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  • How to gain ACCA professional skills marks

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 11, 2022

    Nowadays, being a professional accountant entails much more than just technical competence. Though financial reporting and tax knowledge are still the bread and butter of the role, greater emphasis is being placed by employers on softer skills that will facilitate better decision-making within the organisation.

    ACCA always aims to move in step with the changing role of finance ensuring that its members continue to meet the needs of the profession. Thus, the introduction of the professional skills marks across the Strategic Professional exams aim to reflect the leading position finance now has within the organisation.

    From a student's perspective, 20 marks available for professional skills can make all the difference between a pass and a fail. Many students might already be familiar with the professional skills marks, as these were introduced several years ago in the SBL exam. However, ACCA is now broadening the range of papers where these marks are available. Therefore it is vital, for both exam success and your future career, to get these five professional skills right.

    Let’s now take a closer look...

    Analysis skills

    Finance professionals usually use analysis skills daily. In the morning, most of us will be presented with dozens of urgent emails, hence making the ability to prioritise become the key to getting the important stuff done.

    Speech marks

    “Remember, it’s important to add value through your involvement in decision-making”

    Analysis skills help us bring together different sources of information to establish the causes of problems so that an appropriate solution can be found. For example, you can be asked to analyse the financial and non-financial factors affecting a decision. On seeing this, accountants immediately start to gravitate toward financial ratios. This is all well and good, but remember it’s important to add value through your involvement in decision-making. This can only be done if the ratios are commented on so that the significance of the figures calculated can be appreciated by all.

    Evaluation skills

    It was surprising to learn from the examiner that many students struggle with evaluation skills. The ability to make a balanced judgement is often the main characteristic that distinguishes finance professionals.

    As part of our work, we often have to balance the costs and benefits of a proposal. We might also be called upon to objectively assess the risks and opportunities as these might not be apparent to others involved in the decision-making.

    To show off your evaluation skills, remember to take into account the implications of the decisions on the organisation and those affected. For example, you might need to evaluate the significance of the control weakness by looking at the extent of disruptions that it will cause.

    Alternatively, you might need to evaluate the strategic options available to the organisation. You will need to contrast these by looking at their respective advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes figures can also be thrown in the mix, so don’t be afraid to estimate the financial impact of the decision, even if the outcomes are not yet certain.

    Finally, the examiner might also expect you to provide a conclusion or recommendation following a comprehensive evaluation. Remember to be brave, make a decision and stick with it! There is rarely one right answer in real life, thus there is no expectation that everyone will come to the same viewpoint in the exam. As long as you can support your decision with reasoned argumentation, you are sure to get it right.

    Speech marks

    “Remember to be brave, make a decision and stick with it!”

    Communication skills

    One of the key means by which members of the finance department can add value to the organisation is by explaining the concepts in a way that others with a non-financial background can understand. For example, you might need to inform the Management Team about the consequences of their choices in a persuasive way. Alternatively, you might need to clarify a difficult concept in a way that is appropriate for the seniority of the audience that it is aimed at.

    To facilitate the communication process, you will need to present the information in a particular format, such as a presentation or a press release. Students are often fearful of the presentation (and let’s be honest, very few enjoy being put on the spot while presenting a complex topic), but there is no need to panic.

    To make our life easier in the exam, the examiner has introduced Slides functionality in the Response Options. There, you will find a rectangular box to enter the slide content (PowerPoint wizzes will be disappointed about the absence of the animation features that often jazz the whole thing up). This will be followed by another rectangular box for the speaker’s notes.

    Commercial acumen skills

    Finance professionals are often tasked with translating ideas into practical actions, such as managing projects to deliver desired outcomes. Here, awareness of the wider business context is paramount to ensure that practical details of the industry, as well as organisation-specific issues, are taken into account when resolving problems or pursuing opportunities.

    From the exam perspective, you might need to consider real-life situations, such as an organisation underperforming due to fraud or other control weaknesses. Using your commercial acumen, you will need to both identify the causes of the current problems and propose workable solutions. The commercial acumen skill is often difficult for students to master as it encourages them to go beyond the direct study materials and rely on commercial awareness acquired by reading business publications and through practical work experience.

    Scepticism skills

    Professional scepticism helps to distinguish rights from wrongs and thus maintains the ethical and commercial compass of the organisation on course. Just because we are told certain things (sometimes even by senior directors) that information may not be reliable or trustworthy.

    By questioning the opinions and assertions made, you will help build solid foundations on which future strategies can be built. For example, you might be asked to challenge documentation prepared by a junior member of staff as it contains significant omissions which lead to erroneous outcomes.

    Practice makes perfect

    Hopefully, you are now feeling much more confident about the professional skills that will come in handy in your exams, as well as have the potential to propel your career forward. Therefore, now is probably a good time to put these skills to the test. Whether it is delivering a presentation at work or preparing for your next ACCA paper, make sure that your professionalism shines through!

  • Which qualification should I study for my career goals?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 03, 2022

    Hoping to land a career in accountancy but you’re not sure where to begin your studies? At Kaplan, we have a variety of options and routes for you to take, with AAT, ACCA, CIMA, and ACA qualifications available to kickstart your journey.

    We have addressed some of our frequently asked questions to help you decide.

    Starting your accounting journey

    If you have relevant experience or previous qualifications, you may be entitled to exemptions from specific levels with AAT, ACCA, CIMA, or ACA. However, we advise you to contact the institute directly regarding any exemptions, as they will confirm this, and there may be an additional fee.

    Studying with AAT

    In most instances, starting your studies with AAT will be the best option to take.

    From recent school leavers to those searching for a career change, anyone can study with AAT, as the awarding body requires no previous experience. Most people will begin with the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Accounting.

    You will find that your AAT studies will provide the technical skills needed to pursue a career in accounting.

    Some examples of careers that you can go into with the AAT qualification include:

    • Bookkeeper
    • Credit controller
    • Payroll manager
    • Finance analyst

    Starting with ACCA or CIMA

    If you’re hoping to become a chartered accountant, you may choose to study either CIMA or ACCA. Both will help you with your journey to becoming a chartered accountant, but the teachings will differ.

    ACCA will teach you the principles of accounting while targeting similar teachings from the AAT at a more advanced level. It is required for you to partake in relevant work experience while studying ACCA. If you have no previous accounting knowledge, the best place to start will be at the ACCA Foundation level. However, the awarding body, ACCA, may also consider your GCSE and A-Level results if you wish to begin from the Applied Knowledge level.

    The knowledge from studying ACCA will help you find careers in roles including:

    • Financial accountant
    • Financial controller
    • Finance manager
    • Corporate treasurer
    • Auditor
    • Tax specialist
    • Chief financial officer (CFO)

    CIMA is considered one of the most relevant finance qualifications for business, ideal for those searching for wider opportunities in business leadership or management accounting roles. With no prior business or accounting education, you will need to begin your studies at the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting level. This will provide you with the knowledge to progress with your career.

    The CIMA qualification can help you get into these careers:

    • Management accountant
    • Finance manager
    • Business analyst
    • Management consultant
    • Financial analyst
    • Commercial analyst
    • Chief financial officer (CFO)
    • Financial director

    I have already studied AAT, where do I go next?

    After completing your studies with AAT, you will need to assess your career options to decide what next steps to take. If you require further education to achieve your career goals, there are options available with ACCA, CIMA, or ACA.

    From AAT to ACCA

    If you have completed the AAT Level 4 Diploma in Accounting, you may be eligible for exemptions from specific ACCA papers, allowing you to begin at the ACCA Applied Skills level. If you have completed AAT levels 2 or 3, you may need to begin your ACCA studies from the ACCA Applied Knowledge Level.

    We advise you to contact ACCA directly to assess your options.

    From AAT to CIMA

    For CIMA, if you wish to begin from the CIMA Professional Operational level, you will need to complete AAT level 4. However, the completion of the AAT levels 2 and 3 only will require you to begin from the CIMA Certificate level.

    Again, you can visit CIMA Global directly to discuss any exemptions.

    I’m interested in studying ACA; where do I start?

    ACA is considered to be one of the most advanced accounting qualifications; therefore there may be stricter entry requirements. To study with ACA, you may be required to hold a recognised degree awarded by a UK or Irish university, or a relevant professional accountancy qualification.

    Again, it is always best to speak with the institute directly to gather more information regarding your experience. However, you may be able to inquire about possible exemptions from specific units if you have the necessary experience or knowledge.

    To ACA from AAT

    The awarding body, ICAEW, may be able to offer the AAT-ACA Fast Track route if you have completed the AAT level 4 and, occasionally, AAT level 3. The route may allow you to skip a few steps to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, opening up many opportunities for you in your career.

    If you’re still unsure which career path to take after completing your AAT, studying for your ACA might be the best choice for you. ICAEW Chartered Accountants are respected globally as trusted business advisers and are in high demand within every sector.

