AAT President Christina Earls reflects on a vibrant and successful year

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As her year as President of AAT draws to a close this month, Christina Earls (FMAAT) reflects on the changes she has helped implement and offers some thoughts on future strategies.

The role of the accountant is changing and it is becoming ever more important to recruit people from different backgrounds who have a variety of skills and talents, says Christina Earls, outgoing AAT President.

Equally important is the support that AAT can give to existing members in order to help them stay up to date with CPD and grow into new career opportunities.

One of her priorities this year has been to revive the AAT local branches, which are a unique way for members to keep in touch, explore CPD opportunities and provide mentoring and networking opportunities. Many of the 80 AAT branches closed during Covid and it has been a key part of Christina’s mission as President to help get these branches up and running again.

“They provide invaluable support to members all around the country and help to support them both professionally and personally,” she says. “I have tried to attend as many branch meetings as possible during my 12-month presidency, in order to connect with members and open up the discussion around the difference that AAT accountants can make in their working lives.”

The importance of ethics and sustainability

When she is meeting local AAT members Christina has been keen to highlight both the ethical challenges which accountants often face, and the difference that they can make in their own communities.

“I often talk about the three Ps: people, planet and profit,” she says. “Taking care of the planet is also about reducing future liabilities. When it comes to people, ensuring that we have equality and diversity is so important because we need to have a variety of talent brought to the workplace.”

She stresses the role that everyone can play by incorporating ethical and sustainable practices into their work.

“Even small actions and changes in mindset can contribute to a more responsible and sustainable future.”

Social mobility and embracing diversity

Having come from a relatively humble background herself and having had to work hard to succeed as a female accountant while also being a single working parent, Christina feels that diversity in the profession is long overdue.

“Each individual possesses unique strengths and abilities and we know that recognising and using these strengths can make a real difference,” she says. “While progress has been made, there is still a long way to go in making opportunities accessible for everyone.”

One way to help young people from across different social divides is to introduce accounting as a potential career path early in life and do more to attract and engage young individuals from diverse backgrounds, she says. AAT is a great way for young people to access a career and for mature students to change professions, train on the job and gain a highly respected professional qualification.

Raising the standard of accounting worldwide

Another key plank of her mission this year has been fostering international collaboration. This has meant being involved in webinars and discussions with accounting bodies from various regions across the world, especially Asia and the South Pacific. These discussions are aimed at finding ways to raise the standards of accounting worldwide.

“This is particularly important in developing countries where professional finance and technical knowledge are needed to strengthen economies and offer more opportunities,” she says.

Christina attended the World Congress of Accountants in Mumbai, and joined in discussions there around the value of UK qualifications and the importance of raising the profile of accounting technicians and the value they can bring to organisations and regions.

“Across the world we need to raise the awareness of the accounting profession as a wonderful profession to join that offers a variety of amazing career opportunities,” she says.

Success in working with trustees

As a charity and company limited by guarantee, AAT’s Council members are both trustees and Directors of the Association with defined responsibilities. Christina has been working closely with chief executive office Sarah Beale and her team. Together with the AAT trustees they have come up with a strategy which will make AAT robust and ready for the future.

This has involved consulting on a new organisational design and revamping the AAT student qualifications, both of which are needed in order for AAT and its members to innovate and stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment.

“In terms of the qualifications, all professional accounting bodies should be doing this every four to five years,” she says. “We are listening to members and employers about what they want and need. Society is changing all the time and we need to move with the times.”

Future-proofing AAT

As her presidency draws to a close Christina reflects on the opportunity she has had to raise awareness of the important role that accounting technicians bring to the accounting profession.

“My role has been to highlight the importance of our members keeping their technical knowledge up to date through CPD, reviving the local branches after many closed during Covid and ensuring that the AAT qualification stays relevant for students who want to open up their career in accounting,” she says.

“We have 50,000 members worldwide. The way to stay relevant is to enhance technical knowledge, improve skills and behaviours and keep learning,” she says. “AAT is here to support students and members on that journey and enable them to develop their full potential, whatever their career goals.”

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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