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  • How to understand Rollover Relief within Tax

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 05, 2021

    One of the topics that tax examiners say students struggle with is rollover relief. This area features in tax exams across various qualifications such as: ICAEW, ACCA, ATT, AAT, and CTA. Here, a Senior Kaplan Tax Lecturer breaks down this important topic.

    What is ‘Rollover Relief’?

    When a business sells a building used in its trade, a capital gain will arise. If the sale proceeds are reinvested in a replacement building within a period of 1 year before to 3 years after the disposal, the gain can be postponed under ‘rollover relief’.

    The replacement building must also be used in the trade of the business and any sale proceeds not reinvested result in a gain that crystallises immediately.

    Simple Rollover Example: Apricot Ltd

    A Ltd sells an office building for £800,000, resulting in a capital gain of £350,000 in June 2019.

    In June 2020, A Ltd buys a freehold office building for £700,000. The replacement office building was sold for £1 million in 2025.

    Sale proceeds from the original office building retained by the company were £100,000, so £100,000 of the gain crystallises immediately.

    The balance of the gain (£350,000 -£100,000) = £250,000 is postponed by deducting it from the cost of the replacement office building.

    This means that the base cost of the replacement building is £700,000 -£250,000 = £450,000.

    When the replacement building is sold in 2025, we use the base cost to find the gain. Gain arising in 2025 will therefore be £1 million -£450,000 =£550,000.

    As the replacement building was bought after December 2017 there is no indexation allowance available.

    Holdover Relief

    If the sale proceeds are reinvested in a depreciating asset with a life of less than 60 years (leasehold buildings or fixed plant and machinery) then the gain is postponed under holdover relief.

    Now, the gain is held over separately until the earliest of 3 events -sale of replacement, replacement obsolete and 10 years after the replacement is bought. The important thing to remember here is not to reduce the cost of the depreciating asset.

    Simple Holdover Example: Apricot Ltd

    A Ltd sells an office building for £800,000 resulting in a capital gain of £350,000 in June 2019.

    In June 2020, A Ltd buys fixed plant and machinery for £700,000. The machinery became obsolete in 2024 and was sold for its £100,000 scrap value in 2025.

    Sale proceeds from the original office building retained by the company were £100,000 so £100,000 of the gain crystallises immediately.

    The balance of the gain (£350,000 -£100,000) = £250,000 is postponed under holdover relief and held over separately until the earliest of 3 events:

    1. Sale of replacement asset 2025
    2. Replacement obsolete 2024
    3. 10 years after the replacement is bought 2030

    The gain of £250,000 will crystallise in 2024.

    The cost of the machinery is unchanged at £700,000. When the machinery is sold in 2025 for £100,000, a capital loss will arise of £100,000 -£700,000= £600,000.

    HMRC will not allow the company to claim the capital loss as tax depreciation in the form of capital allowances has already been given.

    Tax Planning

    While rollover relief postpones the gain until the replacement asset is sold, holdover relief only offers temporary relief and the gain is postponed temporarily for a maximum of 10 years.

    As a result, given the choice you should recommend rollover as being preferable to holdover relief.

    Capital Gains Tax (CGT) Groups

    For CGT groups, the direct shareholding must be at least 75% while the indirect shareholding only has to be 51%. In addition, all group members must be UK resident. Companies in the same CGT group are treated as a single entity and gains can be rolled over between different group members.

    Simple CGT Group Example: Apricot Group

    Apricot Ltd owns 75% OSC of Blueberry Ltd. Both companies are UK resident.

    A Ltd sells an office building for £800,000 resulting in a capital gain of £350,000 in June 2019.

    In June 2020, B Ltd buys a freehold office building for £700,000.

    Sale proceeds from the original office building retained by the group were £100,000 so £100,000 of the gain crystallises immediately.

    The balance of the gain (£350,000 -£100,000) = £250,000 is postponed by deducting it from the cost of the building bought by B Ltd.

    This means that the base cost of the replacement building is £700,000 -£250,000 = £450,000.

    Given the above, you can now understand rollover relief and can easily pick up marks on this popular exam topic.

    Neil Da Costa is a Senior Tax Lecturer with Kaplan. He believes in keeping things simple and rigorous exam question practice. He is the author of Advanced Tax Condensed, which consists of a set of memory joggers designed to be used with the Kaplan Study Notes and Exam Kit. 

  • Don’t just take our word for it

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 05, 2021

    Our learners share their experiences studying with Kaplan and explain why they’d recommend us as a training provider.

    We spoke to learners studying across a range of qualifications and study methods to understand their experience of Kaplan. Here’s what they had to say.

    The tutors and talent coaches

    Aaron Irons, CIMA:

    “I loved the way the lectures were run, I had literally no issues whatsoever with Kaplan whilst I studied. The tutors were great and if there was ever an issue you could just drop them an email. They’d also stay 5-15 minutes after class if you needed them to.”

    Apoorva Rawat, Oxford Brookes, ACCA:

    “I chose Kaplan first of all because of its quality. I’d read a lot of testimonials on the web page. I also chose it because of the tutors, I found a lot of them in the approved list, provided by the University.

    “My experience was pretty amazing. You wouldn't really believe it, but I actually got infected by Corona during the research stage of my assessment, and I told my Kaplan tutor that I didn't know what to do, so she said ‘let's apply for an extension’ and got it all sorted for me.

    “Luckily I did get the extension, as it allowed me to submit my best work which led to me winning the Best Research Analysis Project Prize. Kaplan was a good support and guiding experience. My tutor actually adjusted a lot of things for me, such as my schedules and stuff like that. It was a very good experience.”

    Tianna Oti, Accounting Apprentice:

    “Talent coaches are really friendly and open to helping out in any way they can.

    “I have regular catch ups with my talent coach who assesses me on my progress, gives me a training log and sets me regular targets. I’m also allowed to invite my managers along to meetings, so there's a real sense of openness between my manager and my Kaplan talent coach.

