AAT’s branch network – how to benefit from your peers

Keen to develop your career, stay up to date with the latest regulations, or just meet and share information with other finance professionals living nearby?

AAT’s branch network, consisting of 50 branches across the country, plus an international branch in Botswana, is the perfect place to do all this – and more!

Run by more than 350 volunteers, the purpose of the branch network is to offer support and opportunities to AAT members, wherever they live. To this end, each branch organises a series of events focused on different areas of accounting throughout the year.

We spoke to the team at AAT in Sheffield to find out more about what’s on offer.

A branch network for all

AAT’s branch network is open to full, fellow, affiliate, and student members, as well as the wider business community. As such, it caters for all AAT members, from students to fully qualified finance professionals working in senior positions.

“We also provide services for self-employed practitioners and book keepers,” said Victoria Coupe MAAT, Chairperson at the Sheffield branch.

The events and seminars organised by each branch are designed to complement the continuing professional development (CPD) mastercourses run by the AAT.

Free of charge, they also usually take place in the evening so that more people can attend.

“This avoids putting financial strain on those on lower incomes and allows everyone to access career development material without taking a day off work,” Coupe said.

A learning environment

The number of events put on in your area will depend on your local branch. In Sheffield, there are generally seven events a year.

“Each AAT branch is committed to organising and running various events throughout the year, ensuring the venue, catering and speakers are in place so we can offer members the best service,” said Sheffield branch Secretary Jonathan Mace.

“We ask our members for topic suggestions at each event so we know we are providing them with what they need.”

Events already in the diary for next year in Sheffield include: “Research & Development Tax Credits” in March, “Cloud Accounting” in April, and “First Aid – the basics” in June.

“We generally cover ‘core issues’ but we also run one event each year on a ‘softer’ subject such as a mindfulness and wellbeing,” Coupe added.

Whatever your requirements, the teams running the branches will be happy to help

A chance to share

AAT branches are run according to seven overarching principles: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Their primary objectives include identifying and meeting local members’ CPD needs, providing a social forum for networking, and helping students to attain their qualifications.

So whatever your requirements, the teams running the branches will be happy to help.

“Our branch team is very friendly and helpful,” said Sheffield branch Treasurer Samantha Nicholson. “If we can help, we will.”

The branch network is also a fantastic place to connect with other people working in similar roles.

“They say a problem shared is a problem halved,” Coupe added. “If, for example, you’re struggling with a new piece of legislation, you can bet that others share your frustrations, and will often be able to offer sound advice on how to overcome any ‘issues’.”

A 21st Century resource

While there is no substitute for meeting fellow members and associates face to face, AAT branches are increasingly using the power of technology to reach even more people.

The team also intends to make greater use of social media websites to communicate with members in the local area.

“We are looking into social media and how it could help us to support our members further,” said Coupe. “We would welcome any help from volunteers in this area!”

A networking opportunity – case study

Becoming a student liaison volunteer at the Sheffield AAT branch helped Russell Hague FMAAT, now a lecturer at Sheffield College, to transform his career.

“Doing that role got me into teaching,” he said. “I contacted Sheffield College while doing that role and ended up working here. “It’s just one example of the great networking opportunities available through the local branches.”

The former finance manager is also enthusiastic about the professional development opportunities available for those keen to remain on the same career path.

“Making sure you stay on top of your professional development is very important when you work in finance,” he said. “In fact, continuing professional development is one of the mainstays of AAT membership. Attending the events put on by your local branch is a great way of making sure you stay up to date, whether you are newly qualified or have been practising for a long time.”

Business opportunities

Michael Beech FMAAT and Ali Jaw FMAAT first met at an AAT Birmingham Branch meeting. After teaming up they went on to open their own business together in 2015.

“We wanted to support each other and pool knowledge. My strengths are IT, software, customer service and having meetings; Ali’s very good on taxation and final accounts and accounting knowledge. We thought that two heads were better than one: we could share costs, knowledge and resources,” said Beech.

Earlier this year, AAT’s 50th regional branch opened in Edinburgh. On Saturday 24 November they are hosting a free event to discuss what finance professionals can expect from future technological developments.

For more information about AAT branch queriesbranch volunteering or branch listings  you can email: branches@aat.org.uk.

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor..

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