Why employers look for AAT qualifications

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Employers explain what they value about the skillset and qualities AAT training gives their staff.

Accountants who study AAT come away as all-rounders ready to meet each challenge business throws at them. That’s because the qualification starts from the basics and takes you into the nuts and bolts of finance.

Students learn a huge breadth of foundational knowledge that you need to be really successful in finance, beginning with double-entry bookkeeping and balancing key accounts. Then they move into more advanced skills such as tax, preparing financial statements and general business awareness.

Marrying up technical skills with business knowledge is the magic combination that keeps employers coming back for more. We asked employers about the specific benefits of the AAT qualification, and the people that hold it.

I’ve used AAT to build multiple finance teams

Mike Copping, freelance CFO

Mike Copping is a seasoned freelance CFO, who has built several finance teams for clients over the last 10 years. He uses the same plan based on AAT qualified staff because they are versatile individuals equipped to tackle any financial challenge a business might face.

This approach has helped many of Copping’s clients. A tech business he works with has unpredictable revenue streams, with payments ranging from monthly to annually. Inconsistent billing left them with ‘lumpy’ revenues, so it was having difficulty producing monthly reports that gave a clear picture of performance.

“The AAT-trained company finance manager was able to apply her training on the accruals concept to match income to expenditure in the right financial period. She could look at the P&L and put a year’s worth of income with no costs associated into a balance sheet as a holding account and anticipate the invoice for the costs in the following month or so.”

“AAT is mandatory for me. It’s a matter of quality, because it’s a detailed qualification that really gets into the nuts and bolts; it starts at a very basic level with double entry bookkeeping and so on, and learning what a trial balance is, how it’s all made up, balancing key accounts. There’s a good breadth of foundational knowledge that you need in finance to be really successful.”

AAT helps school leavers deliver in the workplace

Helen Bloodworth, Associate Director of Early Careers at RSM

RSM is one of the UK’s largest accounting networks. It uses AAT as its principal training partner and hires AAT trainees straight out of school. Helen Bloodworth says its target of reaching a 50-50 split in its intake cohort between the school leavers and graduates is made easier by AAT.

“The level and the pace of AAT is ideal for the 18-year-olds coming in,” she says. “It just fits that school leaver market really well. AAT gives them that two-year foundation qualification, and time to adapt to the workplace without their studies being too overwhelming. And then they’re in a very good position to start ACA two years in with their two years of experience if they want to.”

“Not only is there the kind of knowledge which the AAT qualification gives them, but they’ve also got to develop the skills and behaviours alongside it. AAT helps them develop all the things that they need to be a rounded accountant, like communication and ethics.”

AAT gives us a production line of reliable talent

Laura Whyte, Founder and MD of accounting practice Whyfield

Laura Whyte is MD of accounting practice Whyfield. She has chosen AAT because she’s sure Whyfield benefits from its rolling intake of AAT accountants. It means the firm has the technical skills to help clients with credit control, payroll and accounts payable, and also somebody who knows the business.

“We always have at least one AAT Level Two, one Level Three, and one Level Four in the business. That means we’re constantly bringing on new talent and pushing them and supporting them through that AAT journey.

“We find then that those newly qualified Level 4 or even Level 3 are really happy to support the new Level 2s and 3s that are coming through. This creates an ongoing peer-to-peer cycle that everybody’s filtering through, with specialist knowledge of accounting and also how we work.”

“So that means we’ve got fully qualified accountants popping out the top that have been with us for two or three years; they know how we work, and they’ve got the qualifications then to go alongside it. We realized quite early on that growing our own was the best route,” she says.

Christian Doherty is a business journalist and freelance writer for AAT.

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