    “I can also get 24 hour support because there's a number or an email you can use to contact someone. I never feel like I’m alone whilst I am studying, which I find quite comforting. So if I have a last minute question, I can just go into my KapApp and they get back to me within 24 hours.

    “Finally, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in early 2020, and then got my role in September 2020. There was a lot out there to help me with my disability. I had a good relationship with one of my tutors and if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have known what support I could have gotten.”

    The study materials

    Aaron Irons, CIMA:

    “The materials, and everything that gets sent out, come in a big box. And there are revision cards and everything like that, so I definitely recommend Kaplan 100%. I had no issues whatsoever with Kaplan. It's been brilliant.”

    Apoorva Rawat, Oxford Brookes, ACCA:

    “All of my textbooks have always been from Kaplan. And the reason why I do not go for a competitor is because it's less detailed. With Kaplan if you study the whole textbook you know it’s coming up in the paper, so yeah I've been using Kaplan for all of my papers since F1, even right now as I am preparing for SBR.”

    Tianna Oti, Accounting Apprentice:

    “In terms of the resources you're given, they are very easy to navigate. The study materials I use are structured in a way that if you've never done accounting before, it's easy to use. The teachers also teach in that way.

    “We've got a mini pocket book that you can take on the go, wherever you're going to study. Then we've got a big workbook, a textbook and a mark scheme. It's all really organised and tidy so it helps, because part of the problem with studying sometimes is keeping organised and that can be overwhelming. Also, there's an endless amount of resources because we get access to an online portal as well - myKaplan.”

    The flexibility of study

    Aaron Irons, CIMA:

    “I studied Live Online. I think I mostly did the weekday sessions where it was 6-8:30pm on a Tuesday, and 6-8:30pm on Thursdays. So it was about 5 hours a week. I think the other option was to do the weekend, which is what I did on my final exam. It’s good as you have many options depending on what you need.”

    Apoorva Rawat, Oxford Brookes, ACCA:

    “I started studying ACCA in India, so with OnDemand I can access the resources online and study whenever I want. I just love flexibility. I avoid commitments so I love things that can be done whenever you want.”

    Tianna Oti, Accounting Apprentice:

    “Because of COVID I studied Live Online. With my MS, this helped as well because I wasn't able to be as mobile at times and it just helped that I could study from home and after work. Also all of the sessions are recorded and saved, so if you can't attend, you can always watch the recording back. I found them useful and I've passed all my exams, first time, so far.”

     

    Looking to take your next steps?

    Take our Help Me Choose quiz and discover the accountancy career path to suit you.

  • The Digital Skills Gap

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 28, 2021

    With employer demand for digital skills outstripping the supply, we share how apprenticeships can give you the advantage in the jobs market.

    In this week's episode, our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of learning here at Kaplan, looks at the Digital Skills Gap and the opportunity it has presented for those willing to upskill.

    Kaplan’s Learn Better podcast covers topical subjects to support our past, present and future learners to succeed in both their studies and careers.

    Our guest this week is Jason Moss, Apprenticeship Development Director at Kaplan. Helping us to understand the difference between knowledge and skills, Jason explains what employers are looking for and how studying an apprenticeship to learn these digital skills can help further your career and increase your employability.

    As a technical person you need to be a bit more rounded than you used to be historically.

    - Jason Moss, Kaplan Apprenticeship Development Director

    Key topics

    What is the difference between knowledge and a skill?

    Knowledge is knowing how something is done, however a skill is the ability to do something, with little or no support and competently. With the digital skills gap the need focuses on people being able to put digital and technical skills (such as coding, software development, data analysis etc.) into practice.

    How are skills taught?

    With apprenticeships skills are taught in 3 levels: the delivery of the knowledge, the practicing of implementing these skills into a problem within a classroom or lab, and then finally taking these skills into the workplace to use in real life scenarios. These steps give learners a safe pace to learn and practice skills in an environment where they can make mistakes and it doesn’t matter. This then allows them to be confident when applying the learned skills within the workplace.

    What do employers want?

    Currently employer demand for digital skills is outstripping the supply available. But technical skills are not the only thing employers are looking for. Employers are also looking for people who are collaborative, logical thinkers, curious, creative and effective communicators.

    It’s important to be able to work seamlessly with others within the business as well as being productive independently.

    As a technical person you need to be a bit more rounded than you used to be historically.

    - Jason Moss, Kaplan Apprenticeship Development Director

    How are skills assessed?

    To make sure your learned skills are well and truly embedded and you can utilise them competently, apprenticeships assess you through a range of different methods.

    • Classroom/lab assessment:
      Initially you are assessed in the classroom/lab environment to make sure you are getting the right outcome and that you use the correct methods to get there.

    • Assignments in the workplace:
      Once it is shown that you are able to demonstrate the correct skills and knowledge within the controlled assessments, you will then be set a task within your workplace. This will test how you implement your learned knowledge and skills into real world tasks.

    • Employer assessment:
      Before going through the end point assessment your employer will sign off to say that you have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and behaviours learned on the apprenticeship to help you do your job competently.

    • End point assessment:
      An independent third party assessment organisation will review your portfolio of work and have an interview or professional discussion to assess that the relevant skills are shown. Often a task will also be set for you to complete under the observation of the independent assessor for them to then make a final decision on you successfully passing your apprenticeship.

    Starting your career and upskilling

    Whether you are starting your career or looking to upskill/reskill, there is a growing need for digitally skilled professionals, which is providing a lot of opportunity for those willing to learn and develop.

    Jason comments: “If I was somebody thinking of either starting a career or upskilling or reskilling in some capacity, then looking at these [digital] skills would be really advantageous and give me a fantastic opportunity.”

    Interested in finding out more?

    Tune in now to listen to the full conversation on apprenticeships and the Digital Skills Gap, or check out our apprenticeships pages for more information.