    Studying for your ACA will help to build your technical knowledge while advancing your skills needed for the industry, thus allowing you to become more adaptable to all working environments.

    To ACA from CIMA or ACCA

    If you previously studied CIMA or ACCA, and have decided to change your career goals, you may be eligible for a few exemptions from ACA depending on your previous level of study. Remember to contact the institute directly regarding these possible exemptions.

    How do I get started?

    Kaplan is a trusted learning provider if you’re looking to kickstart your career in accountancy. We encourage you to speak with our Student Services Team who are happy to answer any questions that you may have. We also recommend that you speak with the awarding bodies regarding exam paper exemptions for any qualification in which you’re interested.

    Need a little more guidance? Take a look at our accountancy courses.

    Find out more

  • The Great U-Turn for 2022 Budget!

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 26, 2022

    An accountant for Prime Minister

    Kaplan has been training CIMA accountants for decades, while Kaplan Publishing is the official provider of CIMA materials. When Liz Truss became the Prime Minister, it felt like a good omen for accountants. Truss is a CIMA-qualified accountant, so it’s great to know that one of our own can rise to the highest office in the land.

    Accountants are noted for their good financial stewardship, and for carefully managing the cash flows of organisations without taking excessive risk. Truss appointed Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Kwasi is an old Etonian with an impressive academic record. He was top of his class at Cambridge before winning the prestigious Kennedy Scholarship to Harvard and appeared more than capable of managing the UK economy.

    Dramatic changes

    Kwasi Kwarteng went ahead to deliver a tax-cutting budget, heralding the largest tax cuts since 1972! The positive measures included reducing the basic rate of income tax from 20% to 19%, and reversing the increase of national insurance of 1.25 (previously imposed by Rishi Sunak). In addition to this, the government planned on subsiding rising energy costs for everybody in the country, aiming to help with the cost of living crisis.

    However, other budgetary measures appeared to go too far, with the proposed cancellation of the increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25%. In addition, Kwarteng surprisingly increased the threshold for stamp duty for first-time buyers to £425,000 to boost the property market. Ultimately, these drastic measures abandoned sound fiscal policy.

    Furthermore, Kwarteng abolished the additional rate of tax of 45% for the wealthy who earn over £150,000. The dramatic move only affected the top 1% of earners in the UK. According to the Treasury, 660,000 people would now pay £10,000 less in a tax year.

    In another unjustified measure, he abolished the cap on banker bonuses, which is currently 200% of your basic salary. This cap means that a banker earning £200,000 a year could only receive a bonus of £400,000. Now, these bankers can get a bonus of £1 million! Once again, these measures only helped a select few millionaires.

    A little turbulence

    At Kaplan, we offer a range of accounting qualifications such as AAT, ACCA, and ICAEW. These qualifications require a detailed understanding of tax, so the budget is of great interest to our learners. Aside from studying Tax, our Kaplan students also study economics, so they know that it is important to balance tax reductions with savings elsewhere in the economy.

    However, Liz and Kwasi proposed to pay for the tax cuts through increased borrowings.

    The budgetary announcement caused devastation in the financial markets, with the stock markets falling and the sterling reaching a historic low against the dollar.

    Therefore, in a dramatic U-turn, Kwasi Kwarteng admitted that he made a mistake, thus reversing his position and retaining the 45% additional tax rate for income in excess of £150,000. Kwasi called the U-turn ‘a little turbulence,’ but for a new Chancellor, it certainly looked like a baptism of fire.

    Starting again

    In a shocking development, Former Prime Minister, Liz Truss, then sacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng. The duo both believed in a low-tax high growth economy and co-authored a book titled Britannia Unchained (Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity). However, the turmoil in the capital markets emphasises the importance of balancing the books and funding tax cuts by other tax inflows.

    Liz Truss was then hopeful of restoring public confidence with the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as the new Chancellor. The experienced politician, who has survived many political storms in the past, has taken an axe to Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax-cutting proposals, and it’s now doubtful that any of the measures will survive.

    This illustrates the importance of tax in our daily lives. If you would like to develop a specialised tax career, Kaplan offers a choice of two highly regarded qualifications: The Association of Taxation Technician exams, and the higher-level Chartered Institute of Taxation exams.

    Neil Da Costa is a Senior Tax Lecturer with Kaplan. He believes in keeping things simple and inspiring his students. He is the author of two tax books, Advanced Tax Condensed, and Tax Condensed. These innovative books feature memory joggers, enabling students to learn the vast tax syllabus using accelerated learning techniques.

    Find out how you can strengthen your tax knowledge.

    Find out more

  • ACCA: An international passport in accountancy

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 14, 2022

    We spoke to ACCA Kuwait Prizewinner, Vijay Menon, to find out how studying via OnDemand gave him everything he needed for success.

    I have 20 years' experience working in accounting. I started as an accountant and progressed to Financial Accounts Manager, then all the way up to where I am now - the Finance Director of a department store in Kuwait.

    In 2015, I qualified as a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) through the IMA. After completion, there was a mutual recognition agreement between ACCA and IMA. This meant I was now eligible for exemptions with ACCA.

    I wanted to study the internationally recognised qualification, and get more convergence on the International Accounting Standards. I had an existing understanding and experience of the US standards, but searched for more international exposure.

    ACCA is basically an international passport in accountancy.

    Why Kaplan?

    I had the option of a few training providers but I knew I needed to be in charge of my own studies. I struggle to focus in a classroom environment and I had heard that Kaplan was a pioneer in the education industry. After reaching out and explaining my needs, I signed up for the OnDemand subscription. Everyone learns differently, and this was the perfect option for me.

    Studying OnDemand

    All the materials were great. I would use the online text, work through the videos and then contact a tutor if needed. The tutor support was fantastic: from complex questions to basic maths. They gave me the confidence to move forward.

    I would mainly use the Integrated Workbook for revision, as well as the study text if I had a doubt about a topic. The exam kit is more about the application of the knowledge, which expands your commercial acumen and communication skills.

    Did you face any challenges whilst studying?

    It is challenging to avoid getting disturbed or distracted while you study. Consistency is very important and the best way to study is to get into a routine. Kaplan provides a lot of tools, like the timetables, but ultimately, it is about our personal commitment.

    Tackling difficult subjects was challenging. I broke it down into smaller pieces and would slowly unwrap it. Initially, it can be quite overwhelming. I found that it helped to get a bird’s eye view and look at the percentage of the full paper that one topic covers.This helped me to manage my time and prioritise what I focus on.

    Do you have advice for people who may be looking to study ACCA internationally?

    I would advise others to self-study. You need to fully understand the questions and how to apply your knowledge, and I think self-studying will help you become efficient at this. If you have questions, there is online tutor support on MyKaplan so you can still reach out if you need it.

    Education is a continuous thing.

    If you want international movement and international mobility, then I say ACCA is the answer. ACCA covers accounting areas that give you a broader knowledge. I thought that it would be fairly easy after I completed my CMA, but it’s still testing me and complimenting my existing knowledge.

    A combination of qualifications is really helpful, but ACCA being the first is ideal. I’d say that I did it the wrong order as I started with CMA. CMA focused on management accounting, similar to CIMA in the UK. It would have been better to build a base of accounting knowledge and then add layers on top of it.

    Why is international mobility important for you?

    I have worked for companies in many different countries, such as Sweden, America, and France. Although I currently work for a local company, you never know what’s going to come tomorrow.

    ACCA gives you both the knowledge and confidence to be able to work globally. I have learnt about managing companies, as well as monitoring responsibilities such as CSR. The standards are similar everywhere. If you go to the UK, USA, or India, the corporate standards and expectations are the same.

    Find out more about ACCA

    If you're interested in this course, visit our ACCA course page (UK) or ACCA Subscription page (INTL) for more information.

  • Passing all exams first time - find out how Nicole did it

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 13, 2022

    We caught up with CIMA superstar Nicole Bland who passed all her exams first time, to find out just how she did it.

    Hi Nicole - congratulations! How are you feeling about your amazing results?

    Thank you - I’ve always been very pleased with my results. I was an average student at school - a neighbour even said that I wouldn’t go far in life! But I started an apprenticeship at a local accountancy practice and everything changed!

    So what qualifications did you do?

    I studied AAT via classroom lessons, and then did CIMA via Live Online.

    Which study method worked best for you?

    Classroom lessons were great, but I decided to study CIMA via Live Online to save on commuting and parking. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything as Live Online classes are carried out via Zoom and are just like being in the classroom, however you can be comfortable at home and there aren’t as many disruptions and students can only talk on that chat panel.

    I like the fact that you can watch the Live Online videos back if you miss something or need to refer back for further understanding - you don’t get this on a classroom course.

    How did you find MyKaplan?

