go to @PQmagazine for more. PQ magazine has signed up to a variety of LinkedIn groups and there are some great discussions going on. Isn’t it time you joined one? Here’s one we started! ACCA Student News Group: “I was looking at the exam fees. Are they too expensive? £103 is the standard fee for the ‘P’ papers. If you sat all the papers in the qualification and passed first time it would cost you £1,475.” Students responded: • “It is expensive, and so is CIMA. I agree.” • “How about reducing the fee for the second or third attempt of any, especially ‘P’ level.” • “I totally agree all fees are very expensive. I think that ACCA should review the fees.” • “They are ridiculously priced! All the fees of ACCA should be structured around where student/affiliate/ACCA member lives and earns.”

PQ Magazine Fourth floor, Central House, 142 Central Street, London EC1V 8AR | Phone: 020 7216 6444 | Email: graham@pqaccountant.com Website: www.pqmagazine.co.uk | Editor/publisher: Graham Hambly graham@pqaccountant.com | Advertising manager: Polly Thrasivoulou polly@pqaccountant.com Associate editor: Adam Riches | Art editor: Tim Parker | Subscriptions: dom@pqaccountant.com | Contributors: Robert Bruce, Prem Sikka, Tony Kelly, Dani Hart, Phil Gammon, Jo Daley, Richard Heaton | Origination and print services by Classified Central Media If you have any problems with delivery, or if you want to change your delivery address, please email dom@pqaccountant.com

Published by PQ Publishing © PQ Publishing 2013


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PQ news

ROBERT BRUCE IFRS is a gift to ambitious accountants around the world The Americans may take a back seat when it comes to implementing IFRS, but they are almost alone in this. The rest of the world, by and large, has joined in with enthusiasm. And the G20 Group of the world’s finance ministers are still adamant, and this, somewhat quirkily, includes the US, in advocating a common system of financial reporting around the world. Even within the US the use of IFRS is commonplace, or at least it is on the nation’s stock markets. Overseas companies listing on the New York Stock Exchange, for example, are allowed to do so with IFRS as their financial reporting language. And any global US company will have virtually all its subsidiaries reporting under IFRS, because that is what is done around the world. Even the protestations of the SEC, the US regulatory body, that it would take many years for listed US firms to manage to move across to IFRS, even if it allowed them to do so, ring hollow. The French did it in three years flat, so surely even the Americans could manage it, argue mischief makers. But these arguments aside, it does mean global career opportunities for accountants are transformed. An almost universally accepted global financial reporting language has changed the career paths for thousands of accountants. From Caracas to Capetown, from Rio to Riyadh, from London to the Limpopo, from Amsterdam to Adelaide the skill-sets are now the same. ■ Robert Bruce is an award-winning writer on accountancy for The Times

Time to unionise? China’s statebacked trade union is aiming to target the Big 4 firms and their 40,000 staff for new members, writes Reuters. The move to unionise PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young is coming from the AFTU’s Shanghai chapter. Under Chinese law workers have the right to request a union chapter in any company with more than 25 employees. 8

CIMA calculator problems #1 CIMA part qualifieds need to start understanding what their calculators are for, says a leading examiner. While students are happy to tap away on their calculators working out the figures in the exam hall they don’t seem to want to do the narrative stuff. The P1 examiner stressed: “It suggests that candidates do not understand why they are carrying out calculations and are unable to comment on the strengths and

weaknesses of what they are calculating.” Another area CIMA candidates need to master is showing their workings. The F1 examiner said that there seems to be an increase in the number of candidates not showing adequate workings. “This made it more difficult for markers to award the correct marks as markers could not see how figures were arrived

CIMA calculator problems #2 Students sitting the CBA exams have got to be able to practise with the online calculator, says a leading tutor. The way that CIMA has set up the exams means the first time students use the calculator could be in the stressed

environment of sitting an exam. “I have seen PQs in tears because they couldn’t use it,” he told PQ magazine. The tutor went as far as saying that it could deter students from studying CIMA.

at.” So, it is essential that adequate workings are shown for every question or marks could be lost. Finally, the P2 examiner has reiterated that you should only use blue or black ink, although pencils can be used in diagrams. “Do not write in red ink or pencil,” they said. The reason is simple – writing in red causes difficulties for the marking team who use red ink for their marking!

Current students can watch a video of someone using the calculator. “That is madness,” he said. Perhaps more critically he felt it wasn’t a great calculator, either. He pointed to the fact that the ICAEW gives all its exam centres calculators which they then hand over to students, who simply give them back after the exam is over.

Don’t launder money

Students are being warned not to be unwittingly sucked into money laundering. Criminals are targeting students to become ‘money mules’, and in doing so allowing their bank accounts to be used to disguise the proceeds of crime. It appears that students and job hunters are especially vulnerable, says a study carried out by Financial Fraud Action. The worry is that some 19% of students who were approached admitted they had agreed to help launder money through their bank Ernst & Young hands over $123m Ernst & Young in the US has admitted wrongful conduct by certain partners and employees in connection with the firm’s participation in four tax shelters that were used by around 200 clients to defer, reduce or eliminate tax liabilities to the tune of over $2bn. Ernst & Young has entered into a ‘non-prosecution agreement’ with the US and agreed to pay $123m.

account. “It’s a serious problem,” said DCI Dave Carter. The fraudsters send out mass emails offering employment, or sift through CVs posted by job seekers on employment websites. They offer positions such as ‘money transfer agents’ and ‘administration assistants’, or even ‘payment processing agents’. Dirty money is then paid into the account and the ‘mule’ transfers it to an account in an overseas bank taking a cut of the cash, usually around 8%.

Best place to work Ernst & Young has been recognised as one of the UK’s leading employers in the Sunday Times ‘25 Best Big Companies to Work For’ index. It achieved a ranking of 14th, ahead of the likes of Accenture, Deloitte and KPMG. E&Y was praised by the judges for its approach to work-life balance. PwC hit with lawsuit Cattles, the WestYorkshire based lender, has issued a £1.6bn

Nominations needed now

Calling all CIPFA students – do you know someone who deserves the Tom Sowerby award? The award is presented each year for outstanding service to CIPFA students and was established by Tom Sowerby, President of CIPFA from 1973 to 1974. Closing date for nomination is Friday 22 March. For more details take a look at www.cipfa.org/awards. lawsuit against its former auditors PwC. The FTSE 250 company’s lending subsidiary collapsed in 2008, and Cattles’ supervisor Zolfo Cooper has issued the writ. Cooper is claiming that PwC lacked professional scepticism as auditor and failed to do even the basic investigations expected. In a claim that echoes some of the Competition Commission’s recent inquiry findings it goes on to say that the firm accepted representations made by management without seeking any adequate corroborative evidence. PQ Magazine April 2013


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PQ news

PREM SIKKA Debits for the credit rating agencies

Moody’s, the credit rating agency, has downgraded the UK government’s debt rating from AAA to Aa1. This may increase government borrowing costs and deepen the austerity programme, and reduce the value of the pound. There should be a serious scrutiny of the models used by credit rating agencies. Bermuda, whose opaque structures often enable wealthy elites to avoid taxes elsewhere, is rated Aa2 while the economic powerhouse China is rated Aa3. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is rated Aa3, the same as the Cayman Islands, well known for fiddle factories facilitating tax avoidance. In December 2009, Moody’s said: “Investors’ fears that the Greek government may be exposed to a liquidity crisis in the short term are misplaced”. Four months later Greece was negotiating bailout deals. Credit rating agencies have been complicit in the banking crash. They gave AAA rating to exotic securities marketed by banks which turned out to be junk. Lehman Brothers and US insurance giant AIG received A-ratings just days before their collapse and bailouts. The US government has sued Standard and Poor’s (S&P) for issuing “inflated ratings that misrepresented the securities’ true credit risk”. The Australian case of Bathurst Regional Council v Local Government Financial Services Pty Ltd (No 5) [2012] has held that S&P is liable for its “misleading and deceptive” ratings. Perhaps a threat of liability will encourage reflection on the nature of credit rating models. ■ Prem Sikka is professor of accountancy at the University of Essex

AQ2013 is coming September will see the official launch of the AAT’s updated core accounting qualification. The newlook qualification (known as AQ2013) takes on board the changes needed to bring it in line with the National Occupational Standards. The AAT is also taking the opportunity to introduce improvements to the qualification arising out of two-and-a-half years’ experience of delivering over 500,000 CBAs, says education director Suzie Webb (pictured). Looking at the transitional

Five Star performer He may have been called “a clown” by Italian’s president Giorgio Napolitano, but did you know that the former stand-up comedian who heads up the Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, trained to be an accountant? He can’t be too much of a clown – his party won 8.7 million votes, more than any other party at the Italian

elections. His accounting diploma has added an edge to his comedy. During the Parmalat scandal he was called to testify, and he highlighted the diary conglomerate’s imminent demise in a show. He told the judges that the financial holes were so evident that anybody who had enough ability to see them would see them.