  • How to progress from AAT to ACA (ICAEW)

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 21, 2021

    If you’re coming to the end of your AAT qualification, or you completed it a while ago, you may want to consider doing an ACA qualification.

    Here’s a bit more information to help you make your decision.

    What is ACA?

    ACA stands for Associate Chartered Accountant, and is administered by the Institute of Chartered Accountant in England and Wales (ICAEW). It’s a great option if you would like to be a chartered accountant and work in accountancy and finance. It’s also a globally recognised qualification, so it can open doors in many different industries.

    ICAEW is one of the oldest accountancy bodies in the world. It has more than 184,500 members and students in 148 countries.

    How is the ACA qualification structured?

    ACA consists of three levels - Certificate, Professional, and Advanced. You also have to complete 450 practical work experience days. In total, it’ll take around three years to complete the qualification.

    For former AAT students, they may be eligible for a reduction to 300 days of practical work experience as they can apply for a credit of prior work experience from when they studied AAT.

    What are the entry requirements for ACA?

    Well it’s really good news if you’ve already done AAT, as you may be able to start at the Certificate level straight away. You’ll already have a great knowledge base from your previous studies, so this will suit you perfectly.

    Also, you may be exempt from some of the Certificate level papers. These include:

    • Accounting, Management Information and Business and Finance
    • Assurance if you have completed optional External Auditing paper at level 4 (Professional Diploma)
    • Principles of Tax if you have completed BOTH optional tax papers at level 4.
    For more info on exemptions, please visit the ICAEW fast-track site. 

    How hard are the ACA exams?

    They are tougher than the AAT exams, but not impossible. You will already have a lot of knowledge, but you will need to study hard as the exams go into a lot more detail than they did for AAT. Pass marks are around 50-55% for all exams, so you don’t need to panic that you have to get really high marks to succeed. You may find it a steep learning curve, but it’ll be worth it.

    Why do ACA after AAT?

    AAT is a great qualification, and lots of people do well with it, but qualifying as a Chartered Accountant will open up more career opportunities and allow you to progress further in accountancy.

    Could I earn more with an ACA qualification?

    You can earn a lot more with ACA than you can with AAT. A qualified chartered accountant salary, according to the ICAEW salary survey 2020*, is £63,715 a year, but you can earn well over £100,000 a year with experience, and depending on where in the world you are.

    Ready to take your next step?

    If you’re interested in moving on to ACA, have a look at our ACA pages for more details, and more information about our study methods. Also our student services team is always on hand for any questions and advice.

    *ICAEW Salary Survey 2020

  • Sleep and study

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 14, 2021

    We discuss why sleep can impact how we learn and why it is fundamental to our mental health.

    This week our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of learning here at Kaplan, explores the topic of sleep, how it affects how we learn and our mental health.

    Kaplan’s learn better podcast covers topical subjects to support our past, present and future learners to succeed in both their studies and careers.

    Guest Dr Nishi Bhopal, Psychiatrist and Sleep Specialist, explains how fundamental sleep is to your mental health and how we learn. Focusing on consolidation, one of the three primary aspects to learning, she helps to provide understanding as to why sleep deprivation can affect your recall of information.

    Sharing top tips on how to get the best night's sleep, Dr Bhopal points out how obsessing over the amount of sleep you get can actually have a further negative impact on your mental health and your amount of sleep. She explains that although sleep should be a priority, you need to listen to your body rather than focusing on a specific time.

    Key topics

    What is sleep?

    Sleep is a state of being where your awareness of your environment and environmental stimuli is reduced. Similar to hibernation and being in a coma, the main difference is sleep can be rapidly reversed.

    The three primary aspects of learning

    There are three primary aspects of learning: acquisition, consolidation and recall. Sleep is most important to the consolidation aspect. This is when we file away the information into the correct places to help us when it comes to recalling it at a later date. During this phase we also get rid of any extraneous information that we don't need to know. Sleep deprivation can cause consolidation of information to be impacted.

    I visualize the brain almost like an office, where you’ve got multiple filing cabinets, and with sleep deprivation you can imagine you have an office with papers everywhere. Nothing is filed in the right places.

    Top tips for a good night's sleep

    • Get into bed and get up at the same time each day - Having a routine can really help you to sleep better as well as combat the symptoms of “social jetlag”.

    • Don’t get into bed until you are sleepy - Although this sounds counter intuitive, we need to make sure that you associate being in bed with sleep. Lying in bed for hours on your phone will cause your body to instead associate being in bed with being awake, causing you to struggle to sleep well.

    • Find something to help you unwind and relax - Lots of people struggle to fall asleep as their mind is active and thinking about different things and trying to solve problems. This can make it hard to fall asleep, and so doing something that helps distract your mind and relax you before going to bed can be really beneficial in helping you get to sleep.

    Sleep deprivation and the impact on mental health

    Sleep and mental health are directly related, in fact they have a bidirectional relationship. This means that when you aren’t sleeping well it affects your mental health and when you are experiencing issues with mental health it causes issues with sleep. However, there are several different things you can do to help you have a good night's sleep.

    It’s really hard to improve your depression and anxiety, reduce stress levels and of course optimise learning without adequate sleep.

    The economic issue of sleep

    Sleep deprivation can impact the economy financially. In the US it has been noted that workers lose an average of about 11 days of productivity each year due to sleep issues*.

    Some large companies have even implemented nap rooms into their offices to help their workers get the sleep they need to increase their productivity.

    Tune in now to find out more.

    *Sourced from the Washington Post.

  • Salary estimates for an Apprentice Accountant in the UK

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 14, 2021

    As an apprentice accountant studying towards an intermediate (level 2), advanced (level 3) or higher (level 4-7) apprenticeship, you don’t have to give up earning a full-time salary. The government funds your studies through your employer as you learn knowledge, skills and behaviours specific to your role. But how much do accountancy apprentices typically earn?

