Studying with AAT helped me grow personally and professionally

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Arran Morrison MAAT is a finance assistant at Young’s Seafood, a company that distributes frozen, fresh, and chilled seafood. It supplies around 40% of all the fish eaten in the United Kingdom every year.

In our interview, Arran, 35, from Broxburn, Scotland, talks about how his AAT qualification has given him the confidence and knowledge to progress in his career. 

What is your role?

I have been a finance assistant at Young’s Seafood for three and a half years. Currently there is a restructuring taking place in our department which means that I will soon be taking on a management role.

What qualifications do you have?

I have completed all three levels of the AAT accounting framework on the AQ2016 syllabus. I began my AAT journey in 2018, and becoming fully qualified is the achievement of a goal I have had since I was in high school.

My journey to AAT is quite a different one. I finished school in Edinburgh and at the age of 17 started a university course doing an accountancy and finance degree. I left my course in the second year and spent ten years working in retail and in the NHS job in procurement and finance.

I have always wanted to work in finance and the accountancy industry, and eventually got there. Within the NHS Lothian finance function, I had a procurement role around training and conferences. I now work for Young’s Seafood, which is the UK’s largest seafood manufacturer. We are well known for our frozen products and we also produce own label products for a number of supermarkets.

Why did you decide to follow this career route?

When I was thinking about the AAT qualification I read through the three AAT Levels and I could see there was career progression. I talked to my boss and the plan was always to start at AAT Level 2 through to AAT Level 4, and then go on to a chartered qualification like CIMA.

I realised that without the AAT qualifications there was not much opportunity for my career progression. I studied in my own time after work and at the weekends. I joined Young’s Seafood in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, which was an interesting experience!

What do you do in your current role?

My current role is pretty varied. I am the main keeper of the petty cash and credit card spending, which I need to reconcile that on a monthly basis. I also oversee the site overheads, calculate monthly pre-payments and accruals, plus goods received and invoicing.

How has studying with AAT helped you in your career?

Since gaining my MAAT accreditation personnel changes within my team have meant that I have been able to pick up more tasks which I otherwise wouldn’t have felt confident doing.

It has also given me personally a lot of confidence – in the past I sometimes felt I had a bit of imposter syndrome, but now, having the MAAT designation after my name shows I have achieved a high level of competence within the accounting profession. It is something that is well known and respected in the finance industry. It is great for career development, and I have noticed an increase in the number of recruitment consultants messaging me on LinkedIn.

Having the professional designation gives you credibility not just externally to other people, but to yourself. It has enhanced my self-belief and confidence and my way of thinking about my achievements.

Within finance the gap between vacancies and actual qualified people is widening all the time. So if you have got that MAAT designation you become instantly more attractive to your business.

What prepared you for this current role?

I worked for NHS Lothian and also ran an Edinburgh city centre bar and restaurant for a year, so I have gain real life experience of managing the finances of both public and private sector enterprises and the importance of cashflow.

How is the role of the accountant evolving?

Some people might wonder if accountancy is sustainable with the advent of AI, but when you get higher up the levels and into the management accountant side of the business, you are asked for different things every single day and you are using your knowledge and experience. It would not be possible to programme a machine to deal with all the different roles and decisions that we get involved in every single day.

What do you like most about your job?

I like the planning and the hands-on experience as well as the finance function. Christmas is a busy time for us, especially regarding demand for products like smoked salmon, and we start planning for next Christmas on Boxing Day. Everything for Christmas 2023 has already been agreed and signed off and production will start in October. Our business is very seasonal – you can see the peaks and troughs and the huge demand in the summer and the two weeks before Christmas.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas I will be in the factory on the packing lines helping out because we all work together during the two weeks before Christmas. We cover breaks and help the factory staff so that everything is continuously moving.

What skills do you need in your current role?

An essential skill is being able to explain figures to non-financial people. You need to be able to explain why profit or turnover is higher or lower than expected. I enjoy the analytical side of my work, drilling down into the raw data, and then communicating that out to the wider group.

What tips would you give to students who are starting out?

In AAT Level 2 and 3 you can study by yourself at home, but by AAT Level 4 the work becomes more advanced and it helps to have a tutor and a training provider. Kaplan was my training provider and helped me understand how to structure my answers and understand what the examiners were looking for.

What are your interests outside work?

I am a keen runner having completed two marathons among other events. My fiancée and I have just welcomed our first child in May so I am now balancing work, fatherhood and studying for CIMA.

Further reading:

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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