    MyKaplan is really well structured. It tells you what you need to do on each day to keep up with the course - it has a checklist of each topic to ensure that you’ve covered everything that you need to before the next class.

    Were any of the tutors particularly helpful during your course?

    The Kaplan tutors seem to be the best that I have ever studied with. They are all knowledgeable and seem to know the materials inside and out. I do not think my scores would have been as good without these tutors. My best tutors were Gill BattersbyBee and Stuart Pedley Smith.

    Stuart was fantastic. He made learning fun and always applied the lessons to the real world. He also gave me confidence for the exam as I was so anxious with this being my last exam ever! His approach was to think of the case study as a story and to think of a beginning, middle, and end. He also told the class to try and imagine that you are sitting at work, rather than in an exam, and use your business judgement and common sense, which I tried to relate to all the way through my exam.

    You can contact a tutor via email most times of the day, and will receive a response within four hours. It’s great if you are stuck on a question and can’t wait until your next class.

    What materials did you use?

    I received all the materials that I needed - study book, revision cards, and integrated workbook. The integrated workbook is used in the class and I believe is what makes you pass.

    The mock exams are often harder than the real exams so they get you well prepared. You can also compare your scores with the rest of the class - which is good as you can see if all other students are struggling too.

    You did an apprenticeship - can you tell us more about this?

    I studied through a L7 apprenticeship and it was fantastic. I was supported throughout by a Kaplan talent coach. I also did off the job training, which allows more quality time studying rather than having to attend your classes after work.

    Also to become CIMA qualified you have to submit PER, however as an apprentice you have to submit a project report instead which seems to be more straightforward. You get help from your talent coach, and they won’t let you submit it to CIMA until they know it's of a good quality.

    My talent coach, Karen Evans, was absolutely out of this world. She was with me almost from the start of my apprenticeship, and not only supported me through my studies and apprenticeship, she helped me through things that happened in my personal life.

    I am a strong believer in apprenticeships. I did an AAT apprenticeship at 18 (Level 4) then went on to study CIMA (Level 7). Also, I have always recruited apprentices and put them through the AAT scheme with Kaplan, as I think they have more drive and determination and are able to apply their studies in a work environment.

    And where are you now?

    From studying with Kaplan I have been able to progress from an Assistant Management Accountant position, to a Management Accountant, and I’m now a Head of Finance. I have grown as a person and I’m able to apply my studies at work.

    What advice can you give people following in your footsteps?

    Book your exam around Kaplans Live Online timetable before you even start the module and stick to it!

    Create a plan for each module (I use excel) to plan out all the days before the exam when you want to start studying. Plan some rest days and try to study little and often rather than seven hour chunks after a busy day at work.

    For each objective test module I attempted at least 700 different questions and for the case studies I attempted around 60 written questions and 4 mocks. I believe I learnt a lot from getting questions wrong.

    Try to attend each and every class live, over my three years I did not miss a live class. Some students seem to miss the Live Online classes and never catch back up.

    You have to think that CIMA is a Level 7 qualification, so it’s not going to be easy but drive and determination will get you through. Three years seems like forever when you are studying, but this qualification will set your career up for life!

    Impressed? Fancy AAT or CIMA?

    If you’re inspired by Nicole’s story, check out our AAT and CIMA pages - as well as our accountancy and tax apprenticeships. This could be your next step to a very successful career.

  • Finalists announced for the WorldSkills UK competition

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 07, 2022

    We’re very pleased to confirm the details of the WorldSkills UK Accounting Technician competition finals. WorldSkills supports young people across the world via training based on competitions.

    This competition has been designed by Kaplan to ‘reflect the role of an accountant and the standards that are expected within the financial sector’.

    The finals competition will take the format of a set business case study with accompanying tasks and assessments to be undertaken in the given time period. This year, it’s being held on 17 and 18 November at Barking and Dagenham College.

    It’s a team competition and this year’s finalists are from:

    BAE Systems
    Lloyds Banking Group
    GLLM Bangor
    Moore East Midlands
    New City College
    Riverside College

    The teams will have to demonstrate a range of skills including teamwork, commercial acumen, critical thinking, and problem solving, to name a few!

    The winners will be announced at 4pm on 25th November by ex-apprentice and current TV presenter Steph McGovern, on her show, Steph’s Packed Lunch, on Channel 4.

    Congratulations and thanks to all of the teams who entered the competition. It’s been wonderful to see everyone take part and make the competition a huge success.

    If you’d like more information about WorldSkills UK, visit their website for details.

  • Developing the next generation of business leaders in partnership with CIMA

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 07, 2022

    Created in response to increased demand to deliver remote learning and flexible self-paced online learning, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing AICPA and CIMA, has officially launched the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP) in the UK.

    Combined with the technical, business, people and leadership skills covered in the CGMA Syllabus at case study level, the FLP allows learners to attain a world-renowned qualification, demonstrating to employers that they are outstanding professionals with the skills and competencies needed to drive long-term business success.

    As the official partner of FLP Skills Premium, Kaplan will be offering an enhanced version of the FLP.

    The FLP Skills Premium pathway offers the opportunity to study the same syllabus, sit the same case study exams with self-paced e-learning with continuous summative assessments. In addition to this, individuals can also access expert-led live online classes and tutor support from Kaplan to top up their knowledge learnt on the platform. The latter stages of the course will also prepare them for the case study. On top of this students will have access to tutors who can give additional support on difficult topics.

    Designed with working professionals in mind, entry requirements are based on individual career experience to date. The learning outcomes ensure the skills individuals develop align to the expectations of the world’s leading organisations. Many candidates will already be juggling important jobs and personal commitments, so we believe this approach will combine ultimate flexibility and support when required.

    The Association’s UK and Ireland Regional Vice President, Paul Turner, said:

    “The world is changing, and the CGMA Finance Leadership Program has been launched to meet the growing demand for self-paced e-learning in the U.K. Whilst traditional learning and examinations in test centres still have their place, it is right in the digital age that we offer alternative pathways to learn, understand and apply finance skills and knowledge.”

    CIMA Programme Leader at Kaplan, Katie Collins, said:

    “We have a great track record of working in partnership with CIMA to create routes to qualification in response to the needs of individuals and employers. Our latest programme, FLP Skills Premium, combines ultimate flexibility for working professionals to achieve their qualifications and build knowledge, supported by Kaplan’s industry-leading Live course delivery and expert support.”

    Get in touch

    If you would like to hear more about the CGMA Finance Leadership Program, please contact us to speak to a dedicated member of our team.

  • “Hard but extremely satisfying” - AAT career story

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Sep 29, 2022

    Meet Jane Rothery. A keen gardener, a mother and an AAT learner. We find out how she changed job and pursued an accountancy career via the AAT qualification.

    Seeking a better life for herself and her family, Jane took the leap from working as a childminder to progressing from AAT level 2, and all the way to level 4.

    Jane proves that with ambition and a plan, it’s never too late to upskill, learn new things, and boost your career prospects. Watch the full interview here.

    The AAT qualification - a great first step

    AAT is a great qualification if you have little to no formal training in accountancy, but want to pursue that career path. It’s recognised all over the world and is proven to boost career prospects and earning potential.

    Jane is one of many people who recognised the door opening potential of the course. For more info on the prospects that await AAT qualified professionals read our blog - Your career after AAT.

    Time to change career?

    Taking that first step on a new path can be daunting, but if you're keen and confident it’s what you want, there’s nothing stopping you from starting.

    It’s important to research how you’ll finance your training if you can’t pay for it yourself. You may decide to apply for a  Professional and Career Development Loan of between £300 and £10,000 (loans are usually offered at a reduced interest rate and the government pays the interest while you’re studying), or if you’re going to college or university, a student loan.

    Or you may look into the apprenticeship options, which are open to people from all backgrounds and all ages.

    For more information on career changing please read our blog - What should you consider when changing careers? 

  • The CFO's role in digital transformation

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Sep 01, 2022

    A CFO holds the top financial position in an organisation. They’re responsible for tracking cash flow, financial planning, analysing the company's financial strengths and weaknesses and proposing strategic directions.

    But things are changing for CFOs in the digital age, and they’re in a perfect position to collaborate with other business functions such as IT, sales, and marketing.

    So how is the CFO role changing, and what technology can help?

    Data, data, data

    CFOs need to know their data, and really know it. In addition to traditional finance skills, they now need to layer on the skills of a data scientist. The challenge isn’t about gathering data, but what to do with it.

    Technology can now help CFOs turn real-time data into insights that drive process improvements, which in turn ensures compliance, and boosts employee and customer satisfaction.

    Data security

    If you’re collecting data, you need to make sure it’s secure and protected from contamination and theft. This is now the responsibility of the CFO, and is essential to retain the digital trust of customers and investors, and ensure data protection compliance. By leveraging data, AI, and machine learning, organisations can pinpoint emerging security risks before they become a threat.