    In this article, we bring you up-to-date information on the salary you can expect as an accounting apprentice in the UK. And how salaries can differ by role, level of qualification, and location.

    Student salaries are up 10%

    The good news is the average salary for accounting students is on the rise. According to the AAT Salary Survey 2021, student salaries are up 10% since 2019.

    The Association of Accounting Technicians’ research was particularly positive for students taking the apprenticeship route, revealing students on apprenticeships are 11% more satisfied than students not on apprenticeships – 83% vs 72%.

    What is the minimum I will earn?

    There are strict Government guidelines on the minimum apprenticeship wage. It’s linked to your age and how long you've been an apprentice, but many employers pay more than is legally required. They know that to attract good candidates, they need to offer a good salary.

    How much can I expect to earn at each level of my apprenticeship?

    How much you earn also depends on your prior accountancy knowledge, which qualification you are working towards and where in the UK you work. Apprentice accountants in popular locations with a higher cost of living like London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds tend to be paid more. On average, salaries in the south are higher than in the north.

    There are several levels of apprenticeship, each providing a gateway into different accountancy/finance roles:

    Level 2 accounting apprenticeships are the equivalent of 5 GCSEs at A* to C grade (or 9 to 4 on the new scale). You could be working in an entry-level role such as credit controller, accounts/finance assistant or junior clerk on a starting salary between £10,000 and £14,000.

    Level 3 accounting apprenticeships are equivalent to two A-level passes. At this stage, you’ll be stepping into an assistant accountant, advanced credit controller or trainee accounting technician role. These involve more responsibility, so your starting salary will be between £11,000 and £16,000.

    Level 4 accounting apprenticeships are the next stage up from A-levels, Level 3 BTECs, Scottish Highers and other equivalents. You could work as a trainee tax adviser or internal audit practitioner, and expect a starting salary of between £12,000 and £17,000.

    Level 7 accounting apprenticeships are for those aspiring to become leaders in accountancy, taxation, finance and business. They include chartered accountant apprenticeship pathways with ACCA, CIMA or ACA. You’ll provide financial information and advice to organisations big and small, and play a key part in the financial health of the organisation, so salary expectations rise to between £14,000 and £18,000.

    Graduate accounting apprenticeships give you the opportunity to gain a full bachelor’s or master’s degree. You can work as an accounts manager or accounts technician, and expect to earn between £16,000 and £20,000.

    Will I get paid to learn?

    Yes! Time spent on training is included as part of your regular working hours, which means you will be paid for it. You’ll spend at least 20% of your working time being trained.

    Which areas of the UK offer the best pay for apprentice accountants?

    Current AAT research shows that London is the top paying region for accounting students in the UK. On average, there is a 32% difference in salaries between London and the lowest paying regions in the North East and North West.

    What can I expect to earn as a qualified accountant?

    As you progress through the apprenticeship levels you will become more qualified – and therefore more employable. Your salary will reflect that, and rise as you gain your qualifications.

    There’s certainly plenty of incentive to move up the ladder in this sector as, according to Accountancy Age, the average salary for accountants in the UK is £63,715.

    Where can I find an accountancy apprenticeship?

    At Kaplan, our recruitment team receives hundreds of apprenticeship vacancies from employers each year looking to hire new talent. Take a look at our live accounting apprentice job opportunities across the UK and find the right opportunity for you.

  • Changing Careers: studying whilst in a full-time job

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 07, 2021

    Danny Green, AAT student, shares what ignited his decision to change careers and how he balanced his studies whilst in a full-time job.

    I’ve always liked accountancy, whether I was conscious of it or not.

    I first truly realised I wanted to do accounting in my previous marketing role - as I moved the company to a new accounting system. Here and there, I was dabbling.

    I got very familiar with the system as I had 1-on-1 training on it, and this allowed me to train the whole company. As I was really enjoying this, I spoke to my neighbour who was a chartered accountant, and with my love of problem solving and numbers, it sounded like the right career for me.

    So, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for the AAT whilst working.

    Balancing furlough, full-time work, and studies

    Not long after my first exam, however, I moved jobs to a Telecoms support manager because it was more technical and paid more. As I had so much to learn with starting a new job I took a year off studying.

    When Covid hit I was put on furlough. After a couple months I decided I didn't want to waste any time and jumped straight back into studying (there is only so much Netflix you can watch). Since I had already paid for it, I thought I should get back into it.

    Being on furlough made it easy to study as I was able to do eight hours a day, as if it was a 9-to-5 job. This helped me progress quickly and I ended up doing one exam every two weeks.

    Once I returned to working full-time, I had to adapt to how I studied. I try now to do a minimum of one hour a day with the occasional 2-3 hours where possible. Then I have the weekends off - especially now we can go out and enjoy it!

    With OnDemand you can work at a pace that suits you. I sat one exam before I took a break and then when I restarted I took the other four within the space of two months. You just have to be flexible and work around what you have on.

    Changing careers

    If someone wants to start their accounting career whilst working, I would tell them it is not as time consuming as you think. On average think about doing 10 hours a week, but that’s completely flexible, you just have to have a good balance between life and work.

    If there’s something you really want to do, but you feel hindered by the cost or the time needed to do it, you need to take a step back. Really consider the end goal and the future benefits. Ask yourself ‘Will it be worth my while in the long run?’. If the answer is yes, then proceed. Even if it does cost you a little bit of money and time.

    Employers are impressed if it’s evident that you’ve invested in yourself. It shows how willing and dedicated you are. I think of it as spending money to make money.

    Also, it's very motivating when you have a career you really want to succeed in. When you're young, you can be unsure of what you want to do and sometimes you need that spark that helps you realise. That’s what happened to me, and the work with the accounting system was the one thing that made everything click.

    Since completing my Level 2 and starting my Level 3, I have been able to move into a job within accounting. I feel as though my hard work is already paying off and I am now on the career path that I want.

