In this episode of our Learn Better Podcast, host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning at Kaplan, discusses how to cope with life’s challenges and how to ask for help.
Our guest is Gareth Winters, Relationship Development Officer for CABA (Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association), the independent occupational charity for the ICAEW community. In his role, Gareth gets to talk to a whole variety of different people, at different stages in their lives and careers, but what makes his observations interesting is that they all work in the world of finance and are seeking help in some way to get them and their lives back on track.
What is CABA?
Gareth and Stuart discuss what CABA is, and what they do. CABA was originally set up by a Chartered Accountant to support other Chartered Accountants with financial assistance. However, as the business has developed over time, while financial assistance is still at the core, they have additional elements which focus on mental health, physical health, financial well-being, career advice, and legal advice, for example. The overall purpose is to support and help ICAEW members thrive both personally and professionally.
Gareth’s career journey
Gareth was originally an actor and discusses how communication is the strong link between acting and his current role at CABA. Aside from his career journey, they discuss what Gareth does on a day-to-day basis. This includes meeting people from firms, businesses or sole traders, or speaking with teams within ICAEW to ensure that they are aware of exactly what CABA do and what support is available, as having access to CABA is one of the benefits of being an ICAEW member.
The purpose of CABA
Within the financial and accounting profession, asking for support can be one of the biggest barriers. While many people in the industry will need to show strength, with examples such as providing data-driven advice and solutions to clients, they feel like they can’t be seen as weak.
However, Gareth highlights that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. The courage that it can take to say the words: “Can you help me,” can be extremely difficult, and rather than suffering in silence, it’s important to start that conversation.
Examples of support
Gareth tells an anecdote about a previous individual that CABA has helped, whose life changed suddenly as a family member was admitted into hospital and he had to take care of two children. The financial pressures and time pressures led to negative consequences, such as failing an exam and temporarily splitting from his wife. However, after this, the individual reached out, which led to a much more positive outcome.
However, the lesson from this is that it’s important to open up and start the conversation by asking for help, as the story could have been very different if the individual was more open to showing vulnerability.
CABA have specialised trainers for different areas such as mental health, healthy eating habits, and moods, for example. They will draw upon those depending on the training sessions or individual situations.
Support officers in CABA will make independent referrals depending on the needs, and this can be different depending on the person and it’s not all black and white. There can be so many different areas that feed into one emotion or challenge that they aim to address all aspects.
Perception of accountants
Stuart and Gareth discuss Gareth’s perception of accountants before and after joining CABA. Gareth saw accountants as very driven, highly intellectual and financially wealthy. However, after three years at CABA, he’s found that not all accountants are financially wealthy, and just because they are skilled in this area doesn’t mean that they are immune to life’s challenges and they may still find themselves in financial hardships and worries.
He expands on through the mention of a recent survey which was conducted that found that accountants are also hit by the global cost of living crisis, and there are different levels to what an accountant could be earning, from apprentices and learners to fully qualified.
Gareth highlights how “accountants are human,” while the top four areas that people ask for advice on are emotional well-being and support, legal advice, career advice, and financial assistance.
How to ask for support
If you are an ICAEW member, you can call CABA where someone will talk to you on the phone and understand what your challenges are. You may find support in the blog articles, webinars, and resources available on the website, but other cases can be helped with professional or personal coaching.
Generally, you would have around five sessions with the counsellor or coach, where you’ll work towards a strategy on how to get to where you want to go. Gareth mentions that even if you are coming to CABA for counselling, they would still recommend that you also contact your registered GP for support.
If you contact the telephone helpline, someone would likely speak to you on the phone straight away. However, this will only take you so far. Therefore, if you are referred to an external partner, you’ll generally be spoken to within a week. Comparing this to other waiting lists for mental health or support, there is a huge difference.
For non-ICAEW members, the website, blog articles, and e-learning resources are also available for free.
Listen to the full episode
To hear the full conversation between Gareth Winters and Stuart Pedley-Smith, head over to our Learn Better podcast now.