Current AAT President Vernon Anderson FMAAT, is no stranger to positions of leadership and responsibility – before taking on the top job in September this year he was vice president and already an elected council member.
As a qualified AAT accountant, he’s also been a managing director of his own business and worked as a responsible finance officer for several medium and large town councils in the UK.
“Having been a council member for several years, I was aware of the role of the president, but never imagined I would be given the opportunity to take on the role one day,” says Anderson.
Shaping the future of AAT
“I have always wanted to make a difference and to help shape the future of the AAT as I believe it is an excellent organisation that really supports its members, and provides so many opportunities for students to change, not only their careers but often their lives.”
But his commitment to representing the organisation and working hard for the benefit of members is perhaps best shown by his more than six-year participation in the AAT’s Bristol Branch, where he has been a committee member and chairperson.
There are 50 local AAT branches covering the length and breadth of the UK and one internationally in Botswana. For Anderson, getting involved with his local branch was a chance to meet like-minded people and network and the enthusiasm of the branch’s committee was enough to convince him to join them.
“It was not long before I took on the role of Chairman, which worked well as I was also a chief executive of a town council and had a similar role, working with committees, producing minutes, handling people, and giving presentations,” he explains.
“I wanted to use my business skills to help the local branch grow and it also helped me personally to improve my networking and presentation skills.”
The impact of AAT’s branch network
His work with the Bristol branch involved meeting and greeting members, booking speakers and venues for them, preparing a yearly schedule of subjects, delegating roles to committee members, giving presentations at local colleges to encourage students to become involved and dealing with members’ questions.
“Members can derive so many benefits from attending their local branch events,” says Anderson.
“They can make new friends and swap knowledge and ideas, they can keep their CPD [continuing professional development] up-to-date by learning new skills, they can gain confidence by liaising with other accounting technicians and sometimes also employment if another member has a vacancy in their business.”
As an unexpected perk, if you’re a member of the Bristol branch you might even get a full cooked breakfast for free on a Saturday morning courtesy of Bristol golf course – the branch moved its events here during Anderson’s tenure.
“It [the change of venue] also encouraged more members to attend as events were held on a Saturday, which was more beneficial to members – they didn’t have to attend after a day’s work and were less tired and more attentive,” he says.
I wanted to use my business skills to help the local branch grow
Accommodating members needs
To make events most effective branches must pick venues with great facilities, such as ample parking and at a reasonable distance, he adds, and pair these with great speakers covering subjects in which members have told the branch they are interested. A forthcoming event in Bristol will focus on wealth management, for example, with local experts discussing tax-efficient investment and pension and inheritance planning. Previous events had included talks on changes to VAT rules and charity accounting.
For AAT members who haven’t thought of joining their local branch, Anderson thoroughly recommends it and suggests starting with an event that appeals to them personally or professionally. Branch officials can then introduce them to regular members to make them feel as welcome as possible.
If, as he did, branch members or attendees want to take their involvement further Anderson suggests talking with the branch committee for more information: “I would explain that their involvement would give them so many opportunities both with their career and also personally. They would gain many new skills and hopefully also make many friends in the process.”
AAT members can also find branch members local to them via the association’s online discussion forum.
From AAT branch chairperson to AAT President
Anderson hopes he can apply everything he’s learned from working with a branch to his role as AAT President. His experience of growing and running an organisation at the local level will prove invaluable, as will his hands-on approach, enthusiasm and commitment to innovation.
Ultimately, however, as in Bristol, his focus will be on the members and their experience: “My priorities will be to ensure the new management structure runs well and to introduce the members assembly, a new group especially set up for all our members to have more involvement.”
Laura Oliver is a Freelance Journalist and Former Head of Social and Community at the Guardian.