Bean-counting nerds? Not us!

77% of final year students had Continued from front page never considered accountancy. disagrees that the audit market is Spofforth said that students’ not serving shareholders. It said perceptions are shaped most competition between audit firms is strongly by work experience and healthy and robust and that the internships. “Views about evidence supports this. auditing being a dull, deskPwC’s Richard EXAM in a bound job disappear Sexton said that t s e TIP: Invalculator. the CC has when they go out on c scientific client visits and see that grossly r phone in social interaction is a Using you n’t take it underestimated u ca crucial part of audit e the critical role class? Yo m, buy on x e work,” he claims. that audit in the a ou can The research found that committees play in ASAP so y ! practise where one parent, especially protecting the mum, is an accountant, then interests of shareholders. the student is far more likely to Deloitte “categorically disagree that consider an accountancy career. auditors typically place the interests of management over shareholders”. KPMG stressed it does not support the suggestion of into that mindset. For more see mandatory tendering or rotation. It next month’s ‘conference special’. believes the FRC’s idea of tendering every 10 years on a ‘comply or A popular choice explain’ basis is already having a Public service organisations significant impact. across Nottingham have received Meanwhile, BDO said: “We are over 800 applications for its onepleased that the CC has confirmed stop-shop training initiative. Up to that there are significant flaws in the eight graduates will be employed structure of the FTSE 350 audit and funded to study while working market.” The challenge for the audit for the county council, six district profession now is to demonstrate its councils, police authority and fire true independence, it said. services. Successful candidates • For an in-depth look at the start working in June on fixed-term commission’s findings (a real three-and-a-half-year contracts. ‘current issue’) turn to page 14

More needs to be done to counter the idea that accountancy is boring, says ICAEW President Mark Spofforth. He is concerned by new research that shows graduates think the profession offers little intellectual stimulus and makes no contribution to society. He explains: “Accountants are not seen as ethical or associated with sustainability issues and are dismissed as bean-counting nerds.” Research among the eight topclass universities in the UK found

In brief No limits There is no limit on the number of Indian students that can come to British universities, says PM David Cameron. On a threeday visit to India he added a proviso – “as long as they had an English Language qualification and a place to study”. He felt that Britain and India could be “one of the great partnerships of the 21st century”, and stressed there was a warm welcome for those who 10

arrangements, she explained that most units at all three levels are ‘equivalent in both versions’. A small number will require students to complete a simple transitional

assessment in order to ‘top up’ their competency. The AAT believes that given the time available before the switch over to AQ2013, most training providers will be looking to ensure that students complete the level of the qualification they are studying. They can then start the next level in the new version of the assessment. Training providers will be further briefed on the new qualification, and will have the opportunity to quiz AAT staff and assessors on any areas of concern at the conference in Birmingham on 18 April. PQ magazine will also be there. • See page 22 for more on this.

wanted to make a positive contribution to the UK. That said, the number of study visas issued to Indian nationals dropped by a half to 20,300 in 2012. Think like an auditor The ACCA F8 examiner wants candidates to think like an auditor. She told delegates at the Lecturers’ Conference that when she asks a question on audit risk she doesn’t want a management response. “You are the auditor,” she said, and she wants candidates to get

Lead investigator Laura Carstensen

Where’s the independence?

PQ Magazine April 2013


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PQ news

IMA concessions for ACCAs The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the ACCA’s partner in the US, has waived its usual bachelor’s degree requirement for ACCA members wishing to obtain the IMA’s much-sought-after CMA qualification The bachelor’s degree waiver will allow all ACCA members around the world, regardless of background, access to IMA’s CMA qualification. ACCAs will still have to take the twopart CMA exam and satisfy the twoyear experience requirement in a management accounting job role. The ACCA believes that this move will benefit ACCA members who wish to have US-based credentials

Independent reviews rule The web has revolutionised the way we shop. Whatever we are looking to buy we use the web to seek out online ratings, peer reviews and even YouTube videos. These digital data points have become a crucial part of our decision-making

ACCA CEO Helen Brand said: “Our global strategic partnership with IMA was created with the aim of bringing benefits to our members. Our partnership agreement is based on empowering accountants and financial professionals to drive business performance. “We welcome this new opportunity for our members specialising in management accounting roles and the enhanced recognition this can bring, especially for our many members who work for US-headquartered corporates.� Further details about the CMA certification programme can be found at www.imanet.org/acca.

Brand: empowering accountants or wish to have additional recognition of their management accounting expertise.

process and give us an insight into what it is like to own/experience a product from the perspective of the owners, giving us that extra level of detail to help us decide. Now Kaplan Financial has launched independent student reviews through a third party company called Reevoo, to help it revolutionise the way

prospective students make their enrolment decisions. In just one click on the Kaplan Financial website, prospective students can read real, unedited reviews from existing students. They can see ratings on the key elements of each course: study material, industry relevance, study

Record year for CIMA recruitment

CIMA has announced record growth figures for 2012 as the institute’s global footprint continues to expand. More than 29,000 new students joined CIMA last year, taking the total population of students and members to over 200,000. CIMA enjoyed massive growth in new and emerging markets. A record number of new students in Poland and Russia chose CIMA, while Bangladesh and Ukraine saw an increase of 303% and 235% respectively.

support, flexibility of study options, value for money and of course an overall score. Prospective students can also see some of the pros and cons each reviewer has left. Peter Houillon, CEO of Kaplan UK (pictured), said: “Our students are the most important part of the Kaplan

experience. They trust us to deliver the best possible training experience and we trust them to provide the most useful advice to prospective students.� Over the past few months, more than 18,000 reviews have been collected for over 2,000 different courses. See some of these reviews at www.kaplanfinancial.co.uk/ accarevision.

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PQ current issues

T

he message seems pretty straightforward – auditors work for ‘the management’. The Competition Commission’s findings of its investigation into the audit market were delayed – by just a few weeks – but it has now said clearly that although auditors are appointed to protect the interests of shareholders, who are therefore the primary customers, too often auditors focus on meeting the needs of senior management, who are key decision takers on whether to retain their services. This means they focus on factors that are not aligned with shareholders’ best interests. What is interesting is just how conservative the FTSE 100 companies really are, at least when it comes to their auditors. These so-called dynamic businesses aren’t that at all. The CC found that 31% of FTSE 100 companies and 20% of FTSE 250 companies have had the same auditor for more than 20 years. And 67% of FTSE 100 companies and 52% of FTSE 250 companies have had the same auditors for more than 10 years. The CC said that the lack of competition is likely to lead to higher prices, lower quality and less innovation for companies, and a failure to meet the demands of shareholders and investors. It is now looking at ways to encourage competition through mandatory tendering and rotation, increasing transparency, and strengthening accountability, and independence by giving audit committees and shareholders greater control of external audit. The other concern is that while management may have

Working for the ‘management’, not shareholders Graham Hambly takes a look at the preliminary findings of the market investigation into the supply of statutory audit services to large firms incentives to present their accounts in the most favourable light, shareholders’ interests can be quite different. The chairman of the audit investigation group, Laura Carstensen, said: “We have found that there can be benefits to companies and their shareholders from switching auditors, but too often senior management at large companies are inclined to stick with what they know, particularly when it is difficult to compare with the alternatives and the incumbent auditors are in a strong position to hold on to the business.” Carstensen said that there is significant dissatisfaction among some institutional

investors with the relevance and extent of reporting in audited financial reports. She stressed that this needs to change so that external audit becomes a more genuinely independent and challenging exercise where auditors are less like corporate advisors and more like examining inspectors. The problem now is the sheer challenge to change a long-standing and entrenched system. But the CC is determined to create a situation where tendering and switching becomes the norm, and where greater transparency and information increase both the ‘contestability’ of the market and the ability of shareholders to

PQ group accounts

All in it together Tom Clendon’s five things you need know about group accounts

1. The basic principle Group accounts are prepared in accordance with the substance over form concept. While the parent and subsidiary are separate legal entities group accounts are prepared as if they were a single entity. The preparation of group accounts is a bit like preparing a single set of accounts for my marriage. If I borrow cash from my wife then I have the liability of a payable, and my wife has the asset of a receivable. However, from the perspective of the marriage there is no external liability or asset. In a similar way, in group accounts any balances or transactions between the parent and the subsidiary have to be eliminated on consolidation. 2. Theory There is lots of accounting theory connected to group accounts and it 14

really does help when approaching questions if you can see the big picture. For example, it is useful to understand exactly what is meant by control, by fair value, and the consequences of measuring NCI at acquisition at fair value or as a proportion of net assets. This is because the theory is often examined in a written form – but also understanding the theory helps with doing the numbers as well.

using proformas. These proformas are invaluable aids in helping you approach even the trickiest questions. A little bit of rote learning here is a good thing.