    The right technology

    Finance teams often use new technology before it’s implemented across an organisation to make sure it’s fit for purpose and the right tool for the job. The right tools can help a CFO solve business problems across the entire organisation - for example a tool to automate manual tasks, or a tool for forward-looking analytics to anticipate a recession.

    Making the right purchase decisions for the relevant tools can help an organisation make the best business decisions and strategic moves.

    Blend your team

    CFOs no longer just need those that are good with figures and finance. They need a team that’s made up of people with multiple skills, such as analytics, automation, data visualisation, and IT. With these skills the team can be focused on solving business problems as a whole, and not just cost cutting.

    Far-reaching influence

    With all the data and digital tools at hand, a CFO now has the opportunity to influence decisions beyond the traditional finance area. They can secure customer trust by monitoring customer insights, or transform the supply chain by connecting buyers, suppliers, and third parties. No longer is it about just counting the pennies, but coordinating the wealth of activities that lead to a shared goal of sustainable transformation and growth.

    Interested in finance, data, and technology?

    We have a range of courses and apprenticeship programmes that cover data and technology and finance. For example we offer the ICAEW Data Analytics Certificate programme specifically tailored for finance professionals working in decision support, audit, and assurance roles.

    We also have data literacy apprenticeships, including a specific Finance Data Technician programme, ideal for those in finance who want to learn more about collecting and using data.

    On top of that we offer a short online course, New Technologies for Business, to build a broad understanding of new and emerging technologies, and the impact and opportunities for your business in a digital world.

    If you’re interested in courses for employees, or would like to find out more about how we can help your business training needs, contact the team today for more information.

  • The Shakira tax escapade

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 25, 2022

    Our senior Tax lecturer, Neil Da Costa, offers his take on the pop star’s recent encounter with the Spanish tax officials.

    When Columbian born pop-superstar Shakira started a romantic relationship with Gerald Pique of Barcelona, she underestimated the persistence of the Spanish tax authorities.

    Shakira’s legal team suggested that she did not live anywhere in particular and described her as ‘a nomad without roots’. However, as any Kaplan tax student is aware there is a difference between domicile (country of permanent home) and residence (country where you have physical presence).

    The Spanish Tax authority detective work revealed everything about Shakira’s clandestine life in Spain, from her: Zumba classes, private French lessons, hairdressing appointments, restaurants and hotels paid by American Express cards. In total, 418,000 Euros were spent in 279 Barcelona establishments.

    Her daily movements in Spain were painstakingly mapped out between clinics, beauty centres, recording studios, promotional events, interior, and fashion stores. By using social media sites set up by Shakira’s army of fans, the Spanish tax authorities were able to prove that Shakira visited Spain 60 times in 2011, far more than the other 37 countries she visited in the same year.

    Spanish resident?

    The Spanish tax law is similar to the UK automatic residency test. In the UK, if an individual is in the UK for 183 days, then the person becomes a UK resident. In Spain, the test is 183 days +1 =184 days. The investigation proved that Shakira was resident in Spain from 2012 to 2014 and evaded tax of 14.5 million.

    Despite being presented with this overwhelming evidence, Shakira stubbornly insisted that she was resident in the tax haven of Bahamas where she owns a million-dollar home and presented utility bills as proof of this.

    The Spanish tax authorities were able to prove that these bills were paid by the caretakers of the property, and she had not visited the Bahamas even once during the years in question so clearly, Barcelona was her home base. As a result, Shakira is also being accused of deliberately misleading the Spanish tax authorities.

    It is unclear why Shakira chose to deceive the Spanish tax authorities, especially after singing ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ (my favourite Shakira song) if that was her intention.

    As someone who is worth $300 million, she could easily afford the tax bill. However, she is accustomed to aggressive tax avoidance measures and uses 14 companies who remit the funds earned between tax havens like the British Virgin Islands, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands. This was revealed by her former partner, Antonio de la Ruia who previously sued Shakira for $100 million.

    Final thoughts

    Perhaps, she thought she could get away with it or felt that the $24 million that she had already paid in Spanish tax was enough. But I find it hard to believe that her team of high-priced accountants mixed up the concepts of domicile and residence.

    What is more likely, as a global icon who travels in her own private jet, she underestimated the ability of the tax authorities to track her movements.

    It’s likely to prove a very costly mistake, and the resulting stress has no doubt contributed to her recently announced divorce from Gerald Pique.

    This emphasises the importance of ethics and providing accurate information to government bodies for both accountants and taxpayers.

    Neil Da Costa is a Senior Tax Lecturer with Kaplan in London. He is the author of Advanced Tax Condensed and Tax Condensed which summarises the entire syllabus using memory joggers.

  • Anything’s possible with ACCA - Chengai’s story

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 25, 2022

    From homelessness, to representing her country in sport, we caught up with the ambitious Chengai Ruredzo (FCCA), to find out how she gained her ACCA qualification.

    Hi Chengai, could you tell us a little about your background?

    Absolutely! I grew up in Zimbabwe in a middle class family and enjoyed a good standard of living. I was very fortunate to attend private schools that followed the British system of education.

    During my A-Levels, Deloitte visited my school and after observing the impressive number of sports and academic awards on my blazer, the hiring manager said to me:

    ‘If you can do all of those things, that well and all at the same time - you are hired!’.

    I was the only pupil to be selected from my school that year and started my career in audit at only 18 years old.

    Sounds great - did things continue to go well for you?

    Sadly not. Due to the economic turmoil in Zimbabwe, I left the country in 2000 after working for Deloitte and IBM Global Services, where I won regional EMEA awards. Then in 2006, I applied for British residency, but my personal documents got lost in the system for five years!

    I was homeless when I finally received my British residency in 2010, during a period of record snowfall in the UK.

    That sounds tough. When did you start studying with Kaplan and what happened next?

    I started with Kaplan in 2012. I had to wake up at 4am to travel by bus from Surrey to London Bridge for my classroom course!

    After passing ACCA Applied Skills, I started work as a Finance Manager, despite the role being advertised for a fully qualified accountant.

    My predecessor informed me that the company was going into administration in two months’ time. So I drew on my business acumen, and within four months the company was transformed from a loss-making into a month-on-month profit-making group. All the planned redundancies were cancelled, and it’s still in existence today. I’m really proud of the work I put in to make this happen.

    Impressive! What other things have you achieved?

    In 2016 I received an email from ACCA - congratulating me for completing all the exams and PER, both at the same time. I was featured in the Kaplan Financial 2014 prospectus and featured in the ACCA AB (Accounting and Business) magazine in the July/August 2019 edition as a fully qualified professional accountant.

    In 2017 I had my first speaking engagement at an International Women’s Day event. In 2018 I was the guest speaker at an event hosted by ‘She Is You’ entitled ‘How to Manage Your Finances’.

    In 2020 I was the keynote speaker at an event entitled ‘Women Leading the Covid Recovery’ speaking alongside the ACCA global president. In 2021 I was interviewed by Gordon Smith of ACCA, live on Instagram. You can watch the recording on instagram. I am a regular speaker for ACCA and have spoken at various Gen Z events.

    Most recently, in 2022 I won a double award at the ‘Women of Excellence’ International Women’s Day Event for “Inspirational sportswoman of the year and Christian woman in business.”

    Outside of work, do you have any other interests?

    Yes! I am really passionate about sport.

    In 2022 I was selected to represent the first ever London Masters hockey team at the England Masters Hockey Championships held in Bristol.

    In 2018 I took part in the Masters World Cup Hockey Tournament held in Spain, representing Zimbabwe as the only black player in the team. I hold a silver medal from the 1997 Under 21 World Cup Hockey Qualifying Tournament. I also went on tour as part of the Zimbabwe Senior Women’s hockey team and was personally sponsored by IBM.

    I have held a British tennis ranking since 2014. Being an athlete means that my competitive drive and determination form a positive attitude that overflows into my work as an accountant.

    I currently play league hockey for Surbiton hockey club and league tennis for David Lloyd tennis club. I have worked as a volunteer in my church for over 20 years and am an active Christian.

    In my spare time I enjoy baking, travelling and designing clothes.

    With the ACCA, did you specialise in a particular area?

    Before sitting my first ACCA exam, I knew that I wanted to do Advanced Taxation (ATX) and Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA) as my optional papers. When looking for an ATX lecturer, Neil da Costa was the only name that was repeatedly recommended.

    Neil was a no-nonsense lecturer, ironically, with a sense of humour, which was an apt balance to the intellectual stimulus. Moreover, his down-to-earth personality means that many of his students have naturally remained in touch, years after passing through his capable hands.

    What are you doing now?

    I’m a Financial Controller in a technology company and my role involves managing the period end processes, as well as the annual audit. I also manage the outsourced payroll and HR functions, pensions and ESG reporting. I am responsible for taxation, including VAT, PAYE, CT and Research and Development.

