How CPD got me to the top

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Henry Cooper FMAAT, the newly-elected AAT President, has reached the top through hard work and effort. Here he talks about the changing landscape in which we work, and why he thinks continuing professional development (CPD) is so important to stand out from the crowd.

I joined the AAT branch in my area, Milton Keynes and Bedford back in 2000. I joined because I wanted to give something back to the industry in which I had developed a successful career for myself. I’ve never looked back – I was elected to AAT Council in 2006 and then in May this year I was elected as President. It’s quite incredible to see how far I’ve come.

As you may expect my CPD has naturally grown in leaps and bounds. Not only have I learnt so much from courses and events that I’ve attended over the years but also from the like-minded accounting professionals and other accountants that I’ve met along the way. The networking opportunities provide a support system which is priceless regardless of what stage you are at in your career.

AAT students who have just started their journey into the world of accountancy and finance would benefit hugely from getting involved. What you learn through a local branch will not only help your studying, it will complement the work you do in your profession.

By volunteering with a branch you also show a commitment which many, if not all employers value. Also for those who are keen to become a member in practice (MIP) and start out on their own, they will gain valuable insight from others with many years of experience of running their own business under their belt.

I recently was welcomed into presidency at the AAT head office and I spoke about my love of the branch networks and the importance of their role to encourage lifelong learning and professionalism within our industry. As mentioned, my personal CPD plan has taken many directions over the years. Being an avid branch member has meant that it’s been important for me to keep in touch and connected and I feel I’ve done this by embracing technology and its advancements.

The reality is that technology is advancing at such a pace that I feel it’s crucial to keep up and it’s something every sector of a business can embrace. What I’ve learned by being involved and taking an interest in social media is the spectrum of information out there.

By having an active presence on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, I’m not only able to keep in touch with colleagues, clients and business associates but I’m also kept up to date on the information that’s important to me. This has certainly benefitted my CPD. For instance by being a follower of HMRC on Twitter, I never miss any important dates or changes in legislation.

I also follow a range of accounting journalists and bloggers, so am always reading interesting debates and features about topics that are relevant to our industry. It’s also a great tool for building relationships and retaining clients. It’s so simple and addictive once you get started, and I urge accountants not to be nervous.

I know of students out there that have come across volunteering, interning and job opportunities by being the first to hear about them through social networking sites. It’s an exciting space and will help me as President connect with AAT students and members across the country and internationally.

As a MIP, I’m naturally a big fan of the scheme. It gave me the opportunity to grow my business from small beginnings – from working at home to now having a recognised high street practice. In these challenging economic times, wise students and members should look to this scheme.

We mustn’t forget that accounting, bookkeeping and financial services are always needed despite tough economic times. There is this misconception that in order to have your own business you must be qualified as a chartered accountant. That isn’t the case. You can stay with the AAT your whole career continuing your learning along the way. It’s exciting.

Students and members should take advantage of the services and tools on offer from AAT, they’re designed to help each of us be the best we can possibly be within this competitive marketplace.

Henry Cooper FMAAT was AAT's 32nd President.

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