3. Proformas Group accounts are primarily examined in number-crunching questions. Help is at hand, though, as there are proformas for every calculation. For example, goodwill, post-acquisition profits, NCI, retained earnings, disposals, associates and group exchange difference can all be calculated

5. How useful are group accounts? Let’s imagine that my unemployed teenage son approaches you for a loan and in support of his application he presents you with the consolidated accounts of the Clendon family, which comprises me, my son and my wife. These accounts would show the aggregate of the assets, liabilities, income and

4. Question practice Once you have understood the theory and rote learnt the proforma then this is the key to passing exams. So it is important to do lots of question practice. My book, A student’s guide to group accounts, contains lots of examples and questions, and there are extra questions online, too.

expenses of the three of us. An analysis of these family accounts show strong profitability and liquidity ratios revealing that all is well in the Clendon family finances. As a lender to my son, how much weight would you put on these Clendon family accounts? I hope very little; after all, remember you would be lending to my unemployed son as an individual, and not to the family. It is much more relevant for a prospective lender to look at his assets and his income (BTW he has none!). On this basis, lenders to a subsidiary company should not be taken in by a strong set of group accounts and should assess the credit worthiness based on the financial statements of the individual company. PQ • Tom Clendon is a former PQ Tutor of the year. ‘A student’s guide to group accounts’ is available from kaplanbooks.co.uk (twitter@tomclendon)

GREAT GIVEAWAYS PQ has two copies of Tom Clendon’s second edition of ‘A student’s guide to group accounts’ (published by Kaplan Publishing) to give away. See page 21 for more

PQ Magazine April 2013


current issues PQ

Facts & figures • 67% of FTSE 100 companies have had the same auditors for more than 10 years • The average tenure of an auditor of a FTSE 100 company is 43 years • Barclays has had the same auditor for the last 117 years (PwC in its various guises) • Auditors have misaligned incentives, as between shareholders and company management, and so compete to satisfy management rather than shareholder demand, where the demands of executive management and shareholders differ. • Auditors face barriers to the provision of information that shareholders demand (in particular, from the reluctance of company management to permit further disclosure).

judge the service they are getting. The CC explained that it also wanted to increase shareholders influence and that of the audit committee over the choice of auditor. The Competition Commission’s main points • Companies face significant hurdles in comparing the offering of an incumbent auditor with those of alternative suppliers other than through a tender process. • It is difficult for companies to judge audit quality in advance due to the nature of audit.

• Companies and firms invest in a relationship of mutual trust and confidence from which neither will lightly walk away, as this means the loss of the benefits of continuity stemming from the relationship. • Company management faces significant opportunity costs in the management time involved in the selection and education of a new auditor. • Mid-tier firms face experience and reputational barriers to expansion and selection in the FTSE 350 audit market.

The Competition Commission’s remedies • Mandatory tendering. • Mandatory rotation of audit firm. • Expanded remit and/or frequency of Audit Quality Review team. • Prohibition of ‘Big-4 only’ clauses in loan documentation. • Strengthening of accountability of the External Auditor to the Audit Committee. • Enhanced shareholder-auditor engagement. • Extend reporting requirements. The CC will take into account proposals for the audit market currently being discussed by the EU and how its package of remedies may interact with those. PQ

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ifa.org.uk 15


PQ ATT focus

An age-old

problem

Sarah Thomas guides you through the maze that is personal pensions

P

ensions is a topical area, as we begin to face up to the challenges of saving sufficiently for an enjoyable retirement. The government is keen that we each take on some responsibility for saving for our retirement and so offers generous tax incentives to encourage pension saving. In addition, all employers will have to provide workers with a workplace pension scheme by law over the next few years. The biggest employers started doing this in October 2012. Currently, some sort of state pension should be available to most individuals on reaching retirement age. The current maximum level for a single person is £107.45, funded via national insurance contributions. While in our early working life we may feel that other needs such as saving for a house, family, holidays, etc, are more immediate and pressing, most of us would like a little more comfort in our retirement, so the sooner we start saving for a pension the better. 16

The main tax efficient ways of providing funds for retirement are via a workplace or occupational pension scheme (available to some employees) or via a personal pension scheme (available to both employees and self-employed individuals). As previously mentioned, over the next few years all employers will have to offer their workers a workplace pension. This will involve both contributions being made by the employer and the employee. While there will be an opt-out clause for employees they will lose the benefit of the employer contributions if they choose not to participate. As long as pension schemes are registered with HMRC the pension funds do not pay income tax or capital gains tax and so grow taxfree. At retirement, a limited tax-free lump sum (up to 25%) may be taken and the rest of the fund generates an annual taxable income for the taxpayer during retirement. With tax relief on contributions, tax-free growth

and potentially no tax on 25% of the fund extracted, pensions can be a very tax efficient investment. The downside is we have to wait until we’re at least 55 to realise this investment, but then that is the purpose of a pension after all! The gross contribution qualifying for tax relief that a taxpayer can make into pension schemes each year is the higher of 100% of relevant earnings for the tax year or £3,600. Remember this is the gross amount, but personal pensions are actually paid net of 20% tax. For personal pensions this means £2,880 can be actually paid into a pension fund for anyone, even without earnings. This could be used by grandparents, to set aside money for a grandchild’s pension. ‘Relevant earnings’ includes employment income, trading income and income from furnished holiday lets. The mechanism for obtaining tax relief depends on whether it is a personal or workplace pension. Relief is given on amounts contributed to the personal pension scheme by the taxpayer – basic rate relief is given at source by the taxpayer only paying 80% of the contribution. Higher and additional rate relief is given by extending the basic and higher rate bands by the gross contribution. So, when doing an income tax computation you must always look to see if a personal pension payment has been made and remember to extend the tax thresholds by 100/80 x the amount paid. Net pay arrangements . Employees can make pension payments to workplace schemes under “net pay arrangements” whereby PAYE is applied to salary after the pension contribution has been deducted. In this case, the pension contribution is deducted in arriving at the Employment Income figure to be included in the tax computation and no adjustment is needed to the thresholds. If the employer contributes to the scheme, which is a requirement of workplace schemes but also possible for personal pension schemes this is a tax-free benefit, but must be considered when looking at the annual allowance (see below). There are further rules to ensure the most wealthy do not get excessive tax relief. First, the annual allowance, currently £50,000, is the most that can be input into pensions for an individual in one tax year and get full tax relief. The input includes both employee and employer contributions as well as gross contributions made to a personal pension scheme. Any input in excess of the annual allowance is subject to a tax charge on the individual at their marginal rate of tax thus negating any tax relief given by the mechanisms described above. Second, there is a lifetime allowance, currently £1.5 million. On accessing the funds on retirement if the fund value exceeds the lifetime allowance then additional tax charges are invoked on the excess fund value at the point of exit. PQ • Sarah Thomas is a senior tutor at Tolley Exam Training, part of LexisNexis. She can be contacted on 020 3364 4500 or at examtraining@lexisnexis.co.uk PQ Magazine April 2013


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PQ ACCA conference

ALL CHANGE

in 2014!

The first of our reports from the Nottingham Lecturers’ Conference

D

irector of e-learning Clare Minchington was the person everyone had come to hear at this year’s ACCA Lecturers’ Conference. She had promised to unveil what the future would look like for students, tutors and employers – and she didn’t disappoint. She revealed that the ACCA was going for four exam sitting periods each year, so it was not to be exams on demand for every level. When the ACCA had asked employers if they wanted exams on demand, back came a positive ‘yes’ – but they also wanted them structured and targeted. When Minchington drilled down, what employers really wanted was four sittings a year. “They didn’t want exams every day of the year. They liked the idea of having control over what was happening,” revealed Minchington. The ACCA is also promising to run computerbased exams alongside some papers post-2014. Minchington emphasised that being able to read

ACCA’s Vision

Exam Year: 1 September – 31 August CBE on demand: FIA – F1 – F4 Sittings: September, December, March, June F5-F9 can offer on computer P1-P7 as stand still need paper-based exam, but can answer on computer.

