Mark Farrar, AAT Chief Executive pauses for breath as 2014 draws to a close

Mark Farrar, AAT Chief Executive

For those ardent readers, you’ll have been introduced to me through the Accounting Technician magazine feature (July/August issue) and I contributed to AAT Comment earlier in the year talking about opening up access to the finance and accountancy profession.

I did say when I joined AAT: “I want to meet as many members as possible, come face to face with policymakers, build relationships with other institutes and get out to branches and to parliament.”

So to roundup 2014, I thought I’d give you an overview of how I’ve immersed myself into life at AAT to date.

Meeting you all

Students and members – I’ve been meeting lots of you. I was fortunate enough to attend the AAT Conference (Weekender) in May and attend a number of AAT branch network events. This year marks the 30th anniversary for the branch networks and I’ve been amazed by those that volunteer for their branches, sharing knowledge and insight to ensure all members (wherever they are on their journey with us) are continually striving to be the best within our profession.

I’ve also attended the Achievement Awards here at home (Manchester) but also abroad in Botswana. Both offered insight into how AAT qualifications have helped changed people’s lives, giving skills and qualifications that are valued by employers and are continually sought after across businesses.

I’m also fascinated by how many senior figures I’m meeting across industry sectors that began their journey with AAT. One such example is Rachel Banfield, AAT’s own president. Rachel is a fellow member of AAT, having studied with us when in local government and is also now an accountant and Vice Principal of ifs University College.

Coming face to face with policymakers and parliament

AAT work really hard to ensure the voice of our members get heard at all levels of government and with policymakers. We regularly engage with policymakers and MPs on skill and qualification development but also on changes within technical accountancy that affect our members.

If you’re not familiar with our work, we have a whole section on our website dedicated to our policy work, please do take a look.

Since I’ve been with AAT there are two really big bodies of work that immediately spring to mind.

  • We’re really proud that we have played a pivotal part in lobbying HMRC’s proposed plans to take cash from taxpayers’ bank accounts (direct recovery of debts). As a result better safeguards will be put into place, protecting innocent parties.
  • We’ve also produced a report entitled ‘Apprenticeships for the future’ which was discussed at a roundtable launched at the House of Commons. We really believe in high value apprenticeships and we want to continually communicate the benefits of apprenticeships to the UK economy, now and in the future. The Daily Telegraph will give you a great overview of our work which builds on previous research that David Cameron commented on.

 Build relationships with other institutes

Our organisation is sponsored by the professional accounting bodies CIPFA, ICAEW, CIMA and ICAS and last year we became a member of IFAC. I’ve been fortunate within the last nine months to build relationships with these organisations as well as others like the Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) to show how accounting technicians can play a key role across businesses in the UK and overseas.

We are also an avid sponsor of Professions Week, which allows us to work with other enterprises to improve social mobility. We want to open access to the professions so that opportunities are there for all, irrespective of people’s backgrounds. AAT is open to everyone regardless of previous qualifications and we firmly believe that lifelong learning is imperative for economic stability and growth.

AAT has been included in the first trench of Tech Levels which means qualifications have employer support and from 2016 will be included in school performance tables. AAT is also playing a key role in the government’s Trailblazer initiative. These projects ensure our qualifications are delivering for both employers and individuals, now and in the future – essential for a qualification and membership body.

So what does 2015 look like?

Busy!

We will continue to raise our voice to make sure we’re heard in government. We will take a strong stance when it comes to the debate on changes to tax and legislation, especially as it affects many of our business owners here in the UK.

I’ll be meeting the Skills Minister, Nick Boles early in the New Year which I’m looking forward to. The skills that individuals and organisations derive from high value vocational qualifications such as ours play a significant part in any nation’s future economic success and I want to make sure our role in this is fully recognised.

Finally, thank you for your continued loyalty to AAT and the values we stand for. For those of you studying for further qualifications I wish you every success. Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2015.

Mark Farrar is the Chief Executive of AAT.

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