As his tenure as AAT president comes to an end, AAT Comment spoke with David Frederick about his initiatives and ideas.
As what he describes as AAT’s first “digital president”, David Frederick felt it was particularly important to make sure all members remained in touch with AAT. That’s why he launched his Team with the President initiative – the latest of which is on 9 September especially for AAT licensed members.
“As we were under this new regime of working from home and unable to get around, the idea was to widen the reach of the membership,” he explains. “My approach was to base these sessions around members in different sectors – not only licensed accountants in practice, but public sector and members in business, too. Why not reach out to the members in different sectors in a more discursive way? That way, they can see the president is approachable and field their questions.”
In all, four Tea with the President sessions were planned:
- FMAATs (available on-demand)
- Public sector (available on-demand)
- Business (available on-demand)
- Licensed members (9 September)
Upskilling is an important endeavour in any context, but over the last 18 months it has become even more so. Given the seismic changes that have taken place in that time and continue to occur as working practices adjust to the reopening of the economy, Frederick is keen to emphasise three areas for members to focus on.
“The most important thing is the C-word: Communication,” he says. “Members, students, we need to make sure we are well-versed in how we communicate financial information to decision-makers to enhance their decision-making process. Unless we can effectively communicate our information to third parties, good decisions won’t be made and we can have problems.”
The second area Frederick highlights is keeping abreast of digital developments.
“Whatever our personal needs are, making sure that we maintain these skills so that we are effective in the future and add value to our clients is extremely important, whether they are internal or external,” he explains. “Making sure we are able to be at home with the developments around the financial and digital agenda is vital.”
Analytical skills is the third upskilling area Frederick identifies, noting they allow members to find solutions to various problems and make decisions and action plans to solve those problems. This, he explains, links closely with the communication skills he highlighted, as both the information itself and the way members convey it are crucial to any business’ success.
In recognition of the importance of CPD, AAT continues to offer and constantly develops learning resources for members to support their efforts to upskill.
These include the annual Future Finance conferences, webinar programmes and the recently-introduced Learning Pathways, along with Frederick’s own Tea with the President sessions, designed to reach all elements of AAT’s membership in a “discursive” manner.
“AAT provides a plethora of CPD opportunities for its members in various guises,” says Frederick. “It’s always evolving. AAT can provide your career with the full range of CPD and support services that you need. You only need to look at something like the Salary Survey to see what AAT does for people.
“If nothing else, AAT transforms lives. You can start AAT at different stages in your career, but the value add is always going to be phenomenal. Some qualifications are graduates-only or age-limited, but AAT has no such restrictions. We have an open-door policy and we’re transformational to lives and careers. That’s reflected in earning capacity, and moreover but also in members’ confidence and self-belief.”
Role of branches
AAT’s branch network has always played a crucial role in delivering upskilling and other benefits to members. While that role has been affected by Covid-19 restrictions, as those are increasingly relaxed by the government, Frederick is keen to see the digital delivery of upskilling and in-person sessions work in concert.
“The branch network is an essential feature of what we are and it’s an essential feature for bringing members together locally, regionally and nationally,” he says. “The branch network may change and may involve virtual meetings in future as most things have, but also in recognition of our work on our carbon footprint and our responsibility to the environment.
Frederick’s term as president has been characterised by the impact of Covid-19 and, as such, his activities and contact with AAT members has had to be conducted digitally.
In fact, he was elected AAT president at the body’s first virtual AGM in September last year.
“It’s been the first digital presidency and we’ve had to learn to engage with the membership in different ways to maintain traction. It’s been quite interesting and challenging trying to do ambassadorial work virtually, but it can be done and it has been done.
“Zoom and Teams have enabled us to have these meetings, which isn’t the same as in-person, but they’ve allowed us to develop things for the future.”
Calum Fuller Calum Fuller is editor of AT and 20 magazines. He's previously served as editor of Credit Strategy, assistant editor Accountancy and began his career at Accountancy Age..