Transition timeline Exam change F1-F3 F4

Changes to F4-F9 paper format Planning beyond F4 CBC

Target date February 2014 CBE September 2014 December 2014 – still paper/CBA Ongoing

what students write has become a big issue, so exams online could help pass rates. The changes aren’t going to stop there, either. Minchington stressed that 24 years ago, when she sat accountancy exams, what was happening in the workplace and what students were asked to do in the exam were not too far removed. That, she stressed, is not the case today. How many of you go into work and are given a calculator and pen and paper and asked to get on with it? Employers want the gap between the relevance of exams and relevance of skills in the workplace closed and, rightly, so do the ACCA. That means the association must try to simulate in the exam what is happening at work. That could mean a big change in the style of questions. On top of this, Michington acknowledged there is an expectation of what technology can make happen. So, future exams will have to reflect how ACCA PQs live and work. They also have to provide increased flexibility. Also, important to the ACCA is maintaining the qualifications rigour and security. The integrity of the qualification is paramount to Minchington. “It is the reason we have been so successful,” she ventured. Minchington stressed that the qualification is trusted: “You can’t cheat or bribe your way to getting the qualification, and this gives it currency.” Minchington is now working overtime to create the computer based exams that will replace the current set up. She pointed out that these new exam questions won’t be just multiple choice questions or test your computer skills. While F5–F9 lend themselves to a move to CBE, there appears to be some debate still going on about the ‘P’ papers, which Michington felt needed to be offered on paper. It is envisaged

that the ACCA will offer both paper and computer exams to start with. Although not ideal to have paper and computer-based exams running in parallel, she said the decision about which way it goes will be taken on a market-tomarket basis. The ACCA also won’t be able to release the papers after each sitting, they will have to go back into the bank. That means more practice tests will be available. PQ editor Graham Hambly had an exclusive

PQ MAGAZINE GOES GLOBAL

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PQ Magazine April 2013


ACCA conference PQ

Examiners are set to become anonymous

interview with Minchington straight after her presentation. She agreed we had stolen her thunder – our February issue pushed students demand for four exams a year, rather than exams on demand. “I didn’t need to do all that research, I should have just read PQ,” she joked. She then went on to explain just how extensive the research had been. But, for Minchington, it all is common sense stuff, taking the best of all worlds to help maintain the ACCA as the leading global accountancy qualification. PQ

THE VOICE OF ALL NQs Contact us

email: graham@pqaccountant twitter: @pqmagazine facebook: pqmag call 020 7216 6427

P8

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

TENDERING & AUDIT P19

can ‘manage’ your CV

MARKETING MAKE EASY P16

What are the new ‘imperatives’?

MEET JONATHAN, AN NQ STAR Our NQ of the Year spills the beans

P20

STILL ILL…?

What we can learn from the Mid-Staffs scandal

TROUBLE AT THE TOWN HALL GOVERNANCE UPDATE P18 Sir Roger Carr on Cadbury’s code – an antidote to risk

Mr P1, above, and Mr F7

Those studying on their own will have no clue where to look. A change of examiner could, despite what ACCA says, mean a change in the style of exams. Those in the know will know this and have the perception of an advantage, even if it means little. As one examiner told us, being the only professional body that names the examiner could be seen as a good thing as well as a bad thing. “We are the only ones who are transparent and provide a connection with the exam process. Now we are just like the rest.” There was also a worry that the exams could become merely management by committee and some transparency could be lost in the system. “We are in danger of de-personalising the qualification,” said another leading educator. It was pointed out that for many years there hasn’t been a problem. “Facebook has been around for a few years,” said one examiner, “so why has it suddenly become a problem?”

Say hello, wave goodbye The examiners F1 Robert Souster F2 Stephen Jay F3 Jodie Lucas F4 David Kelly F5 Ann Irons F6 David Harrowven F7 Stephen Scott F8 Pami Bahl F9 Antony Head P1 David Campbell P2 Graham Holt P3 Steve Skidmore P4 Shishir Malde P5 Alex Watt P6 Rory Fish P7 Lisa Weaver

Check it out now – the all-new NQ!

MARCH 2013

WHO OWNS YOUR CV? P11 Lisa Dendle on how you

Just before leaving for Nottingham an email arrived on PQ magazine’s desk. We were told that in common with other professional bodies, the ACCA has decided to adopt a policy of no longer naming its examiners. It is arguing that the exam is, and always has been, composed and agreed using a panel of experts, and the examiner is the lead person on this panel and not the only person. The ACCA goes on to explain that it is now embarking on the process of removing the names of the examiners from its website, as well as from all the resources that are provided that mention examiners’ names. Obviously, there will be textbooks out there with their name in, but publishers are being asked to remove them as soon as is practically possible. Now, the ACCA has promised that tutors will still have access to the examiners in the future, but they are being encouraged to ‘forget who they are’. At the Lecturers’ Conference the ACCA’s director of Learning, Alan Hatfield, said there had been an erosion of privacy boundaries and some inappropriate approaches to examiners via social media sites. “All we are asking is that you no longer mention names in the classroom,” he said. He also stressed that if you want to blame anyone for a ‘bad’ exam then it should be the ACCA because it controls the quality process. However, as one tutor explained, this opens up the question of fairness. If you attend a classroom course the tutor will know who the examiner is and be able to point the student in the right direction.

How to tackle the moral maze of local government

PQ Magazine April 2013

P15

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It's packed with articles from industry experts that will help you do your job better

Sign up today via the PQ magazine website – www.pqmagazine.co.uk 19


PQ CIMA exams

Post-exam GUIDANCE

CIMA’s examiners provide real pointers for May sitters by looking at the November exam papers P1 PERFORMANCE OPERATIONS....

The November sitting produced a ‘reasonable’ pass rate (49% globally), although this was lower than the most recent two main sittings. There were apparently very few marginal candidates – you either passed this one well or failed badly. Students particularly liked the ABC question (Q3). Q1.7 was not done well, even though this is a certificate level subject. Q1.8 was ‘badly done’ – most sitters scored zero. The examiner felt that the results highlighted the tendency to rote-learn rather than understand what they are actually doing. Q2 and Q4 presented problems for sitters. In Q4 the NPV was negative and this caused some difficulties, which was exacerbated when candidates failed to treat a cost saving as a positive cash flow. The examiner pointed out that some PQs still seem unable to calculate even the basic variances, and have little idea what they are calculating. Students also don’t like doing narrative.

P2 PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT....

A little disappointing is how the examiner described the 44% global pass rate, particularly as the paper contained many core areas that regularly appear in exam papers. The November paper included variance analysis, the learning curve, budgeting and quality costs, JIT calculations, limiting factors and break-even analysis, and transfer pricing with minimum and maximum pricing issues. The examiner is concerned that many PQs are just not prepared for the exam, and are competent only on certain parts of the syllabus. Are students practising enough or even looking at past papers, it was wondered. The real concern about students is: • They have not studied the entire syllabus. • They have not read relevant articles. • They have not addressed any knowledge gaps relating to P1. • They have not digested the content of previous PEGs. • They have not practised using CIMA-style questions. • They have not completed an intensive revision session. 20

P3 PERFORMANCE STRATEGY....

Overall, performance was good and the global pass rate a healthy 54%. The main problem for people who didn’t pass was their failure to apply the knowledge to the scenario, and missing out chunks of the questions. The examiner pointed out that there is less choice now and only one question can be missed out. Financial risk is also 35% of the syllabus. This means that Q1 will contain some financial risk. The answers to Q1 part C was appalling, said the examiner. Q2 was obviously answered by those who could not do the numbers in Q3, but they hadn’t studied this part of the syllabus at all so marks were hard to come by. Many PQs chose Q3 (financial risk) because they could do the numbers, but they still struggled to get a pass because they didn’t answer the rest of the question.

F2 FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT....

No mucking about from the examiner over the November paper – we are told straight away that candidates did well in the pensions, financial instruments and both consolidation questions, but struggled with the narrative elements of the paper. The examiner was surprised at how badly students answered the question on convergence of international standards (Q5). It is the biggest thing to happen in the world of accountancy for decades! The question was broken down into four sections and so only a broad understanding of the issues was required. The areas being tested in this part of the syllabus cover areas without traditional accounting treatment and will always be tested in a narrative question, said the examiner. Application will still be required and it will be common for the requirement to ask for consideration of the area from the viewpoint of investors, reporting entities, students and other users. Future candidates would do well to consider the technical content in this manner.

F3 FINANCIAL STRATEGY....