    Find out more

    Have you thought of becoming an accountant but don’t know where to start? Find out more on our AAT pages. You don’t need any previous qualifications or accountancy experience to get started.

    Interested in studying AAT?

    Browse our courses

  • Why Accountancy continues to be important

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 01, 2021

    With so many technological advancements and changes to the roles within accountancy, we discuss why this profession continues to be important.

    Our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning here at Kaplan, asks the question “Why does accountancy continue to be important?”.

    Kaplan’s Learn Better Podcast covers topical subjects to support our past, present and future learners to succeed in both their studies and careers.

    This week, Paul Barnes, Managing Director of MAP, helps us understand why accountancy is still so important. Speaking about personal development, computerisation within the industry, and value perception, this episode explores ways in which accounting will continue to be important, and how to make it a successful career path for you.

    People’s lives are changed by better understanding their finances.

    Key topics

    The broad range of opportunities in accounting

    Accounting and finance can cover a very broad range of roles and responsibilities. Whatever your passion may be it is very likely you’d be able to find a position to fit your interests and skills within this industry.

    Paul explains that you don’t need to worry if you begin heading down a path that doesn’t quite suit you. There are plenty of opportunities and routes beneath the accounting and finance umbrella, so there is no need to panic that you have chosen the wrong industry for your career.

    Computerisation and the 4th industrial revolution

    It can often be thought that the evolution of computers could make many jobs obsolete - especially within the accounting world. However, there are still things only humans can do. Having someone who can have a meaningful conversation and offer sensible advice is a skill set in itself.

    In the episode our guest talks about how we should see computers as a tool, allowing us to have more time to speak with clients and offer the services which provide added value.

    Try to look at everything as an opportunity rather than a threat.

    Service value and value perception

    Building a relationship with a client or employer you are delivering a service for is very important. The way in which you deliver a service or report is where the real value comes from.

    The same service delivered slightly differently can massively change the value perception.

    Paul argues that value perception from your client is key, if they are unaware of the work you have put in it could mean you spend hours on a service that is underappreciated. Good value perception coupled with an accurate and professionally delivered service, means that you will be worth more as an individual.

    Being proactive in your development

    Finally the subject of being proactive and curious is covered, as it allows you to be ready to find your weaknesses and in-experiences to allow you to progress.

    You can quickly limit your development if you are quiet and don’t ask questions. Having a strong curiosity can make sure you are continuously looking to better yourself and learn more, helping you to progress in your career.

    Tune in now

    To hear more about these topics, tune in now.

  • Our new two day ACA-CTA Bridging courses

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Sep 24, 2021

    We've just launched our new two day ACA CTA Joint Programme Bridging courses, aimed at our joint programme students. Here's some more information about the courses.

    Who is the ideal student for the course?

    Our two day ACA CTA Joint Programme Bridging courses are specifically for students on the ACA CTA joint programme. Students on this pathway should take our CTA bridging course before starting their first CTA Advanced Technical paper which will be either Owner Managed Business (OMB) or Taxation of Major Corporates (TOMC).

    What is different about this course/what different topics are covered?

    The course aims to provide a smooth transition for our joint programme students as they move from their ACA to their CTA tax studies.

    The course will build on knowledge gained whilst studying ACA Tax Compliance and also introduce the core topics that are examined as part of the first CTA Advanced Technical paper.

    The courses are delivered online via our award winning Live Online study method. Students will receive expert tuition delivered by experienced OMB and TOMC tutors. They will also have access to our academic support team should they need it.

    Students won’t have to sit assessments as part of this course - the course is designed to fill any knowledge gaps they may have before starting CTA.

    What qualification will I receive at the end of the course?

    The ACA CTA joint programme allows students to achieve two prestigious qualifications in a shorter amount of time. They will become both an Associate Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser when the joint programme is completed.

    Interested in the ACA-CTA bridging courses?

    The courses launch on 13 December 2021, but are available to buy now. For more information see our bridging course page.

  • What part does sustainability play in accounting?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Sep 16, 2021

    Sustainability: What part does it play in accounting?

    Our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning here at Kaplan, helps tackle the subject of sustainability within the world of accounting.

    Kaplan’s Learn Better podcast covers topical subjects to support our past, present and future learners to succeed in both their studies and careers.

    This week Richard Barker, Professor of Accounting at Oxford University, joins us to explore sustainability. With a lot of confusion around sustainability, and what it really means, this episode will help provide clarity on what it is and why it is important to employees and businesses.

    We delve further into the role sustainability plays in society, how knowledge of this growth space could help accelerate your career, and how in this space you can utilise any wider skillsets gained from other degree subjects alongside your accounting qualification.

    Key Topics:

    • What is sustainability?
    • Financial vs Sustainability reporting
    • New generation career opportunities
    • Sustainability reporting's role in society
    • Recommended reading

    Tune in now to join the discussion

  • WorldSkills UK finals - who will take first place?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Sep 13, 2021

    The finalists for the WorldSkills UK Accounting Technician competition have been announced.

    WorldSkills supports young people across the world via competitions-based training. This particular competition has been designed by Kaplan tutors to ‘reflect the role of an Accountant and the standards that are expected within the financial sector’.

    Following the qualifiers held in July, four teams will be moving on to the final in our Accounting Technician competition: Riverside College, Lloyds Team 2, City of Glasgow College and LIFO the Party (Bridgend College).

    In the next stage, to help the teams prepare and practise for the finals, they will take part in a "development day". The aim of this day is to cover relevant topics that they'll face in the finals.

    The finals will take place on Monday 15th November at MediaCity UK, where the four teams will come together to compete for 1st place. They will have 4 hours to work through a case study, which they will then present back to the judges. The winners will be announced via an online broadcast from Channel 4’s studios on Friday 26th November at 4pm.

    We'd like to congratulate, thank, and recognise all of the teams who entered and have been a part of this year's competition. It's been great to see everyone overcome the virtual challenges and still put in a huge effort to make the competition a success.