    Any advice for ACCA students considering tax?

    Selecting the optional ATX paper gives you the confidence to answer questions posed by people from all walks of life when networking. Tax also gives you a solid foundation as a professional accountant.

    There is a prestige that comes with putting Kaplan Financial on your CV as it is a world-renowned financial tuition provider and the name is synonymous with excellence in the business world. ACCA is a robust qualification for professional accountants and is highly respected globally, providing a wide variety of work and entrepreneurial opportunities.

    Final thoughts?

    I have a few, for people considering studying ACCA, or accountancy, or any other course.

    Regardless of whatever challenges arise during the course of your studies, if you can keep focused on the end goal, you can and will get there in the end.

    Playing sport and doing physical exercise teaches you discipline and determination which makes you a well-rounded person, and develops teamwork and leadership skills.

    Be a person of integrity in every area of life and reach out to support others when you cross the finish line.

    Thank you so much Chengai for your story and insight.

    If you’re interested in ACCA, have a look at our qualification pages. Chengai also mentors ACCA students from around the world on social media. If you’d like to know more, visit her LinkedIn page for information.

  • Investment Leadership and Social Change

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 25, 2022

    Social mobility and diversity are huge challenges for both businesses and candidates. We look at how one person's position can be utilised to help others fulfil their true potential.

    In this week's episode of our Learn Better Podcast host, Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning at Kaplan, looks at social mobility and leadership investment.

    Our guest is Justin Onuekwusi, Head of Retail Investment and Fund Manager at Legal & General Investment Management. He is also Founder of EnCircle Mentoring, the Rolling Start Podcast, a member of the City of London social mobility taskforce and a non-executive director.

    Although Justin is now a Chartered Financial Analyst with many successes to his name, he often looks back to where he came from. Growing up in inner city Manchester surrounded by racism and gangs, he explains how his mum instilled the idea that education was the key to social mobility.

    I always believed that you could succeed by taking an educational route

    - Justin Onuekwusi

    Throughout this episode Justin covers the role of a fund manager, how humanising what you do can create a sustainable business, as well as the importance of utilising your privilege to support others in reaching their potential.

    Key topics

    What does a Fund Manager do?

    A Fund Manager essentially manages peoples money and invests it in markets to try and generate better returns.

    A Multi Asset Fund Manager doesn’t just deal with bonds, shares and property, it’s every asset class. This means that as different markets fluctuate, you get a smoother return over time instead of significant wins and losses.

    Often people think of investing as gambling, but it isn’t. Unlike gambling you don’t just take a punt at something, it's a researched, measured decision.

    If I wasn't doing this on a day to day basis as part of my job, I would be doing it as a hobby.

    Business sustainability

    With lots of new FinTech companies being established, Justin points out that the best way to create business sustainability is by being human. Understanding clients wants, needs and values is key to building a tailored service.

    I think part of the reason that within LGIM, for example, we’ve been able to raise 8.5 billion, is because we’ve got fund managers who are effectively human.

    Investment leadership

    After looking back at where he grew up and noticing how many people didn’t reach their potential, Justin has been inspired to create leaders from people who may not be currently showing leadership, but who are talented.

    He explains how although many companies are doing a lot to get diverse staff into the office, if they are truly interested in getting the best talent, they need to start widening their search. Not just focusing on redbrick universities or private schools, but discovering how they can identify raw talent in other candidate pools.

    Justin explains that you should look to understand the privilege you have, and how you can utilise it to help others to fulfil their potential. The only way people progress is having someone in the room banging the table for their progression, someone who believes in them and will speak up on their behalf.

    Interested in learning more?

    Tune in now to listen to the full conversation (episode 20) and learn more about Fund Management and leadership investment.

  • The most in-demand finance and accounting jobs

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 18, 2022

    Accountants are needed in every organisation, big or small, all around the world. But there are some jobs that are more in demand than others, so if you’re looking for a job, accounting is practically a sure-fire route to employment.

    Here’s a quick run down of some of the most in demand jobs, and what they entail.


    Bookkeeping is one of the oldest professions, and involves keeping accurate financial records relating to an organisation. The reports that bookkeepers produce go straight to managers and owners to help them make solid financial decisions.

    You can work as part of an accounting team, or set up on your own and have multiple clients - the choice is yours.

    What do bookkeepers earn? Roughly £27,000 p/a* depending on experience, or number of clients if self-employed.

    What qualifications do you need? We recommend AAT Level 2 and Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping or ACA Practical Bookkeeping.


    Auditors are responsible for reviewing company accounts, ensuring legal compliance and the validity of financial records. They can also act as an advisor, recommending ways to save money, or how to mitigate risk.

    What do auditors earn? Roughly £42,000 p/a* depending on experience and location

    What qualifications do you need? To become an auditor you’ll need to gain a Chartered Accountancy qualification. If you're brand new to accountancy, the AAT Professional Qualification is a great entry point, covering all the main areas of accountancy and tax.

    Other options include ACCA Foundations or ACA Certificate in Finance or Business (CFAB). These qualifications will help you get your first role in an accounts department, allowing you to get hands-on experience.

    On completion (or if you have exemptions), you can then go on to study the Professional ACCA or ACA qualifications, which will allow you to apply for roles as a trainee Auditor.


    “Accountant” is a term that can be adopted by many roles, but generally speaking they handle financial transactions by recording a range of different financial information. They can also analyse financial data, and report on their findings. Accountants may also do some auditing, and prepare tax returns. They can be part of a larger team in an organisation, or be self-employed and have multiple clients.

    What do accountants earn? Roughly £52,000 p/a* depending on location and experience, or number of clients if self-employed.

    What qualifications do you need? A great starting point is AAT - you can start with no experience, but you do need good Maths, IT, and English skills. Beyond that you can do ACCA and become a Chartered Accountant.

    Financial Analyst

    Financial analysts research economic conditions and review an organisation's finances to make sure that they make sound financial decisions. They will report on findings and suggest improvements or options for the decision-makers to consider.

    What do Financial Analysts earn? Roughly £47,000 p/a* depending on location and experience.

    What qualifications do you need? You will need a bachelor’s degree in a finance-related subject, such as economics, statistics, or accounting. From there you should get the CFA charter for senior level positions - it’s the most prestigious designation a financial analyst can achieve.

    Financial Controller

    Financial Controllers are responsible for overseeing the accounting function of a company. They make sure that all records are updated and handled responsibly, and comply with accounting standards.

    What do Financial Controllers earn? Roughly £47,000 p/a* depending on location and experience.

    What qualifications do you need? You will need a relevant degree in a subject such as Maths, Business, or Economics. You will also need an accountancy qualification such as ACCA, CIMA, or ACA-ICAEW.

    Interested in getting in-demand qualifications?

    Check out our accounting page for more information - there are so many options available to get started in accountancy, and pave the way for a fantastic career. We even have free trials so you can see if the course is right for you.


  • How to pass the APM exam (Advanced Performance Management Exam Approach)

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 18, 2022

    This article explores the exam approach needed to pass the APM and looks at the exam structure, use of models, and professional skills expected by the examining team.

    Exam timings

    Overall, the exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes.

    Section A overview

    Section A is a detailed scenario-based question of 50 marks, broken down into 40 technical marks and 10 professional skills marks. All the professional skills will be examined in Section A.

    The professional skills tested in the Case Study question are communication, analysis and evaluation, skepticism and commercial acumen which will be covered in this article.

    Section B overview

    Section B is made up of two 25-mark scenario-based questions. The 25 marks are broken down into 20 technical marks and 5 professional skills marks. This section’s questions will examine a combination of professional skills relevant to the question.

    Each question will examine a minimum of two professional skills from Analysis and Evaluation, Skepticism and Commercial Acumen. One of the Section B questions will come mainly from syllabus section D. However, the other Section B question can come from any other syllabus section.

    Professional skills required

    Four skills will be tested in the APM exam and these are:

    1. Communication
    2. Evaluation and analysis
    3. Scepticism
    4. Commercial acumen.

    In total 10 professional marks are given for the above skills demonstrated in section A.

    How Models should be used in the exam

    The aim of the syllabus is to apply relevant knowledge, skills and exercise professional judgment when applying strategic management accounting techniques to a client’s problems. The aim is to help an organization overcome or mitigate operational, managerial and strategic challenges that may stand in the way of achieving stated mission and goals.

    The APM exam does not test your ability to define terms, describe theories, models, and management techniques or perform calculations. It’s designed to test your ability to apply your knowledge and give relevant advice tailored to the client’s stated needs.

    It’s ultimately about trying to uncover how an organisation got to where it currently is, and implications for the future. The examiners have pointed out that candidates who come to the APM examination expecting to repeat memorised material will probably score only between 20% and 30%.