Q1 in November dealt with a tender offer, a topic that hasn’t been examined that often. The rest of the questions would have been ‘seen’ in recent papers. There was no evidence of time pressure in the exam and most candidates attempted all the questions within the time limit. The examiner is concerned about the deteriorating quality of candidates’ answers. Some students don’t even tell the marker which question is being answered, a problem exacerbated when a candidate answers bits of questions all over the place, muddling up answers to more than one question. The examiner revealed that in the narrative section up to two or three marks are available for each valid point. Only 0.5 marks are awarded for a bullet point, one mark for some attempt at discussion rising to two for good discussion. You get the three marks if you do all that and include an appropriate illustrated example. PQ PQ Magazine April 2013


giveaways PQ

’ WEV E

GOT THE L OT

Complete Learning Solution PQ magazine has teamed up with Kaplan Publishing to offer one reader the chance to win an ACCA Complete Learning Solution for the paper of your choice. Kaplan Publishing is an ACCA Gold Approved Learning partner (content) and all Kaplan study materials are written by subject specialists who are also experienced tutors – they know what works for students and how best to deliver it. Kaplan’s Complete Learning Solutions contain all of the ACCA study materials you need to succeed in your exams, plus a final assessment for effective exam preparation. • To enter this prize draw email graham@pqaccountant.com heading your correspondence ‘Complete Solutions’

A curious truth…

Look around you and numbers are everywhere. On your pint glass, your golf ball, on the car you drive and even the food you eat. Where have these numbers come from? Who decides what they are? In ‘The Secret Lives of

Numbers’ their mysterious stories are exposed. At long last, their number’s up... (see review on page 29). This book is great fun and you will actually learn something at the same time! • We have three copies of this book to give away. So email graham@pqaccountant with the heading ‘Secret Lives of Numbers’ to go in the draw

Group accounts

PQ has two copies of Tom Clendon’s second edition of ‘A student’s guide to group accounts’ (published by Kaplan Publishing) to give away. This book contains all you need to know about group accounts. It assumes no prior knowledge and takes you through from first principles to the most complex of group accounting issues. This colourful book is easy on the eye and contains simple explanations with plenty of worked examples alongside mind maps, and recaps of essential proformas (see page 14 for more). It has web content to provide additional questions essential for reinforcing your understanding. • Send an email headed ‘Group accounts’ to graham@pqaccountant.com, with your name and address and you could be a lucky winner

Terms and conditions: One entry per giveaway please. You must send your name and address to be entered for the draw. All giveaway entries must be received by Friday 5 April. The main draw will take place on Monday 8 April.

TO ENTER THESE GIVEAWAYS EMAIL GRAHAM@PQACCOUNTANT.COM

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PQ Magazine April 2013

21


PQ AAT developments

T

he AAT has been working hard to ensure that the changes to the core qualification, which is being launched in September 2013, are what their stakeholders want, and that the introduction goes smoothly. Following an extensive consultation exercise, AAT has informed training providers and learners of the forthcoming changes to content, together with the transition arrangements. The AAT has recognised that there is a range of different areas in which it can help to add more value and financial expertise for learners and employers. So AAT will be introducing three new qualifications: Computerised Accounting; Bookkeeping; and Taxation and Ethics. These qualifications are designed to develop key accountancy and finance knowledge, and have been produced following conversations with training providers, students and employers. The three new qualifications will complement the AAT core accountancy qualifications and will enable students to develop valuable finance skills. They will be delivered through training providers and can be studied, full time, part time and via distance learning. AAT director of education Suzie Webb said: “We are extremely excited at the prospect of being able to expand our qualifications offer in order to meet the wider needs of our stakeholders. “These three qualifications signal the start of a development process that will continue to respond to market feedback. It will be vital that we ensure that all our new qualifications continue to offer the high quality and robust assessment and competency based outcomes that people associate with AAT, and this is central to our future planned developments.” The AAT Level 2 Award in Computerised Accounting will be a single unit qualification. It is designed for those wanting to enter or progress in the field of computerised accounts. Students will take one project-based assessment delivered by computer and marked by assessors. The Certificate in Bookkeeping is also a short qualification at Level 2, designed to help students 22

CHANGE FOR THE

BETTER

PQ magazine outlines the impending changes to the AAT qualification and explain how they will impact studiers

develop essential bookkeeping skills. Once completed, they will have developed an understanding of basic accounting practices and techniques including double-entry bookkeeping. Students will take two online assessments of twoand-a-half hours each, to make sure that they’ve grasped the appropriate skills and knowledge. This will provide an ideal entry route for students who then wish to progress to study for the full AAT Certificate in Accounting at Level 2. The third development is at a higher level, offering both progression for existing students and the ability for specialisation for those who have

already qualified or might be seeking further professional development. The new qualification will offer a different exit point at Level 4, allowing those who want to specialise in tax to do so under the AAT umbrella. It will also demonstrate to employers or clients that a significant benchmark has been achieved. The qualification will offer a thorough understanding of the basic UK tax system and will equip successful students to provide tax advice and services to the self-employed (sole traders), as well as work in other rewarding areas such as industry, commerce and the public sector. Students will take four assessments; one a computer-based project, the other three via computer based tests. AAT Level 4 qualifications are also a proven stepping stone to the next level of chartered status. AAT will be publishing further information on all of their new qualifications in due course.

PQ Magazine April 2013


AAT developments PQ Learning services and support . To support both new and existing qualifications, AAT has put in place ground-breaking support for both tutors and learners in the area of e-learning. This approach was recognised at the 2012 Elearning Awards, hosted by E-learning Age magazine, where AAT was the gold medal winner in the ‘Rapid e-learning’ category. Students have 24-hour access to e-learning across Levels 2-4 and AAT Access Level 1. AAT is planning to continue to produce innovative resources to support the delivery of its existing and new qualifications. Learning support includes: • Short interactive e-learning modules including 13 new modules at Level 1. • Interactive PDFs, which can be filled in online or printed and filled in offline. These are aimed at busy people who have little PC time at home. • ‘Greenlight’ diagnostic quiz questions, which help learners to determine how they are doing in a particular area of their course. • Assessment briefings for students. • Practice assessments. • A glossary of key accounting terms. AAT has set up a separate bookkeeping elearning area on the site to support the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping. In addition, AAT has recently produced elearning that supports students and members to fill out self-assessment and P11D tax forms. This year, VAT and corporation tax e-learning will be added to this suite of products. AAT will soon launch a mobile area for its elearning from which students will be able to access all our e-learning via tablet devices. This

will enable learners to access e-learning ‘on the go’, as well as at their PCs. AAT will be continuing to develop further online support over the next few years by engaging with students and tutors to find out which areas of their courses they find difficult. “The new e-learning resources have proved incredibly popular with both tutors and students alike, and I’m pleased that we have been able to develop something that has added such clear value,” said Webb. “In the first 15 months of offering Greenlight tests over 484,000 tests have been taken. I think that’s a fantastic achievement and tells us that we’re clearly doing something that people want. Innovative assessments . AAT is well known for its computer based assessments. In 2011 and 2012, students studying for an AAT qualification at Levels 1–4 sat over 500,000 computer based assessments (CBA). Computer based assessments have now become the norm for AAT students, and by the end of 2013 paper based exams of the traditional type will no longer be available to students, except in cases where reasonable adjustment makes them an appropriate option. Developing the updates and changes to the core qualification gives AAT a great opportunity to look at areas where the assessments would benefit from adjustment, to improve the student experience and enhance the way questions are written and feedback to students is provided. The assessments for the accounting qualification (AQ) are designed to be real tests of a student’s knowledge and skills in a realistic work

environment. The assessments require students to display their knowledge and complete a wide range of practical accounting tasks using a variety of question types, from multiple choice questions to written answer questions. AAT has invested heavily in technology tools that provide assessment writers with numerous options for developing questions that test student competence in ways that are innovative, as well as being both valid and reliable. For some people, CBAs mean questions are limited to rather a simple and basic list of options. AAT does not hold with this criticism and, as well as computer based tests that are automatically marked by the system, also offers computer based projects, which are marked by training providers. These projects range from a ‘paper’ that is downloaded and completed on screen during a formal sitting, to a long project that students have up to six months to complete and is based on a detailed examination of internal controls and accounting systems, using a work based scenario. As an example, one of the principles that AAT follows in terms of question design is to allow, where appropriate, for ‘own figure marking’. What this means is that even if a student puts in an incorrect figure at the beginning of a calculation, the marking scheme programmed into the assessment software will give credit for the student following the correct process, even if the final figure is also not correct. Whilst AAT recognises the importance of an accounting technician getting the figures right, it also recognises the importance of the process the technician undertakes. PQ

Reached the top? Looking to further your tax knowledge or progress your career in tax? The ATT has the answer with an exam structure offering a choice of eight subjects. Gain a Certificate of Competency or continue to full membership of the leading professional body dealing with U K tax compliance. The choice is yours! For further details please visit the ATT website at www.att.org.uk or call the Association of Taxation Technicians on 020 7340 0551

PQ Magazine April 2013

23


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exam guidance PQ

Jump for joy

then make sure you get the marks

There’s no excuse for not scoring heavily when it comes to PESTEL analysis, says Matt Holden

Even though the answer is often obvious, it has to be down on paper. So, nine points spread across six sub-headings. Three of the six will have two points and the other three only one. Spread your work out and give yourself the flexibility to go back if required and add in a point. There is no need to plan which of the six sub-sections will have two points, just see what flows as you write. But, remember, you have done the initial plan of assessing how many points you’re going for to begin with.