    Keep your eyes peeled for the confirmation of the date for the UK LIVE finals, and for more information about the Worldskills competitions check out their website.

  • Kaplan shortlisted 3 times for the 2021 Learning Tech Awards

    by Sharon Cooper | Sep 10, 2021

    After one of the most challenging years in our history, we have been shortlisted 3 times for the Learning Tech awards.

    The Learning Technology awards represent one of the most prestigious international awards within the learning sector, so we’re very humbled to be recognised for another year.

    As stated on their website:

    [The Learning Technology Awards] recognise the commitment, enthusiasm and passion for learning technologies across the world. Finalists are selected by our independent judging panel of experts organised by the eLearning Network.

    We have been shortlisted for the following:

    The best digital learning transformation programme implemented in response to COVID-19.

    This submission detailed how we introduced two new digital programmes during the pandemic, to ensure our learners could continue to study and move forward in their professional careers.

    The best learning technologies project - private sector

    This nomination is for the creation of our digital training solutions with input from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). With them, we created 2 digital pathways for finance professionals to develop their Data Analytics skills.

    Best learning game

    This nomination was for the educational business game we created alongside Lloyds Banking Group and Interpretive. The game was a unique experience designed for apprentices to develop work-place skills.

    Good luck to all of the nominees! The ceremony will be held on the 17th November. For more information and the full shortlist visit their page.

  • How the HMRC are ‘making tax digital’

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Sep 02, 2021

    Our Senior Tax Lecturer, Neil Da Costa, gives an overview of the new changes to the tax system - designed to make them more digital friendly.

    HMRC has introduced the ‘Making Tax Digital’ Initiative in order to make it easier for individuals and businesses to get their tax right and keep on top of their affairs.

    This follows HMRC’s introduction of personal tax accounts in 2015, which allow individuals to manage their personal tax online and now they plan on extending this initiative to other taxes.

    Here is a breakdown of some of the main changes that will happen.

    Making tax digital for VAT

    Since 2019, VAT registered businesses with a turnover of more than £85,000 have been required to keep digital records and submit digital VAT returns. With regard to businesses who have a turnover of less than £85,000, they will have to use MTD from April 2022.

    Businesses will have to maintain digital records which will include all the current VAT supporting documentation such as the business name and address, VAT number, time of supply or tax point and rate of VAT charged. In addition, businesses can claim back VAT on assets like machinery, computers and furniture so digital records of assets bought also need to be maintained.

    When preparing the quarterly VAT returns, it is necessary to adjust for issues such as errors or mistakes discovered in previous returns etc. or reverse charge transactions relating to overseas supplies so digital records need to be maintained as well.

    If the business is part of a special scheme such as the retail or flat rate schemes, then daily gross takings need to be maintained.

    Software enabling MTD

    HMRC does not provide the required software, so businesses will initially use spreadsheets to summarise the VAT transactions and calculate the amount payable. The business then needs ‘bridging software’ to convert the records into the correct submission format.

    The bridging software from companies such as Xero, QuickBooks, Sage, Zoho and FreshBooks will then pull the information from the spreadsheets which will need to be preserved for at least six years.

    The government estimated these costs to the small businesses at £70 a year for four years or £280 but the ICAEW estimated the cost at £1,250.

    Making tax digital for sole traders

    Self-employed individuals have to use MTD from April 2023 so will have to keep records digitally and submit income tax updates to HMRC. This will move self-employed tax to a real time system which lets you see how much income tax you owe as you go.

    Once the digital records have been submitted for the entire year, the final report for the accounting period is computed and the sole trader can claim any capital allowances or loss relief.

    Making tax digital for landlords

    Landlords with rental income of more than £10,000 are also required to use MTD from April 2023 and will also have to keep records digitally and submit income tax updates to HMRC. This will also move landlords to a real time system which lets you see how much income tax you owe as you go.

    MTD pilot scheme for sole traders and landlords

    Sole traders and landlords have the option to join the digital returns pilot scheme now.

    Since 2019, VAT registered businesses with a turnover of more than £85,000 have been required to keep digital records and submit digital VAT returns. With regard to businesses who have a turnover of less than £85,000, they will have to use MTD from April 2022.

    Conclusion

    This is a major shake up to the tax system and we will all have to be used to digital records. Eventually, paper records will not meet the legal requirements.

    To find out more about our tax related courses please visit our tax qualification pages.

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

    He is also a passionate advocate for mental wellness and diversity.

  • Diversity in accounting

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Sep 02, 2021

    “Never underestimate your ability to have influence.”

    This week our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of learning here at Kaplan, explores the topic of diversity within the accountancy profession.

    Kaplan’s learn better podcast covers topical subjects to support our past, present and future learners to succeed in both their studies and careers.

    Guest Alice Olafare, Co-found of New Gen Accountants (NGA), shares her experiences and what led her to co-founding the NGA community initiative. She discusses the challenges diverse candidates may face, the resources they can lean on for support, and the benefits of a diverse workforce for everyone.

    Together Stuart and Alice explore what diversity is, why it is important within the accounting profession, and how to champion it and give longevity to the movements that have taken place over the past year.

    Make it a movement, not a moment.

    - Alice Olafare, Co-founder of New Gen Accountants

    Key topics:

    • What is diversity?
    • New Gen Accountants community initiative
    • The benefits of a diverse workforce
    • How to champion diversity.

    Tune in now to find out more.

  • What we are doing to help you safely return to the classroom

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 19, 2021

    We give an update on the various things we’ve put in place to make our learners feel better about moving back into the classroom.

    In these times, it’s absolutely natural to feel unsettled about returning to our centres to attend a classroom course. We realise that everyone is at a different stage, in terms of their confidence in returning to a new normality.

    Some of our students will no doubt feel more confident than others, but we wanted to reassure everyone that we are doing everything that we can to make you feel safe.

