How you can leverage your professional membership

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Membership of a professional body can add an edge – here’s how to use it.

Membership of a professional body doesn’t just demonstrate a level of expertise, it also provides prestige and credibility. Potential clients can see that you’re a qualified accountant operating to the highest professional standards.

More than that, though, membership is about being part of a professional, knowledgeable community in which you can network, share best practice and problem-solve. Connecting with other members can offer you emotional support, especially for those who run their own businesses or operate remotely most of the time.

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Plus, if you make use of the continued professional development (CPD) opportunities offered by your body, you can show clients and recruiters that you’re continually updating your industry knowledge. Those wishing to develop new skill sets can also leverage CPD to help them move into new areas.

In an industry where roughly a third of accountants are unregulated, all this really matters. Despite the legal, financial and ethical implications of bad, unregulated advice, accountancy is one of the few professions in the UK which doesn’t require professional membership.

This is one of the main reasons why AAT are campaigning for better sector regulation, to ensure anyone offering paid-for tax and accountancy services is properly qualified through a professional body.

AAT-licensed accountants and bookkeepers are bound by rigid ethical and professional standards which gives prospective clients and customers peace of mind. We asked several members why they like being part of a professional body and how membership benefits them personally and professionally.

Letters after my name demonstrate I’m operating to the highest professional and ethical standards

Samantha Mitcham FMAAT, Proprietor, SJCM Accountancy

The clear benefit of AAT membership is having the letters after my name which sends out the right message to any prospective clients that I’m a qualified accountant. My practice is also regulated by AAT so having the AAT logo on my email footer, website and social media reminds clients that we’re practising to the highest standards and there is ongoing monitoring. They also know I’ll have the right insurance in place and CPD is up-to-date.

There is currently a large debate going on in the industry around the fact that anyone can call themselves an accountant. There are some brilliant accountants who do not hold qualifications, but from experience, clients prefer accountants they work with to be fully qualified.

In terms of skills, my practicing certificates are shown in my office which shows the skills and specialisms I’ve been licensed to provide. This gives clients the confidence that I have the qualifications and expertise to guide them through their taxes and accounts.

Finally, AAT members also benefit from free events and a supportive community. We get access to a lot of resources too whether it’s letter of engagement templates to AML supervision and guidance.

Verdict: Having letters after my name and being an AAT-licensed practice demonstrates I’m operating to the highest professional and ethical standards.

Membership highlights skills and specialisms for prospective clients

Vanessa Aradia Myatt FMAAT, MD, Accounting Solutions, Director of Finance, The Honey Comb and accountancy skills coach

I’ve been a member of AAT since 1994. I started my accountancy practice in 2004.

When you’re self-employed, it’s important to demonstrate credibility and adherence to professional standards, and AAT membership endorses these. AAT is also globally recognised which is really helpful.

Membership also provides networking opportunities – it’s important to share good practice with other like-minded industry professionals. There are lots of CPD opportunities too which help keep skills and knowledge up-to-date.

The industry changes so quickly and AAT is very proactive in reporting on changes and talking about the issues that matter, such as sustainability reporting and ESG, so you’re the first to know about upcoming changes, giving accountants a chance to prepare, adapt and support their clients.

AAT membership also gives you a voice in the industry and the opportunity to influence accounting standards.

What’s been really helpful is the practicing certificate which lists the skills you’re licensed for. I have mine on display so clients know my areas of expertise. My certificate lists accountancy skills, bookkeeping, independent examination, forensic accounting and so on as well as tax which is broken down into further specialisms.

Verdict: Membership demonstrates adherence to professional standards and CPD, gives accountants a voice in the industry and highlights areas of expertise for prospective clients.

Membership fosters a real sense of community

Rachel Spence MAAT, Accounts Assistant, Sweeney Miller Law

I took the AAT apprenticeship route initially and progressed quickly. I’ve just completed AAT Level 4 in August. Before being granted designatory MAAT status, I completed the newly-formed AAT CPD pathway which encourages members to achieve basic CPD whilst ensuring we’re proactive on key issues affecting our day-to-day roles from sustainability and adding value in an ever-increasing digital world.

AAT membership allows me to engage in continuous learning. I have access to an array of resources through the Lifelong Learning portal such as articles, videos, webinars and so on, and the AAT Knowledge Hub keeps me up-to-date on industry changes from international accounting standards to the anti-money laundering bill.

But for me, the biggest benefit of AAT membership is the sense of community. Through AAT’s branch network and AAT forums, members can come together to share thoughts and ideas and stay ahead of industry news and updates, thus keeping practical and technical knowledge as relevant as possible.

Verdict: AAT fosters a real sense of community through its branch networks and industry forums where members can share knowledge and expertise.

Membership validates and promotes skills

Bev Flanagan, MAAT, Director, Bev Flanagan Financial and AAT Elected Council Member, Trustee and Director

AAT membership adds credibility to my profile, making me an appealing choice for clients who seek qualified and trustworthy accounting professionals. Membership also provides ongoing support and resources to my professional development. In essence, AAT membership is a powerful way to distinguish yourself in the competitive accounting landscape.

I also see it as a valuable asset for showcasing my skills and expertise: highlighting my membership on my platforms signifies my commitment to the accounting profession. I actively engage in networking events and contribute to my professional community to demonstrate my knowledge.

Verdict: Professional membership provides a platform to validate and promote skills, aiding career advancement and professional reputation.

Would you like to contribute to future articles like this one? If so, please get in touch with Annie Makoff-Clark at [email protected]. Upcoming topics include whether technology is improving workload and the disappearance of cash from the economy.

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Annie Makoff is a freelance journalist and editor.

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