P

ESTEL analysis is brilliant and as a consequence very examinable, both directly and indirectly. What do I mean by that? One of the more common misconceptions with business strategy is that a relevant ‘management model’ has to be mentioned at every turn in a successful script. This is simply not true and, above all, not helpful in achieving the aim of passing the exam. Many students want to prove that they have studied the textbook and are aware of, for example, Ansoff’s Matrix or Lewin’s Iceberg model. In reality, unless the examiner specifically asks for the models to be used or alludes to them by stating in the requirement ‘using relevant models analyse’ then referring to them at all can be a waste of time, as the script is not applying the requirement to the specifics of the scenario. So it is examinable directly, ‘Carry out a PESTEL analysis on the identified business opportunity’, or indirectly, ‘Analyse the competitive environment company X will face if it goes ahead with proposal 1’. ‘Directly’ means you have to have six sub-headings to your answer; Political, Economic, etc. ‘Indirectly’ means that you could have those subheadings if you wanted (but don’t have to – even though the model answer probably will), you could use the P, E, S, etc, simply to help you generate your ideas. Or you don’t have to consciously use PESTEL at all (though in reality any analysis of external environment is really a PESTEL analysis, in my opinion). Many students like PESTEL analysis questions. The most important issue is to make sure that students’ ideas and thought processes get the marks they deserve. That means communicating effectively with the marker and being explicit in the application of the analysis to the scenario. So from here on in, let’s consider the direct exam requirement, PQ Magazine April 2013

Average answer – extract Political: The UK Border Agency is increasing restrictions on visa applications for foreign students. Economic: The UK economy shrank unexpectedly in the final quarter of 2012. Note: this point is unlikely to be in the scenario but is still very valid in your answer – never be afraid of adding your experience and knowledge of the business/economic/political world. The answer has identified relevant ‘PESTEL’ points for the business, but the reason why the answer is average is because the marker is left asking ‘so what?’ Be explicit!

P - Political E - Economic S - Social T - Technological E - Environmental L - Legal

where the examiner specifically wants the student to use PESTEL when analysing the competitive environment. The requirement is worth (say) nine marks, so the student needs to generate nine points that are applied in context to the specifics in the scenario. What I mean by that, for example, is why is an unexpected shrinking of the economy by 0.3% (as of 25 January 2013) relevant to the business of an accountancy tuition provider? Or why are more stringent visa criteria for non EU students relevant?

Better answer – extract Political: The UK Border Agency is increasing restrictions on visa applications for non EU students. So there will be fewer students able to attend courses from non-EU countries, reducing the fee income and profitability for those courses. Economic: The UK economy shrank unexpectedly in the final quarter of 2012. So training firms may look to cut training expenditure as the uncertainty in the economic future worsens. This will lead to fewer students attending courses. I am aware that the ‘better’ answer is simply stating the obvious but this is the point: it is applying the external environment issue to the business in the scenario – explicitly. PESTEL is popular with the examiner and students but make sure you get the marks you deserve. PQ • Matt Holden, Reed Business School 25


PQ training visit

Time to get practical PQ editor Graham Hambly visits the Training Place , where students get valuable work experience

I

t was a journey down memory lane for PQ magazine’s editor as he walked through the South London streets to visit the Training Place, in New Cross Road. On top of the usual training courses (AAT and the first level of ACCA exams), the Training Place tries to address that perennial problem of PQs who have a great exam record but lack practical experience.

26

The first thing that hits you as you enter its Carlton Cottages base is the friendly environment. The team seem genuinely helpful, and Sarah Naughton gave us a quick tour of the offices, where we saw the big boss Mary Ofili in action (and lots of students beavering away working on actual live data). Naughton explained that that Mary’s aim is to provide training courses and to show students how accounts are prepared in the real world. “Employability is the key,” stressed Naugthton. “We think it is vital that students don’t get into a position where they don’t have anything to offer an employers except a certificate. It’s a nice piece of paper, but employers want someone who can hit the ground running.”

The Training Place officially came into being two years ago. And while it cannot guarantee everyone will walk straight into a job after their course, they can guarantee you will be more employable when you leave! Last year some 300-plus students came through the doors, mainly for AAT training. Naughton felt one of the biggest benefits of the Training Place is that the tutors work in practice and can impart that everyday experience – this is real hands-on stuff. On our visit we saw trainees working on invoices and looking at variances, and on manual payroll calculations. PQs were busy tapping away at their computers and seemed very happy with what they were doing. They at least understand that you have to have practical skills to get on. PQ

PQ Magazine April 2013


careers PQ not knowingly engaged with, implying inadvertent consent to the sharing of confidential and highly personal information. Do you always check what you are signing up for? Agencies with no formal contract or agreement with you can make use of this now ‘non-proprietary’ information without your express permission, and many do. Recently, I learned of a situation where a candidate in the process of fine-tuning an offer was disappointed to learn that his CV had been resubmitted by a second agent, who had recognised its value and taken ownership. In spite of assurances that the candidate had not instructed another recruiter at such a crucial point of the negotiations, the other party was adamant that he had and the process was very nearly derailed. You could argue that no real harm was done, but certainly it was not the ideal start to a new job!

Do you know

where your CV is? Lisa Dendle warns of the potential dangers of posting your CV online

S

ome years ago a friend of mine’s son, an elite athlete, was facing exclusion from the national team after being spotted by his coach on a social networking site proudly brandishing a can of “the country’s leading beer”. His mother read him the riot act; not least about grasping his responsibility to his country more seriously, but also for not taking advantage of the widely publicised privacy settings that could have avoided the whole unhappy episode. Awareness about how to use social networking prudently has been top of the agenda in recent years, with stories focusing on prospective employers using information obtained from the web as an important element of the selection process. So why is it that professional work seekers are still happy to post some of their most personal and sensitive information online for all to see? It is inevitable that the ease with which PQ Magazine April 2013

we communicate with our friends and family would eventually influence how we engage with prospective employers and recruiters, but I would nonetheless encourage caution when putting your professional life in the common domain. CV databases have become a vital tool for recruiters, but can you be sure that the information is always used as you intended? In your desire to seek a new job you are telling the community at large where you live, where you work, and how much you earn. Enough information for an employer or a recruiter to qualify you but how confident can you be that the gatherer of the information is the sort of firm that you wish to be associated with? Many candidates report that on uploading their CV they are inundated with calls – flattering, but disruptive, particularly if you are at work – but often without proper follow-up. Some work seekers state that they are plagued by emails from random sites that they have

Lisa Dendle

Talent scouts . In these recessionary times many employers have elected to use direct methods of recruitment. Some larger organisations have hired teams of ‘talent acquisition’ scouts, whose raison d’être is to scour CV boards and contact sites for talent. Have you considered the consequences of your details being on view? Your presence on certain networking sites indicates that you are out there and in touch, but your details on a database shouts “I’m looking for a new job!” I am not suggesting the boycotting of CV database sites. On the contrary, as a professional recruiter we rely heavily on, and pay handsomely for, access to the very best talent on the market. There is no doubt that, for candidates; they represent an excellent route to the market. Instead, I’m suggesting a more prudent approach. Make sure you research the most relevant sites for your background and examine the small print. Encourage contact by email rather than phone; this will offer the opportunity to vet the agencies that you subsequently register with. Choose a recruiter that has a sound reputation in your area and your discipline and make sure you meet them, as this is the best way to establish their credentials and capability to market you expertly in a competitive market, and insist on feedback on where your CV is sent. Staffing companies are all governed by strict conduct regulations and are obliged to handle your application in a professional and ethical fashion. In my view, this collaboration offers the best of both worlds: you retain the ability to use social networking to establish vital relationships for your career, now and in the future, but will guarantee your complete control over job applications made on your behalf. PQ • Lisa Dendle is managing director of top recruiter Walker Dendle 27


PQ working overseas

The sky’s the limit

Meet Ross Walton, chair of CIPFA’s Europe branch, who lives and works in Brussels, the ‘capital’ of Europe

Y

our skills and experience aren’t just valued in the UK; CIPFA members are increasingly finding the lure of travel and new cultures can easily be realised with the qualification. Newly appointed chair of the CIPFA Europe branch and Principal Audit Expert at Eurocontrol, Ross Walton became a CIPFA member back in 1988 when he was working for the National Audit Office in London as a graduate trainee. He told PQ: “As one of a large group of trainees on the scheme all studying CIPFA it was a fantastic place to work and it was actually through the NAO that I was seconded to Europe, initially to the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg. “The Court had recently introduced the statement of assurance and the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995 had seriously stretched its resources. I was one of the temporary agents sent to help out and worked on the audit of the European Development Fund, the EU programme for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.”