    You will not get through this exam if you take a descriptive approach.

    Think of yourself as an advisor

    Compare yourself to a Medical Consultant, with the client as your patient.

    The client presents you with symptoms of how the business is. It is your duty as the consultant/ advisor to look at the symptoms and give a diagnosis.

    In the case of APM, you are presented with an organisation which is not functioning perfectly. The business could be a victim of changes in PEST factors, or displaying symptoms of corporate failure.

    Whatever the case you are presented with, you are going into the exam as an advisor - to give solutions to the client’s problems. So as an adviser, the starting point is to understand what the problem is to avoid the misdiagnosis trap! Don’t just dive in and say, “The balanced scorecard will help!” and then start describing what the BSC is! You will not get through this exam if you take a descriptive approach.

    Understand the client

    It’s vital that you understand what the client wants. For the APM exam requirements are established in each paragraph in the section A Case Study question. So take your time to understand the requirement.

    Once you understand the requirements, plan your answer. You can use models to structure your answer, but a detailed description of models to the client is not something that adds value. If you are going to use the PEST analysis, you can describe in a sentence what the letter P stands for, but immediately go on to apply to the scenario.

    Make sure you tailor your answer to the specific requirements outlined by the client. Don’t give advice on anything that has not been requested.

    The importance of communication

    A key skill in a management accountant’s role is the ability to communicate issues in a clear and concise manner. Communication means - as a Management Accountant - that you need to engage well with key stakeholders.

    Communication will be tested in Section A of the Exam, in the area where you are presented with a Case Study and asked to prepare a report addressing several issues to the senior management or Board of Directors.

    The report should be: in the correct format, look professional, sound professional, with an appendix of any calculations or data analytics that you use in addressing issues raised. So no detailed calculations within the report itself.

    The report should also use the correct language and tone for your audience. If you are writing to shareholders, they will not understand what “Minimax Regret” is, for example. So make sure your audience understands what you are communicating.

    Your role is to explain what the model is and how it will address the issues raised.

    If the requester of the report says not to cover a particular aspect then don’t cover it! A professional report only covers what has been requested for. Anything else is regarded as ineffective communication.

    Excellent numbers and poor comments equal failure!

    Use scepticism

    Skepticism in APM is all about having a questioning mind. This is the ability to continue questioning the validity of any assertions made in a given exam scenario.

    So for the exam, the Board or Senior Managers may make proposals to implement Business Process Re-engineering and they have approached you for advice regarding this proposal. But as a management accountant consultant, be reluctant to agree with every proposal.

    Skepticism requires you to ask the question, “Why this approach?”. It forces you to look at things with an open mind and sets you on the path to look for corroborative information from the scenario to support proposed assertions. This inquisitive approach can help you to unearth hidden agendas, or missing information, to help you challenge the stated position.

    Commercial acumen

    The scenarios in the exam are not set in a fantasy land. The organisations are real and so are the challenges the organisations face. So the organisation in the exam scenario will have both internal as well as external challenges to wrestle with.

    In providing advice, you need to be aware about the prevailing external as well as internal circumstances, mission and organisational objectives. This awareness is the commercial acumen skill. So as a consultant your advice should be shaped by what is happening internally as well as externally. Your advice should be practical and within reason.

    Your recommendations should be backed up by drawing from both the scenario and general commercial awareness. If you are suggesting ABC as an alternative costing method, bring in your knowledge on advantages of ABC and say if you decide to go ahead, there are disadvantages as well.

    Analysis and evaluation

    Analysis involves looking at the information given, sifting through the scenario and making a decision on what information to use in your answer. So you analyse first by looking at the information in front of you and picking up what you think is relevant for your evaluation. So analyse first, then evaluate.

    Evaluation requires a balanced argument – so look at advantages and disadvantages. It also means making calculations where applicable and using them to back your argument. An evaluation should be followed by a conclusion or some form of recommendation.

    Always look at the bigger picture set by the mission as this is always given to you in the exam. Try and focus less on the numbers and more on what is behind them. You can get the numbers there or thereabouts and do good comments and still pass.

    Conclusions and recommendations

    A good report sums up both sides of an argument and makes recommendations as to what course of action to take. So the conclusion should be concise!

    Advice on using model answers

    Your answer might not look anything like the “model answer”. This is because model answers are detailed marking schemes designed to cover all possible answers. So don’t get too worried if your response does not look exactly like the model answer. Finally, keep the following in the back of your mind - “What gets measured - gets done. What gets measured and fed back - gets done well. What gets rewarded - gets repeated.”

    The examiner loves it!

    Good luck!

  • Digital transformation in accountancy

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 11, 2022

    Digital transformation is often feared, with many assuming computers will take over their role. We look into how digital transformation can evolve your career and provide more data for your decision making.

    In this week's episode of our Learn Better Podcast, host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning at Kaplan, looks at digital transformation in the world of accountancy.

    Our guest is Kat Bond, Head of Partner Consulting and Verticals at Xero, who develop cloud based accounting software for small businesses. Kat explains how digital transformation is about improving our processes rather than replacing people, and how it can help businesses to gain better data to help make better decisions.

    Accountants are ideally placed to move forward with digital transformation, allowing computers to do the menial tasks will allow them to focus on the human side of things, make sense of the data, and have more advisory conversations.

    [Digital transformation]’s not kind of papering the cracks with just new technology, it's actually changing what you're doing with that technology to give you a better solution overall.

    - Kat Bond

    Key topics

    What is digital transformation?

    Simply put, digital transformation is the integration of technology into your workflow to make sure you have the most streamlined processes. You take away the unnecessary areas of human interaction and use automation where possible.

    Getting everyone on board

    Fundamentally digital transformation can change how people operate. However it isn’t about taking everything that a person does and making it digital. It is about improving how we operate and evolving roles to utilise computers where possible to enhance what we do.

    Many people are worried that computers will take away the need for them to do their job, but that this is not true. Computers don’t have the ability to interpret numbers, they just publish them. A human will always be needed for the advisory side of things to explain what the data means and provide suggestions for business decisions.

    Kat also points out that we often don't talk about the new roles that come off the back of digitisation, whether that is evolving current roles or creating brand new ones.

    On paper [Digital Transformation] looks really simplistic, the reality is that there’s a lot of humans along the way that you need to then change the mindset of.

    Digital transformation in accountancy

    With digitisation we gain more data, and having this data just helps us make better decisions. When you look at the role of accountants, having so much information will then allow them to do so much more, dig deeper into the numbers and be more granular when advising organisations.

    Following the pandemic we can see how important accountants are to keeping organisations and the economy a float. Allowing these roles to evolve and optimise processes with technology will only benefit organisations and help them to thrive.

    It's accountants that keep our economy going.

    Interested in learning more?

    Tune in now to listen to the full conversation (episode 19) and learn more about digitisation and how it can improve the world of accounting.

  • The benefits of ACCA to employers

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 04, 2022

    We often talk about the merits of studying ACCA from the perspective of potential learners, but why, and how, could it benefit employers and organisations as a whole? Read on to find out more.

    Firstly, what is ACCA?

    ACCA stands for Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. It’s a globally recognised qualification and is ideal for those wanting to become a chartered accountant, or work in accountancy, tax or audit.

    Why should your employees do ACCA?

    By completing the ACCA qualification your employees will gain essential skills and knowledge needed to add value to your organisation. They will have extensive finance and business skills, adding knowledge to their teams. They will be able to take on higher level roles and responsibilities, and communicate effectively with important internal and external stakeholders on key business and financial matters.

    Is it just an accounting qualification?

    Not at all - there’s a lot more to ACCA than first meets the eye. It’s not just an accountancy qualification as it focuses a lot more on business as a whole. For example during Applied Skills the subjects include Corporate and Business Law in England and globally.

    Learners also study Performance Management, discovering techniques for planning, decision-making, performance evaluation and control. It’s not just spreadsheets and numbers.

    And at the Strategic Professional level, your employees will study ethics and professional skills, as well as business leadership, and advanced financial and performance management. They’ll get a lot more out of this, as will you, than if they did a low level accounting course.

    What is the ACCA approved employer programme?

    The ACCA Approved Employer Programme recognises employers’ high standards of staff training and development. The ACCA recognise and reward organisations that support the ACCA qualification, and set the highest standards of employee support. By becoming an approved employer your organisation will receive a number of benefits via ACCA, including free recruitment services, quality assurance, research and industry insights, discounts on courses, and support from ACCA themselves.

    How do I get my employees ACCA qualified?

    Have a look at our ACCA pages and see what the qualification involves. Most people can start Applied Knowledge with three GSCEs and an A-Level (or equivalent qualifications) - you can check on the ACCA website to see the various entry requirements.

    If any of your employees have already completed the AAT qualification, they can start at Applied Skills. They would have to apply for an ACCA exemption - more information can be found on the ACCA website.

