How accountants can use their influence for good

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As a qualified finance professional with letters after your name, you’ve gained a level of knowledge and experience that will make you attractive in the job market.

More than this, it means you’re a part of a global professional network operating across all sectors and business types, and relied upon to steer sound financial and ethical courses for businesses, public bodies and NGOs large and small.

Therefore, beyond individual careers, and personal goals and ambitions, accountants have the ability to make positive changes in their profession and more broadly.

Accountants can be influential in a variety of ways, including:

  • Being mentors to more junior professionals
  • Sitting on boards supporting strategic decision-making as non-executive directors
  • Being committee or council members for professional bodies
  • Steering the strategy of your practice, finance department or business

This last point is something that Alistair Bambridge, founder of his practice Bambridge Accountants, seeks to achieve in how he runs his firm. “A lot of the work we do is to support creative communities and creative professionals with knowledge and information in order to make doing their taxes a lot more straightforward and less scary.

“We work with charities and professional bodies in the creative industry to give talks and workshops, answering tax questions and sharing our expert knowledge. We find this really helps people overcome their fear of the dreaded tax return, and they’re able to ask questions and address any concerns they have. This year we are taking our support one step further by setting up our own charity and gallery space to support new and up and coming artists and provide a platform for them to showcase their work.”

Opportunities to influence

There are many opportunities to influence within the accounting profession itself, to provide clarity for students entering the profession, as well as other senior professionals on complex technical points.

Steve Collings FMAAT FCCA has been writing on accounting and audit issues for 10 years. It started when he was asked to write an article on accounting policies for a student website. “I have always enjoyed writing and helping others because accountancy and audit are both evolving professions and as they evolve additional complexities creep in.”

Beyond his day job as a partner at Leavitt Walmsley Associates, much of Collings’ extra-curricular activity is spent on UK GAAP, whether writing articles and books about it, looking at technical aspects in his role on the UK Technical Advisory Group at the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) or lecturing on the subject to accounting students. “Some of it involves meetings with the FRC, which are extremely valuable and enjoyable, or with other financial reporting people, such as lecturers on the CPD circuit to discuss any difficult or contentious issues.”

Getting involved in extra-curricular activities

Collings hopes people find the material he writes beneficial and that it can help in their roles. But another bi-product of his efforts is one that feeds back into his firm. “I think this is what differentiates us from other smaller firms. Over the years I’ve been asked to give lectures in South Africa and Asia due to the work I’ve done. I’m also lucky to have input into UK GAAP by being a member of the UK GAAP Technical Advisory Group, which I do not think would have been possible had it not been for the articles and books. We have also attracted many clients as a result of the publicity, so while many people may think writing a 2,000-word article or a 200,000-word book is probably one of the worst things that you could be asked to do – it sure does have its benefits in the long run.”

And it’s never too early to get involved in your profession beyond your role or to ‘give back’ in some way. “I would always encourage young professionals to get involved in any extra-curricular activities at an early stage in their career,” says Collings.

“For example, becoming involved in a branch or even answering questions on a forum such as the AAT Forums (that’s actually how I started). You don’t need a lot of experience to start offering help, although you do need the knowledge which can be gained from studies. For example, I remember answering a student’s query on how to do a cash flow statement via the AAT forum – that then turned into an article, which was read by thousands of students.”

Neil Johnson is a freelance business journalist who contributes regularly to trade publications and member organisations, covering employability, recruitment, business trends and industrial analysis.

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