High flying in Brussels . While Walton was in Luxembourg an opportunity came up for a post in internal audit at Eurocontrol, the European intergovernmental organisation for air traffic management across the 39 member states. He says: “I applied and have been working here in Brussels since 1997 auditing the European Organisation for Air Navigation Safety. I spent three years as the internal auditor of the SESAR Joint Undertaking, a joint venture between Eurocontrol, the European

is never boring and covers an extraordinary spectrum of issues in financial management.”

Commission and the aviation industry to develop the future air traffic management system. “I am now a Principal Audit Expert in Eurocontrol’s Internal Audit Unit and I am currently working with Brian Gray, former Director General of the European Commission Internal Audit Service, to develop the unit and provide a professional internal audit service in Eurocontrol.” He adds: “Working in Europe there is enormous scope for efficiency through the delivery of centralised services and through co-ordinated investment in research and development effort. We are only starting to tap the potential in these areas and there is much more to be done. I enjoy working with colleagues from across Europe and learning how they do things elsewhere. The work here

Walton: loving life in Brussels

Europe take-off . Having worked in Europe since 1995, Walton has been an active member of the CIPFA Europe branch. Serving several hundred members across the continent, the branch provides support to its members who are often very geographically dispersed but keen to retain links to the Institute and fellow members. Many work for organisations such as the European Commission, the European Court of Auditors and NATO, or in the private sector. Walton explains how he became involved: “Leslie Milne, our former chair, has done an excellent job for the past two decades, but it would be unfair to expect him to carry on forever. At our most recent annual seminar and AGM we decided, with CIPFA’s support, that we had to engage with our European members much more proactively and I wanted to build on that positivity and help take it forward.” Talking further about the branch’s mission Walton says: “We have three main priorities: firstly to represent our members’ interests across a geographically large branch; secondly, to raise the profile of CIPFA in Europe through the new education and training products; and, lastly, to grow our membership or at least replenish it. I also hope to visit Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro where CIPFA has partnerships with the Center of Excellence in Finance.” PQ

on the to advertise call 020 7216 6444 Page Personnel

www.pagepersonnel.co.uk

The Finance division of Page Personnel, formerly Accounting Additions, gives both clients and candidates a new and fresh online user experience. A leading UK consultancy, Page Personnel specialises in the recruitment of permanent and temporary staff, from graduates and junior accounts staff to part qualified accountants. Visit our website to find your next careeer move by region and sector

28

Reed Accountancy www.reed.co.uk

Reed Accountancy are the UK’s leading specialist recruiter for all accountancy roles up to and including partqualified accountants, with Reed.co.uk being the UK’s leading recruitment site, offering more than twice the number of jobs of any other UK job site. For your next accountancy role go to www.reed.co.uk/accountancy.

Robert Walters www.robertwalters.co.uk

Robert Walters is one of the world’s leading global, specialist professional recruitment consultancies. We specialise in finding jobs for part qualified accountants in leading commercial companies, financial services and the public sector. Our consultants offer expert advice and will work hard to help you find your ideal job. Download our Salary Checker App from the business section of itunes.apple.com

PQ Magazine April 2013


careers PQ

The PQ Book Club

Life at UHY Hacker Young

EVERY MONTH WE REVIEW THE BOOKS YOU SHOULD BE READING

Ronnie David, 26, has worked for the firm in London for the past two-and-a-half years. An ACCA studier, he has a first class degree from London Met Uni in accounting and business, and was recently named PQ magazine’s Accountancy Personality of the Year

The Secret Life of Projects: Kaplan’s Guide to Project Management by David Harris (Kaplan Publishing, £25) Kaplan Publishing has added to its excellent range of educational books with this comprehensive guide to project management. The beauty of Kaplan’s series is that complicated subjects are explained in plain language without diminishing or simplifying the subject matter. Harris continues the tradition. He explains that while we all use the skills of a project manager at work (whether we realise it or not), we need to hone those skills when it comes to specific project management. “Project management is an art, not a science,” says Harris in his introduction. “Some people are naturally good at it, while others get better with study and practice.” To this end this book is illustrated with examples and scenarios, and the final pages consist of practical tasks. This book is a ‘must-read’ for anyone wanting to (or actually) assuming a project management role. Topics covered here include initiating a project, putting a team together, planning, control and reporting and closure. Each is dealt with precisely with the aid of bullet points, and the device of using the ‘notes’ of a first-time project manager works particularly well. PQ rating 4/5: Only the price prevents this book getting the full five stars. The Secret Lives of Numbers by Michael Millar (Virgin Books, £9.99) As every accountant knows, numbers rule the world, and this book explains “the curious truth behind everyday digits”, and promises to “make you see various parts of your daily life in a whole new light”. And it’s true: all life is here. Did you know that the first footballers to have numbers on their shirts played for Sydney-based clubs (it was 1912)? British clubs were slow to follow suit, adopting numbers in 1928. In the 1933 cup final Everton players wore 1-11, while opponents Manchester City wore 12-22! So if you’ve ever wondered about the origin of the scoring in tennis, or why the UK ended up with the dialling code +44, or why paper is ‘A4’, then this one is for you. PQ rating 3/5: Good fun – impress your friends with your numbers knowledge. • We’re giving away three copies of The Secret Lives of Numbers – turn to page 21 for all the details. PQ Magazine April 2013

What time does your alarm clock go off? 7am. What’s the first thing you do when you get to your desk? Switch on my computer and catch up briefly with my colleagues. What’s on your desk? I try to keep a ‘clear desk policy’ so only my notebook and pencil case. What’s the best thing about where you work? Meeting clients, and my colleagues. Where’s your favourite place to go for lunch? The Cape. What (or who) can you see when you sit at your desk? My colleague Paul Manso. Which websites are your favourites and why? Facebook – it allows me to interact with friends and family worldwide.

Which websites do you use for work? Clients’ websites and Oanda (FX). How many hours do you spend in meetings? About six hours a week. What time do you leave the office? Depends how busy I am, usually between 6pm–8pm (sometimes even 9pm). How do you relax? Go to the gym and catch up with friends and family. What’s your favourite tipple? Cosmopolitan (cocktail). How often do you take work

home with you? Very rarely – if I had to meet a tight deadline I would usually stay at work late in order for the job to be completed. What is your favourite TV show? Dragons’ Den. Summer or winter? Summer. Pub or club? Club. Who is your hero? My Dad. If you had a time machine, where would you go? Back to university, as it allowed me to meet a wide range of very interesting people. If you hadn’t chosen accountancy, where might you be right now? Touring around the world.

Do your CV in – 140 characters We all know the dangers inherent in social networking – don’t we? Myriad tales abound of how ‘inappropriate’ behaviour recorded online is unearthed by a prospective employer who decides that, actually, the chap throwing up in the gutter is not the sort we are looking for. Increasingly, though, social media sites aren’t just a way to get fired but a way to get hired, too. As the Independent recently reported. there is a now the “brave new world of the Twitter résumé. The Twésumé, if you will.” As usual the US has taken the lead here. A hiring network provider, Enterasys, is insisting candidates apply in 140 characters or fewer. The company wants a Twitter user with impressive klout and kred influence scores (which show whether you inspire others into action online) and more than 1,000 active followers. Enterasys chief marketing officer Vala Afshar told USA Today: “The paper résumé is dead. The web is your résumé. Social networks are your mass references.”

Talk of the death of the paper CV is no doubt overstated but according to Ian Sanders, who advises firms on how to tell their stories online and is the author of Mash-up!, even employers who once dismissed Twitter as faddy are now using it as a hiring tool. “Your résumé is your Sunday best,” he says. “Twitter gives recruiters an unprecedented look under the bonnet. You can see how professional — or unprofessional — people are. For the worker wanting to get the job, you have to be transparent. You can’t just fake good behaviour for two days. My advice for any tweeter is to look at every tweet as though through the eyes of a future boss that you want to impress.” Occasionally, it can pay to be off-message, though. Poppy Rose Cleere, formerly HMV’s social media planner, was inundated with job offers after she live-tweeted redundancies — or the “mass execution” as she dubbed it — at the entertainment chain’s head office. So being her master’s voice online was the most powerful CV she could imagine.

In brief Hey good looking Handsome men earn some 22% more than average looking guys, according to new research. And if you aren’t a ‘loooker’ (even ugly) then expect to earn 26% less than someone with average looks. The research project, called Unpacking the Beauty Premium, found that attractive women were merely more likely to be in paid work, rather than be paid a premium. This is because some (bizarrely!) still believe

good-looking women can’t be productive as well.