    Need more information?

    If you’d like to speak to one of our team about getting your employees ACCA qualified, or any other qualification, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

  • Which skills can be improved while on an apprenticeship?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 04, 2022

    Alongside learning how to be technically competent in your particular role, an apprenticeship can help you develop a wider set of behaviours to help you thrive. If you’re ready to see how an apprenticeship can increase your skillset and improve your confidence at work, read on…

    Functional Skills in Maths and English

    Many people from all walks of life are held back because of a lack of numeracy and literacy skills. At Kaplan, we want to help you fulfil your potential. If you have not already gained your GCSE Grade 4/C (or other equivalent qualification) in maths and English, we support Level 2 apprentices to achieve Functional Skills.

    These demonstrate to an employer that you can meet the expected standard of maths and English – and our team of tutors deliver one-to-one and small group tuition to help you succeed.

    Digital skills

    All our apprenticeship standards include digital skills appropriate to the role. We’re well known for our specialist Data and Technology Apprenticeships, but if your apprenticeship is in Banking and Financial Services or Accountancy and Tax, you can also gain the digital skills you need. It’s a useful string to your bow. Employer demand for digital talent is outstripping supply, so we’re helping to fill the digital skills gap and improve career opportunities for apprentices.

    Soft skills

    Technical and academic skills are not the only thing employers are looking for. As Jason Moss, Apprenticeship Development Director at Kaplan, explains, employers are also looking for people who are collaborative, logical thinkers, and effective communicators. Jason says, “As a technical person you need to be a bit more rounded than you used to be historically.”

    So let’s explore some of the soft skills you can develop on an apprenticeship.

    Team working

    You might collaborate with colleagues to reach a target, join forces to solve a problem, or be part of a permanent sub team within a bigger department. Seeing first-hand how teams operate is invaluable, and your team working skills will evolve as you build up experience of working with different personalities, and learn the best way to liaise with others.

    Ability to work on your own

    On the flip side, it’s important to show you can be productive on your own. The rise of remote or hybrid working means employers are more reliant on employees working unsupervised. As your apprenticeship progresses you’ll be given more independence in your role – a chance for you to demonstrate you can be trusted to get on with the job.

    Logical thinking

    Logical thinking helps employees use facts in the decision-making process, rather than acting solely on emotions. So instead of developing a strategy because it “feels right”, you’ll gather information and draw conclusions based on your findings. Anytime you look at market research, review past results, or compare costs, you’ll be applying logical thinking.


    Communication involves listening, speaking and writing. As an apprentice, you’ll get plenty of practice in all three forms. You can develop your ability to take in information, and learn how to express yourself clearly. Your role could mean you have to communicate with clients as well as your colleagues and superiors. By seeing how the effective communicators in your organisation operate, you can strengthen your own skills.

    Time management

    This starts with the basics of getting to work or a meeting on time, and spreads out to how you manage your workload. As you learn to cope with the pressure to get something done, you will improve your ability to manage your time more effectively.

    Is an apprenticeship for you?

    An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to gain a full range of workplace skills – and get paid. At Kaplan, we’re here to help you make the most of the experience. As one of the UK’s largest vocational education providers, we have plenty of apprenticeship info for learners as well as straightforward careers information, advice, and guidance.

    The skills you develop on an apprenticeship can apply to every professional role, company or industry you enter in the future. Why not browse our list of apprenticeship programmes in Accountancy and Tax, Data and Technology, and Banking and Financial Services to see where they could take you?

  • The future of accountancy and finance in a COVID ready world

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 28, 2022

    We look at the impact of the pandemic on recruitment in the Accountancy and Finance sector, from virtual interviews to the competition for new talent.

    In this week's episode of our Learn Better Podcast host, Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning at Kaplan, looks at the future of Accountancy and Finance careers and recruitment.

    Our guest is Caroline King, Director of permanent talent solutions at Robert half, a specialist talent solutions consultancy. With 7 years experience changing finance professionals' lives by getting them their dream jobs, she shares her top tips when entering accountancy and finance careers.

    With the increase of virtual communication and hybrid working, Caroline explains how to make the most out of office days and building relationships with senior colleagues.

    That sort of networking in the office: catching someone at the coffee machine… getting the opportunity to pick someone’s brains on something - that’s what I would encourage people to be doing when they are in the office.

    - Caroline King

    Key topics

    How the pandemic changed the recruitment of finance professionals

    With lockdowns forcing companies to adopt more technology and push employees to engage through a virtual world, we have seen a lot of changes in recruitment processes.

    One of these main changes is the shift from interviewing in person to interviewing via video call. Although we have now been able to physically return to offices, there’s now been a shift to first interviews being online, followed by face to face interviews at the next stages.

    This has provided more flexibility in the timing of interviews and allowed companies to open up their candidate pool to people willing to move around the country.

    The state of the job market

    With a serious shortage of talent in financial services, businesses who are hiring are having to be competitive with salaries, flexibility and hybrid working.

    One of a candidate's top priorities has now moved to a work life balance and flexibility. The pandemic changed people's perception of what they want out of life, so there has been a big shift of people moving out of London, or even the country, back to their families.

    This has highlighted the stronger need for remote working to allow companies to retain staff and support more parents to keep their full time career whilst also being able to be an active parent.

    Top tips for interviewing well

    Caroline stresses the importance of researching a business ahead of an interview, and not just quickly reading the companies about us page, but taking the time to take a deep dive into the company and its history.

    This will help you to ask tangible questions around the business, proving that you have done your research and actively understand who the company is and what they do.

    She also recommends that you should share why you are excited to work for a company like them. This can lead to you pulling out features of your CV which mirrors their values and the job description.

    The preparation is almost a social courtesy.

    - Stuart Pedley Smith

    Interested in learning more?

    Tune in now to listen to the full conversation (episode 17) and learn more about food and nutrition and how to eat to support your well being and cognitive performance.

  • What’s the difference between an accountant and a chartered accountant?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 14, 2022

    It’s a question that’s asked quite often by many who are considering a career in accountancy. So we’ve developed this piece to highlight the differences.

    Generally speaking, both can include similar tasks - from tax returns and yearly accounts, to the maintenance of accurate financial statements. But a chartered accountant usually has to go through a lot more training than an accountant and has a broader level of responsibility.

    What does an accountant do?

    An essential part of any business, an accountant records business transactions, reports on company performance, and issues financial statements. The role is varied and they may have many different day to day tasks such as: issuing invoices, dealing with salary and payroll, reconciling bank statements, dealing with tax, and analysing information from bookkeepers.

    Accountants can specialise and focus on particular areas of finance, such as tax, audit, bookkeeping, costing - really anything they are interested in. So there are many career options for you if you choose to pursue this role.

    Typically, accountants will have completed the AAT levels.

    What does a chartered accountant do?

    A chartered accountant is qualified to take on a number of specific activities within the spectrum of accountancy, beyond that of an accountant. Tasks could include auditing financial statements, filing corporate tax returns and financial advising.

    They will usually work with senior managers and stakeholders, ensuring that the company/client is making the right strategic financial decisions and implementing effective change. They will be a trusted adviser for the company and can work in a broad range of roles, from financial controllers to directors or CEOs.

    Chartered accountants will have completed ACCA. Within that they can focus on a particular area and can be employed for that specialism.

    So what’s the difference?

    Simply put - the qualification and work experience needed to qualify plus the scope of the role.

    A chartered accountant has to become qualified with the ACCA or ACA and do a minimum of three years work experience, as well as complete a portfolio of work. Before an accountant can start ACCA/ACA they have to have some background in accounting or have studied the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting.

    You can become an accountant with little to no experience by starting at the beginning with the AAT Foundation Certificate and working your way up.

    Ready for your step into accountancy or to further your career?

    Whether you’re just starting out or wanting to become a chartered accountant we have the course for you. Check out our AAT, ACAACCA course information pages for more advice.


  • Is AAT worth it?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 07, 2022

    It would be a very short blog if we simply said “yes”, but it’s the truth. It is definitely worth doing AAT if you’re interested in accounting. Let us tell you why.

    First, what is AAT?

    AAT stands for the Association of Accounting Technicians. It’s the UK’s leading professional membership body for accounting staff, and has over 150,000 members in over 90 countries worldwide.

    Are there levels to AAT?

    Yes - there are four levels of the AAT qualification. It starts at an access level, and then Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4.

    You don’t need any prior qualifications or experience to start, so it’s perfect for anyone seriously considering a career in the accounting sector.

    How long does it take to complete?

    Level 2 and 3 take approximately 12 months each to complete, but some people can do them in as little as 6 months. Level 4 usually takes 18 months to complete.

    It can be a really quick way to get qualified in an industry-recognised qualification.

    Why do AAT?

    AAT is greatly respected in the financial industry, and is designed to give you all the practical skills you need to build a career in finance.