    Your safety is our priority at Kaplan and our staff are here to support you every step of the way. Whilst we gradually start to increase our class capacity we will be implementing the following to keep the risk of spreading the virus as low as we reasonably can.

    We will be:

    • Running fewer physical classes overall to reduce the total volumes in the centre.

    • Staggering class start times to minimise congestion in shared spaces.

    • Limiting visitor numbers to centres, and only by prior arrangement.

    • Asking our students to wear masks when moving around the centre (however they can be removed when sat in classes or CBE suites).

    • Our tutors will be wearing face coverings when moving around the classroom and centre.

    • Our spaces will be kept well ventilated. We will be maintaining sanitation stations and undertaking additional cleaning protocols as well as clearly signposting good hygiene practices.

    • We are asking our staff to take regular lateral flow tests.

    • We display a Q-code for those using Track and Trace apps.

    Our staff in each centre are there to help you and to make you feel at ease. Our Student Experience teams and Tutors are here for you to discuss any concerns that you may have whilst you are in the centre.

    We realise that the idea of commuting again may be daunting for some. In order to ease this transition, why not think about trialling your route to the centre or bringing your own lunch if you want to avoid going out during busy lunchtimes?

    Finally, we can support you if you do test positive for Covid or are contacted via track and trace by providing you with the course recordings if you do have to isolate for a period of time.

    We hope all of these things we are putting in place will help to facilitate your return to the classroom. But if you continue to have any concerns about returning, please do share these thoughts with your employer.

    For more support and information on student wellbeing please visit our advice page, and take a look at our recent webinar on making the transition from remote working to the face to face environment.

  • ACCA: An investment that’s well worth it

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 12, 2021

    James Carew recently secured three ACCA awards: ACCA Gold Affiliate and first in the world for both Advanced Financial Management (AFM) and Advanced Performance Management (APM). Discover more about his experience studying ACCA and his top tips for success.

    I am currently working in industry as a Financial Analyst for Puffin Produce, they are a fresh produce company in west Wales.

    I really enjoy the data analytics and management accountant side of things, analysing accounts to proactively drive performance and looking forwards rather than just reporting. I feel this role makes a difference and I really enjoy it.

    Why data analytics?

    Towards the end of ACCA, more data analytics are involved, with the last four strategic papers being more tailored towards current conditions and the direction the world is moving in.

    I am much more interested in this than I am in accountancy practice roles. I enjoy looking at data and trying to identify trends.

    Data analytics is dynamic and it’s different every time. Presenting the data and helping people understand it to make strategic decisions motivates me. I like making a difference, understanding and contributing to other departments within the business.

    Studying LiveOnline during a pandemic

    My course was employer funded and they let me study two courses at the same time, which meant I could get through it quicker. I studied via LiveOnline (LO) as I’m not close to any Kaplan centres.

    When the pandemic started, I wasn't really affected too much, but it did become a lot harder to find the cut-off point between finishing work and starting studying as you’re always in the same space. I only had 4 exams left so I could see the finish line, so this was my motivation.

    Studying LO means you don’t have a support network in the same way as a classroom, so it’s important to rely on your tutor, find people in your company and speak to people on your course. It’s key to interact as much as possible.

    Studying Advanced Financial Management (AFM)

    AFM is a very maths-based paper, there are lots of calculations and understanding methods. It isn't just about learning these methods, but doing exam question practice and applying it to scenarios.

    I did a maths degree so I had the knowledge, but I would say definitely practice, buy a tuition kit, apply it to real world scenarios and work with your tutor.

    I had great tuition and used the complete exam kit, I fully recommend this as it’s really maths based. I also used the integrated workbook and then did all the exam kit questions.

    It’s painful, especially with such long questions, but it’s necessary and you need to carve out the time to do it. I recommend doing this early on, even in the first week, as it is vital to understand where you are going wrong as early as possible.

    Towards the final couple of weeks I’d just focus on the areas that have been highlighted as where you’re weakest and then work through these questions.

    Studying Advanced Performance Management (APM)

    This exam is the polar opposite of AFM, it’s more about the ideology of management accounting. You need to learn the bare bones of the subject, and apply it to real life scenarios.

    It’s more of the human side of accounting and performance management, how humans will respond, and how you can manage and motivate people.

    I thought I'd failed to be honest, but I suppose the key to this is question practice. You need to get into the mind frame of questions and what they are requiring you to say. As with AFM I think it is really important to do mock exams.

    This exam can be a pitfall to people like me with a mathematical brain as it’s more reasoning based and open ended. You need to elaborate on your answers and understand the topic and be able to apply it in different contexts.

    My tutor, Dan Simmonds, was brilliant and really made a difference. He teaches you what you need to know to apply these topics in the real world and this helps you to be ready for the exams.

    My honest thoughts on ACCA

    ACCA is really challenging, especially with studying LiveOnline.

    My recommendation is to group the exams together with a break in between. Work as hard as possible, get your head in it and then give yourself a good amount of time off.

    I had 12 weeks off between each exam and I really looked forward to this as I knew I’d get my life back for 12 weeks and it motivated me to get through it.

    It is a big commitment, I was doing 2-3 hours per evening for 8 weeks after work. This is a lot, but when you get your ACCA qualification, nobody can take it away from you.

    It’s an investment. Exams are the worst part, but in the end it’s well worth it.

    I had no experience before I started and Kaplan really guided me through it. The platform is amazing, the tutors are fantastic and the study materials are so useful for exams.

    Job security and salary is great once you’re ACCA qualified. Now I’m done with my studies, I’m looking to gain more experience in the working world.

    Interested in finding out more about ACCA?

    Take a look at our ACCA pages for more information about the qualification and the study methods we have to help you pass your exams.

  • Pushing yourself to a level you're happy with - student story

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 05, 2021

    Global prize winner, David Barker, was awarded the ACA Financial Management First place and the Howitt prize in March 2021. Find out how he overcame personal and logistical obstacles in his pursuit of success.