Burnout problem Burgeoning workloads and stress at work is causing burnout in as many as one in three professionals, with accountants the worst hit. A report from a leading recruitment consultant found that many employees are becoming demotivated and even quit their jobs altogether because they can’t take the stress.

Growth slows The rate at which women are moving into the boardroom has slowed massively, according to figures from the Professional Boards Forum. Women now hold 17.3% of directorships at the FTSE 100 companies (at the beginning of March). This is a small drop on the previous month, but it is the first time the percentage has fallen since Lord Davies put forward his 25% proposals. 29


ADAPTABILITY

AT WALKER DENDLE WE HAVE MANY DIFFERENT ABILITIES. OUR WILLINGNESS TO ADAPT SETS US APART.

Walker Dendle Financial Recruitment has become established as a leading recruiter of professional permanent and temporary finance staff in Surrey and the surrounding area. We handle a diverse range of finance and accounting roles – from financial, management and commercial accounting to financial analysis and business partnering. We continually focus on adapting and refining our service to suit you, offering sound and knowledge based careers advice to part qualifieds seeking their next, all-important job move. For more information about the exciting range of career openings available though Walker Dendle Financial Recruitment, please contact: Permanent Division perms@walkerdendle.co.uk Temporary & Contract Division temps@walkerdendle.co.uk Walker Dendle Financial Recruitment Swan House, 51 High Street, Kingston, Surrey KT1 1LQ

020 8408 9999 www.walkerdendle.co.uk

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ASSISTANT MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTANT SUPPORT & STRENGTHEN FUNCTIONS Shefeld, £18,000 + study support

Bluestone is a leading, portfolio and capital management business with ofces worldwide. They seek a new addition to their Shefeld ofce, reporting to the Head of Finance.

You will ensure management accounts accurately reflect the business performance. Strong analytical skills, efective communication and attention to detail are essential.

Assisting with the production of monthly and annual accounts, you will be given exposure to all aspects of a busy finance function such as the posting of month end journals.

In return you will be given the opportunity to develop a background in accountancy whilst studying for your CIMA/ACCA exams. Ref: 1807588

To discuss further, contact Mark Ogley at mark.ogley@hays.com or call 0114 273 8775

AUDIT SEMI SENIOR ENCOURAGE IMPROVEMENT

PART QUALIFIED AUDITOR ANALYSE AND ADVISE

This medium sized accountancy practice is looking for a semi senior to join their growing audit team. Their portfolio consists of a diverse range of industries with turnovers ranging from £1 million to £20 million with a few companies reaching £100 million.

This firm boasts more than 10 partners and provide accountancy, tax and audit services to a broad range of clients, particularly SMEs.

Central London, £25,000 + study support

City of London, up to £30,000 + benefits

Your role will involve audit and accounts preparation. With regular CPDs, this is an excellent opportunity to progress in a firm that truly invest in their staf.

Due to continual growth, this firm are in search for an individual to be the first point of contact for an ever increasing client portfolio. Your clients will be across various industries including property, manufacturing and retail with turnovers of at least £5m - £10m.

You will currently be studying for your ACA qualification with 18–24 months experience in practice. Excellent communication skills are essential. Ref: 1804938

Excellent communication skills and ability to write clear and concise reports are essential. You will be two years into studying towards your ACA qualification. Ref: 1808296

To discuss further, please contact Joel Gapasin at joel.gapasin@hays.com or call 020 3465 0137

To discuss further, please contact Joel Gapasin at joel.gapasin@hays.com or call 020 3465 0137

hays.co.uk/pq

These are just a selection of the hundreds of opportunities we have to ofer, please contact your local expert or visit hays.co.uk/pq to search for your next big move.

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I N D I V I D UA L F I N A N C I A L R E C RU I T M E N T


PQ got a story, funny or serious, you want to share? Email graham@pqaccountant.com

AN EXAM CHAMPION

How do you illustrate the fact that times have changed? Well, at the recent Lecturers’ Conference the ACCA’s head of e-learning, Clare Minchington, showed a picture that was in the press some 24 years ago. It is her with a bottle of bubbly – she was a prize-winning student, you see. Twenty-four years ago, she said, what she did in the exam hall reflected what was happening at work. It seems that at work she had to wear a dress and have a perm! The first part of that is actually true.

UNIVERSAL

APPEAL

As PQ magazine arrived for the annual open meeting of the FRC we were shocked to see crowds forming outside the Institute of Engineering & Technology. Now Baroness Hogg is a good draw and around 100 people had turned up to hear what she had to say about the FRC’s plan and budget for 2013/14. But there was also a certain Professor Brian Cox in the building, discussing bigger things, like the universe and black holes. We are not sure if any of the PwC ‘contingent’ went elsewhere!

PAINTING BY NUMBERS

We all know that numbers are considered ‘irrational’ if they cannot be written down precisely as a fraction or as a decimal – you would need an infinite number of digits. The geometric constant pi is a good example here. The most irrational number is 1 plus the square root of 5, all divided by 2. That figures equals roughly 1.618. This number is known as the ‘Golden Ratio’, producing shapes with sides and lengths that are pleasing on the eye. Since the 5th century BC architects and artist have used this rule in their art. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884).

ON YOUR

BIKE I AM OFF TO THE RAFFLES

It was good to hear the PQ Private Sector Lecturer of the Year, Paul Merison, made it home safely to Singapore after our awards. PQ was disappointed to hear that Paul wrote on Facebook that he will be treating the trophy to a night out at the world-famous Raffles Hotel. His trophy is being treated better than we are! Meanwhile, the ACCA’s trophy has made its way to Glasgow, despite being ‘flagged’ by airport security who wanted to know what the unusually shaped item was in Andrew Leck’s bag. The engraving helped and he was soon on his way.

IT’S THE SKATMAN

PQ doesn’t spend all its time reading Popbitch, but we did smile when we saw that Skat in Danish means ‘loved one’. It is also the intials of the Danish tax authority – SKAT. This could be all very confusing, love and the taxman all in one word, but we loved the idea of giving our money to the Skatman!

March’s solution

Prize sudoku 4

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2

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4 6

6 3 4 1 2 9 7 5 8

5 8 7 6 4 3 9 1 2

2 9 1 8 5 7 3 4 6

8 4 2 9 3 6 1 7 5

9 7 5 4 1 8 2 6 3

3 1 6 5 7 2 4 8 9

7 6 9 3 8 1 5 2 4

4 2 3 7 6 5 8 9 1

1 5 8 2 9 4 6 3 7

HMRC has confirmed that cycle safety equipment and not just bikes can be included under the remit of the salary sacrifice ‘cycle to work’ scheme. Baker Tilly’s Lesley

Fidler (great name for working in tax) has revealed that last year HMRC made payments of more than £63,000 to the costs of bikes and equipment that have been leased to its own employees under the scheme. Staff will be rejoicing now that they can treat themselves to a tax-free helmet and a couple of bicycle clips.

HOW MUCH?

Well done to the March winner Suman Thapa, an ACCA affiliate from Greenford, Middlesex. We’re giving away a great set of three puzzle books this month, so get cracking!

ENTRY FORM Name: .............................................. ........................................................ Address: .......................................... ........................................................ ........................................................ ........................................................ ........................................................ Qualification/stage ............................

Return to PQ Magazine, Sudoku Competition, 4th floor, Central House, 142 Central Street, London EC1V 8AR. Deadline for entries is 9/4/2013

iWATCH IS COMING January saw the launch of the Peddle ‘smartwatch’, which connects your watch to your iPhone and Android smartphones using Bluetooth. With apps, you can make this watch do lots of things. Measuring how far you hit the golf ball is important! Interestingly, Peddle was a ‘Kickstarter’ project, raising £10m from ‘customers’ before they had a product! The watch will set you back $150 and 85,000 orders have already been placed. We will see if being first to market counts – Apple itself is developing an iWatch.

Being healthy is not cheap: if you opt for a healthy lifestyle expect to be £4,000 poorer a year. The biggest cost was fresh fruit and veg – some £1,290. The same is spent on specialist footwear and clothing, and add gym membership, vitamins and shakes, and the cost of bottled water. Replacement parts cost £16.92, so we aren’t talking knees here.

JOGGING ON

So it is true – exercise beefs up your muscles and your brain. Professor Arthur Kramer says that taking aerobic exercise increases the size of critical brain structures and improves cognition and intelligence. He also implies that people who have a sedentary lifestyle may suffer degeneration of the brain.

YOUR ROUND PQ recently came across a ‘drinking’ league

table for university students, conducted by Student Beans. Accounting and Finance apparently finished top of the pile after students admitted drinking on average 30.6 units a week. Bottom of the league were nursing and healthcare degree students (which is nice to know!). PQ Magazine April 2013


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PQ magazine April 2013