Whether or not you agree with the title of this article (and let’s be honest, there are probably not many people that do) it has at least encouraged you to read this far.
If you ask somebody to describe an accountant, I almost guarantee that ‘interesting’ will not rank high on their list of adjectives. Dull, boring, interested in numbers; an overwhelming impression of a middle-aged man in a grey suit. That is the stereotype that those of us who choose to pursue a career in accounting must bear, but it is increasingly far from the truth.
Shall we get one thing out of the way early on? There is a lot to an accountant’s ongoing work that is routine, which some people will find boring.
Working in practice, we prepare financial statements and income tax returns for a wide range of individuals and companies; we advise people on the most efficient way of structuring investments, to maximise the tax allowances they can claim; and yes, complying with professional standards and Regulatory requirements can mean form filling.
But that is not all we do. If we are to prepare accurate accounts and tax returns – and, more importantly, give our clients the advice they need before something goes wrong – we need to know them, understand their goals and have a real insight into what their business does. This means talking to them, and building relationships.
The most interesting aspects of the job can be dealing with those one-off pieces of work clients ask you to help them with – when they are looking to purchase a business, are considering expanding what they already do into new products or markets, or are planning to retire.
These decisions will invariably be emotional – whether the excitement of a new idea, or realising the fruits of a lifetime of hard work – and the analytical input that a good accountant can offer at such times is invaluable. It’s a time when you can offer solutions that a non-accountant might not even have thought about, and there is real satisfaction in seeing your clients succeed.
Thus far, I have only looked at the reasons why a particular career in accounting might be more interesting than you had thought – and the best thing about an accounting qualification is the doors that it can open.
Every business of any size needs an accountant. The Channel Islands are lucky to have a wide variety of employers that can offer a varied and interesting career to an accountant – both within the Finance industry and outside. Specsavers, Healthspan and Sandpiper are just a few examples of large local employers who have significant finance teams.
What about if you have your sights set on a career outside of the Islands? Again, accountancy could offer you that opportunity. Many of the larger accounting firms offer newly qualified staff the chance to experience working in other countries, with opportunities in London, Australia, the Cayman Islands and the United States not uncommon. If you prefer to ‘go it alone’ accounting qualifications are recognised internationally, and demonstrate to a potential employer that you are prepared (and able) to go to the effort required to pass technically challenging exams.
It is also worth bearing in mind that obtaining an accounting qualification – and following that up with some solid accounting experience – might be only the first step on your career path. A finance background is a great route to senior positions in large companies – statistics released for FTSE 100 companies show that, at May 2015, 52% of Chief Executives have an accountancy background.
As a final thought, you might remember that the BBC produced a documentary on Richard Branson’s Necker Island in early 2015. Of the 100 or so permanent staff, the crew mentioned at least two accountants. If that doesn’t convince you that being an accountant is the most interesting job in the world, you’ll hopefully agree it’s more interesting than you thought!
Colin Jeffreys, ACCA