Emma meets: Sarah Beale, General Manager of the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

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Emma Peterson, Director FinTech Awards Wales & Finance Awards Wales Meeting:

Sarah Beale

General director

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

Continuing this new 11-part series of “Emma Meets”, Emma Peterson, Director of Recruit 121 Finance & Accounting Solutions, learns more about the sponsors of the upcoming Finance Awards Wales 2022. Finance Awards Wales is designed to recognize, attract and invest in the talented finance professionals working in Wales, showcasing the best of the best in the finance industry. In this edition, Emma meets Sarah Beale, Executive Director of the AAT.

Can you tell me about your company and what you do?

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is the world’s leading professional body for accounting technicians and has been leading the way for inclusive access to accounting education for over 40 years. Our internationally recognized qualifications are open to everyone, regardless of their previous education, age or background. We work to raise the profile of accounting technicians in the UK and around the world, who play a role in building stronger economies and in setting, maintaining and improving professional standards of accountancy practice. Currently, we have approximately 125,000 members and students in over 100 countries. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from school and college freshmen to a host of people looking to change careers, including those looking to run their own business.

What was the biggest challenge the company faced and how did you respond?

Like many organizations around the world, AAT was not immune to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we have navigated our business and our services in uncharted waters, so that AAT remains sustainable. , and we supported our members and students in the best way. .

We faced some challenges because of this, including changes to our review process. In May 2021, following a successful pilot, we launched our remote monitoring offer for a series of assessments. This has allowed us to introduce additional flexibility for students, allowing them to choose to take selected assessments at home if that is their choice. The ability to offer remote monitoring functionality remains, not only because of the residual uncertainty of a pandemic, but because this pandemic has indeed changed people’s expectations for work and learning.

During Covid-19, businesses needed sound financial advice more than ever. We have therefore ensured that our students and members have the current knowledge and relevant skills to help them navigate a rapidly changing landscape.

One positive element arising from the pandemic is a sea change in people’s awareness and commitment to better mental health. AAT has always shown a strong commitment to this and has been quick to provide additional support to colleagues throughout the pandemic. Like many businesses, we are assessing the implications of hybrid working, balancing an unprecedented level of home working and flexibility that is now a “new normal”, with the social and business demands of personal interaction.

How do you think the Welsh economy will perform over the next 12 months?

Like the rest of the UK, the Welsh economy faces several economic challenges over the coming months due to the rising cost of living and concerns over inflation, as well as the residual impact of the pandemic and Brexit. This points more than ever to a need for strong financial skills – such as AAT qualifications – Accounting Technicians will be key to this recovery and we encourage businesses to consider seeking out AAT qualifications and the skills they can provide to their workforce- work.

What plans do you have for your business in 2022?

We regularly review and update our qualifications to ensure they reflect the needs of employers and industry. In September 2022, we will launch our new qualifications suite – Qualifications 2022 – featuring the new versions of our accounting and bookkeeping qualifications at levels 1 to 4. As well as updating the technical content, we have also integrated a increased learning around key activities. topics such as sustainability, ethics, communication and technology and sustainability – all areas we know are becoming increasingly important for accounting technicians now and in the future.

We will expand our role of influence, challenging and seeking changes in education policy and funding to meet the needs of our students and members, as well as fiduciary policies in taxation. We will also continue our call for regulation of the profession, to ensure that the public is protected and that bad practices by unqualified accounting firms are stopped.

Additionally, we will continue to focus on providing access to the accounting profession for everyone, regardless of age, background or previous experience. This includes promoting increased support for learning and competency-based learning, as well as highlighting the achievements of our members and students.

Finally, in the fall, we will share our long-term aspirations and vision for the AAT, outlining what we would like to achieve and become by 2030. We see a much broader role and contribution for the AAT only qualifications and memberships. In addition to further developing our community of members, we want to have a greater impact on the profession and society at large, by achieving our charitable goals and continuing our work to influence government policy.

Why did you choose to sponsor the Finance Awards Wales 2022?

AAT has a strong track record of supporting thousands of Wales-based students to develop new skills and gain the qualifications needed to enter the accountancy profession. Sponsorship of the Finance Awards Wales helps shine a light on the sector and its role in creating exciting and rewarding careers. It also demonstrates both the need for highly qualified finance staff in all businesses and the outstanding work of individuals and businesses across Wales. We are delighted to sponsor this year’s awards and hope that the success of the winners and nominees will inspire others to join the accountancy profession and strengthen the existing talent pool.

If you’ve sponsored the awards before, what were your highlights from last year’s ceremony?

We were delighted to see Jordan Harley, an AAT apprentice with Blaenau Gwent Council, win in the ‘Accounts Technician of the Year Award’ category. Jordan has enjoyed tremendous success in his journey as an AAT Apprentice and in his work as an Accounting Intern – earning a final grade of Distinction with 94% in his AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting – and is now aiming to become a Fellow AAT professional. We hope he will be a great example for companies in Wales considering hiring AAT apprentices of the benefits they can bring, as well as those considering an apprenticeship of where it can take their careers.

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