Chartered Accountants work in a wide range of business sectors and in a broad spectrum of roles, from Chief Executives to Financial Controllers. Below are a few examples of the type of positions that Chartered Accountants occupy.
Tax matters arise in every aspect of running a business, from day-to-day VAT to share schemes. Tax accountants prepare corporate and personal income tax statements and formulate tax strategies involving issues such as financial choice, how to best treat a merger or acquisition, deferral of taxes, when to expense items and the like.
This work requires a thorough understanding of economics and the tax code, and responsibility comes early. Increasingly, large corporations are looking for persons with both an accounting and a legal background in tax. While tax issues vary by sector, being tax compliant is essential for all clients.
Management accountants work in companies and participate in decisions about capital budgeting and line of business analysis. Major functions include cost analysis, analysis of new contracts and participation in efforts to control expenses efficiently.
This work often involves the analysis of the structure of organizations. Is responsibility to spend money in a company at the right level of our organization? Are goals and objectives to control costs being communicated effectively? Historically, many management accountants have been derided as “bean counters”. This mentality has undergone major change as management accountants now often work side by side with marketing and finance personnel to develop new business.
Financial accountants prepare financial statements based on general ledgers and participate in important financial decisions involving mergers and acquisitions, benefits planning and long-term financial projections. This type of work can be really varied – one day you may be running spreadsheets, the next you may be visiting a customer or supplier to set up a new account and discuss business. This work requires a good understanding of both accounting and finance.
Budget analysts are responsible for developing and managing an organisation’s financial plans. There are plentiful jobs in this area in government and private industry. Besides quantitative skills, many budget analyst positions require superior people skills because of negotiations involved in the work.
Working in audit involves checking accounting ledgers and financial statements within corporations and government, and is the basis of much of accountancy practice. Auditing work is becoming increasingly computerised and can rely on sophisticated random sampling methods. This area may involve considerable travel and allows you to work in a wide array of sectors, to get a great understanding of how money is being made and managed.
Chartered accountants today
Most people have heard a joke or two about accountants but the long standing “beancounter” stereotype is fast disappearing. Today chartered accountants thrive on challenge, are resilient, think creatively, show initiative, have excellent people skills and work centre stage to help businesses succeed. The ACA qualification, offered by the ACCA, is an internationally recognised premier financial business qualification and training as an Associate C opens the door to a huge range of exciting opportunities in every sector of business and finance. Today the vast majority of those entering chartered accountancy are graduates with a 1st or 2.1. The remainder train after leaving school with good A’ Levels or have previous professional accountancy qualifications, for example from the Certified Accounting Technicians (AAT).
Chartered accountants in public practice work within an accountancy firm providing a range of accountancy and tax services to clients. These include business advice, management consultancy, audit and taxation. Firms vary in size from the sole practitioner to one of the Big Four multinational accountancy firms. Around 30% of ICAEW members currently work in public practice. They either progress through senior grades ultimately to partnership, or specialise in a particular area.
Accountants are often employed within an organisation using their financial knowledge and expertise to control the management of the business and to help it develop. They can occupy roles such as finance director or fund manager within organisations ranging from one of the Top 100 FTSE listed companies to smaller organisations with less than 250 employees. Around 45% of ICAEW members currently work in business.
Large firms often have specialised departments in corporate finance. Work involves securing finance for company mergers, acquisitions, management buy-ins and buy-outs and capital reconstructions. A job in corporate finance requires skills in negotiation with finance providers, lawyers, researchers and other key professionals.
Those accountants with an aptitude for computing could find themselves specialising in accounting IT. Work is largely project driven, involving for example the automation of the accountancy of a company or implementing new systems in accountancy firms.
Investigations into commercial fraud, personal injury cases and civil cases often require the testimony of expert witnesses in accountancy. Large firms often have specialised departments in litigation support composed of qualified accountants.