    AAT qualifications are recognised all over the world, and are generally considered prerequisites for several accountancy positions.

    Advantages to being AAT qualified

    • It’s a nationally and internationally recognised qualification
    • It’s a pathway for career development, training, and progression
    • You’ll be in demand by employers in both the public and private sector, with many employers considering AAT qualifications as essential
    • You’ll have greater confidence in your own skills and abilities
    • You’ll have access to, and the support of, a professional body within the accountancy sector.

    What can I earn?

    With an AAT qualification there are plenty of careers to choose from. For example, you could become a bookkeeper, and earn on average £24,000 a year. Or when fully qualified you could become a tax manager, earning on average £57,000+. It really depends on what area of accounting you want to specialise in, and which level of the AAT qualification you achieve.

    It can also depend on the sector you work in, and the amount of experience you have. But AAT can really be worthwhile if you’re looking for a well-paid career.

    AAT membership - an added bonus

    Once you’ve qualified you can become an AAT member, which is proof that you have the requisite knowledge, and understand the professional and ethical standards that the AAT uphold.

    You’ll be able to show prospective employers and clients just how good you are, and demonstrate a commitment to high standards in accounting.

    You’ll also benefit from event and networking opportunities, exclusive discounts, industry news and updates, and get access to the AAT Knowledge Hub for technical resources and the most up to date information around accounting.

    Interested in AAT?

    If you think it’s the qualification for you, check out our AAT pages for more information.

  • In the top 10: Ben Springall provides his advice

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 13, 2024

    When results were released for the August 2023 sitting of CIMA’s CGMA Case Study exams, we found that over one-third of the top 33 placings across all three levels studied with us at Kaplan.

    We recently caught up with one of these high achievers, Ben Springall. After completing his CGMA studies, he discovered that he received a commendation as the tenth in the world for his Strategic Case Study paper.

    He provided some of his tips, insight and career background so far…

    Can you tell me about your career?

    I initially studied at a university in London, and I graduated with a first-class degree from there and went straight on to the Lloyds Banking Group Finance graduate scheme.

    While I was studying, I worked as an intern there for six weeks in Commercial Banking Finance, so I joined their three-year finance graduate scheme straight out of university, which ended in September. And as part of this, I also studied towards CIMA’s CGMA Professional Qualification with Kaplan.

    After finishing my A-levels, I wasn’t too sure where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do. I went to a career fair with my school, and I spoke to a lot of different universities and looked at different courses. But I’ve always been interested in either banking or finance so it progressed from there.

    How would you compare university to your apprenticeship?

    It’s very different, especially because I started studying my CGMA studies during COVID so I was studying virtually. It was quite a big shift in terms of how I was learning as I was used to face-to-face tuition and support.

    It’s definitely more independent studying CIMA’s CGMA with Kaplan as you’re trusted to do a bit more of it on your own. And especially as there’s more flexibility with when you sit your exams, you need to be more self-driven. Whereas, at university, you’ll have strict deadlines and people pushing you along.

    At university, my course was quite broad in what I would learn so we would touch on a lot of different subjects. But with the CGMA qualification, especially while working at the same time, I noticed that a lot of the theory was directly relevant to my work so, in a way, it was a lot more practical.

    Have you encountered any challenges during your studies?

    I think the first big challenge was COVID, as coming straight out of university and studying online was difficult. And then I had to get used to working during the pandemic virtually as well, so the challenges were changing all the time.

    None of CIMA’s exams are easy, so there are obvious difficulties there. I failed the CGMA P2 paper, and it was the first exam that I’d failed. I do think it is one of the hardest ones. But at that time, I was already finding it quite tough in terms of motivation, so after I failed I wasn't sure what I wanted to do - so don’t worry if you ever get those thoughts, it’s quite normal and you have to remind yourself of why you’re doing all of this.

    In the graduate scheme, we also have competency meetings if you fail an exam, so I think that also added to the pressure a little bit.

    But overall, I definitely think the biggest challenge during the apprenticeship was to motivate myself to get up and redo the P2 paper, and passing that exam was a pivotal moment in establishing my own belief that I could complete the course and see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel.’

    We heard that you completed your apprenticeship project report a lot earlier than expected - do you always try to go above and beyond?

    I definitely always try to. My project report during the apprenticeship was a unique situation as I had to do it for my apprenticeship at the same time as studying for my exam, but I was also looking to roll off the graduate scheme so I didn’t want to leave it to the last minute. So getting it completed as soon as possible avoided any delays but definitely did involve some tight prioritisation and time management.

    But I always try to do everything to the best of my ability. It plays into the industry too as in finance you need to be very specific a lot of the time. So I try to get things done right the first time.

    Achieving 10th in the world with CIMA

    When I was told I achieved tenth in the world for the final exam within CIMA’s CGMA Professional Qualification, I definitely didn’t expect it. I think when I go into an exam, I struggle with thinking quite negatively after it about how it could’ve gone much better, etc. With CIMA’s Objective Test exams, it’s great that you find out your results straight away. But with the Case Study papers, I could spend the next two months or so worrying that I had failed and would have to resit. Of course, this gets worse and worse the closer to results day you get.

    So I definitely wasn’t expecting to get such a high grade.

    I would say that I do go into an exam trying to get the best I can - you’re always aiming to get 100% anyway, and not just a pass. I’ve always aimed to give myself the best chance of passing, but I didn’t go into it expecting a commendation. I can’t imagine too many people go into the exam aiming for a prize, because it’s just a relief when you pass, especially when you’re fully qualified at the end of it all.

    I thought it was a mistake at first, and I was waiting for an email to come through to say that there had been a mix-up and I didn’t get the commendation, but it’s a nice feeling. You’re happy to know you’ve passed the exam, but then finding out I did so well a week or so later was just an extra boost.

    How have you found the support from Kaplan?

    I think the Talent Coaches are really incredible and their support is amazing. Anytime my Talent Coach, Jo, was working she was quick to respond. She was supportive throughout my studies, but would also reassure and talk to me about work-related stuff, so she was always there to listen and give advice. I found it invaluable to have an outside voice I could lean on as I made my way through the graduate journey.

    More than being a Kaplan Talent Coach, she was supportive throughout my whole graduate scheme. All of the lecturers were also great, but my Talent Coach was amazing. It’s like they’re a Talent Coach and a therapist all at the same time.

    How’s the support been from your employer?

    Lloyds Banking Group has been running apprenticeships and doing these qualifications for a long time, so the support is always there from your peers and managers. Whether it’s off-the-job training, graduate events or study leave. But especially when you work in finance, a lot of people have gone through it themselves so they know what it’s like and are very sympathetic and try to help wherever they can.

    It can be quite daunting at times, but that’s just part of being in a competitive environment. They’re investing in us and the support that comes with that is very good.

    If you just need a quick chat with anyone at work, they’re all happy to do it. That investment in time and energy is really important. I also value the trust that they give, as you’re given the space to get things right or wrong on your own, which is really important in an employer and is a very powerful enabler for development.

    Do you have any advice for anyone who is studying?

    I think for anyone looking to study or do an apprenticeship, I’d say you have to stay disciplined and gain the ability to motivate yourself. You need to be OK with failing the odd exam, as it’s possible that you won’t get through it without any challenges. But also try to learn from people who have been there and done it is very useful. Just a quick conversation with someone who’s also been through it can be super, super useful.

    But remember that it’s all possible. It’s not impossible to pass CIMA’s exams and work at the same time, and it’s not impossible to pick yourself up if you fall down along the way. If you’re struggling, just look back on what you’ve already achieved in your life and take inspiration from the fact that you’ve already worked hard to get to where you are and you deserve to see it through to the end.

    Use that motivation to keep going, even if it feels like you’ve had enough. Think about even tougher challenges that you’ve already overcome and take motivation from that.

    Also, part of it for me is that I was the first person in my family to go to university or anything like that - so I always wanted to keep going so that I wasn’t letting other people down. It does depend on every individual’s circumstances but always look back on why you’re doing it in the first place and the people in your personal life that have supported you and want to see you succeed.

    What does the future look like for you?

    I think I’ll take a while off of doing any exams, as there’s been a lot in the past few years. I’d like to continue to grow and develop at Lloyds Banking Group, and I can now spend more time expanding and deepening my understanding of my job role as I don’t have to take any time off for studying.

    I can spend time developing my relationships across the bank too, as well as look into any other areas that I find interesting. But I do think I’ll end up learning something new eventually, whether it’s finance-related or not. I think I’m too used to learning and developing academically to completely give it up.

    Feeling inspired?

    We offer the CGMA’s CIMA full qualification across all study methods. Find out more.

    If you’re interested in an apprenticeship, browse our current vacancies or read more about how to talk to your employer about starting you on an apprenticeship.

    Ready to start your studies?

    Find out more

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