    Financial Management was the subject I’d found the most difficult as it was the most different from my day-to-day job. However, I enjoyed studying it the most. I liked that you’re applying it to real world situations.

    I was very surprised when I won the prize. I knew I had to work really hard for this subject, and felt like the exam went well, but I can’t believe I did SOO well!

    Balancing work, life and study

    It was really difficult and time intensive. Starting work at 7:45am and finishing at 5pm, going on to study for a couple of hours, and then getting up early on the weekends. However, I always made sure to give myself time to decompress in the evenings.

    I didn’t have a set routine as I prefer to take it day by day, but always had an overarching view of where I wanted to be at each stage before the exams.

    Kaplan’s guidance was great in terms of studying. I pretty much followed this to the letter and it was great.

    Don’t worry about doing 4-5 hours a night, do what suits you and just stay on track with what Kaplan says, it works!

    My main advice is practice, practice, practice. Do as many practice questions as you can, both open and closed books.

    My tactic was just to practice and then address any specific areas of weakness by working through the answers piece by piece.

    Overcoming stress

    I struggled with stress the few weeks before the exams. My company were really good, they let me take short notice leave and my workload lightened before exams. I felt my managers understood when they were coming up and supported me through the process.

    It’s ok to find the balance, to take time off if you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

    It’s a stressful time and It’s really important to only push yourself to a level you’re happy with.

    Mental health is a big thing for me, exams are a big trigger for my anxiety, so I really benefited from the support I had around me. My family, friends and girlfriend provided unbelievable amounts of support to me throughout the process, and I am so thankful as I couldn’t have done it without them. It’s so important to have a support network around you.

    Getting into accountancy

    I studied architecture at Uni, then worked in a call centre for a year and saved up money to either go and travel or find a job. I ended up teaching English in China for a year in Wuhan (before it was famous!) then moved to Massan in Korea.

    I was worried about finding a job when I first got back. I loved teaching, but the situation with teaching in the UK isn’t for me, so I went into accounting.

    My company, Sagars, is very keen on hiring people from different backgrounds, even without finance experience, and training them up then promoting internally. This brings a lot of different perspectives to the firm which means there’s a really great culture.

    The stereotype of “typical stuffy accountants” was proved not to be true at all, the people are all very friendly.

    Future ambitions

    I have two more professional exams left, one in summer and one just before Christmas. I will be taking Advanced next year and then the case study.

    I love working at Sagars and I much prefer working for a smaller practice where you feel part of the fabric of the company. Sagars have really made me feel important and there’s a great future here.

    The advantage with ACA is that once I’m qualified, there is the opportunity to work anywhere. In the future I'd also love to revisit the option of going back overseas and working in management accounting.

    Discover ACA

    If you're interested in studying ACA, please see our ACA pages for more information.

  • Why accountancy is the ideal career for school leavers

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 29, 2021

    If you’ve just left school, you might be wondering what your next steps will be. Maybe you’re unsure which path leads to a good career that pays well. It’s possible that accounting hasn’t crossed your mind, but let us tell you why it’s a great path, and how to get started.

    Accounting isn’t just maths and numbers

    There’s a lot more to accounting than just being able to add up. You’ll need to be able to talk to people and explain what you’re working on. If you’re good at communicating, and you’re organised, then you’re well on your way to have the skills needed to be an accountant.

    You don’t need a degree to get started

    There are no entry requirements to enrol on an entry level accounting course, such as AAT Foundation. You’ll need maths and English GSCEs, and a good grasp of IT, but you definitely don’t need a degree or A-Levels. If you’re not sure what level you’re at, you can take the AAT skillcheck test to find out.

    Qualify quickly

    The great thing about studying accountancy is that you can qualify relatively quickly, and work immediately in accounting. You can complete all three levels of AAT in under two years, so compared to a degree you’ll be done with your studies a lot quicker than most students.

    Learn and work at the same time

    You can easily fit your accounting studies around a full, or part, time job. Depending on which study method you choose, you don’t have to take time off work to learn. If you choose online learning, you can fit it in during lunch, or after work.

    Even classroom options are open to you, as there are lessons on the weekends. Have a look at our study methods to find out more, and see which one suits you best.

    You’ll always have our support

    If you choose to study with Kaplan you’ll be supported all the way, no matter which study method you choose. You’ll have access to tutors, academic support, and our student services team. You can email, call or use live chat - 7 days a week. We’re only interested in your success, so whether you have an academic question, or you need some support balancing your studies, we’re here to help.

    AAT opens doors to further qualifications

    AAT is the first qualification you can do to become an accountant, and from there you can go on to do ACCA or CIMA, or specialise in tax and do CTA or ATT. With further qualifications, you can earn more, and go into incredible job roles, anywhere in the world.

    Fancy earning £100k+ and living in Dubai? That’s completely possible with a higher level accounting qualification.

    Ready for your next step?

    If you’d like more information, have a look at our AAT pages to see what’s involved, and what study methods are available. If you’re worried about not being good at maths, read our blog: Do I need to be good at maths to study accountancy? to put your mind at ease.

  • Kaplan launches new podcast for students

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 22, 2021

    Featuring some of the best entrepreneurs and thinkers in the sector, and hosted by our very own Head of Learning Stuart Pedley-Smith, our new podcast launches in early August.

    In development since March this year, our podcast is created with our current students and future students in mind. It comes in the form of a relaxed, yet structured, interview and aims to help with: study tips, wellbeing and career information.

    Much care and consideration has gone into the selection of each guest and theme and you will see subjects covered such as:

    Sleep and study
    24 hours before an exam (what to do)
    How sustainability and accountancy are linked
    Diversity within accountancy and the professional services
    Accountancy around the world
    Apprenticeship vs University (which route?)

    And more!

    The guest selections are a combination of those who work for Kaplan and those outside - who work in companies around the world. From Oxford University to California to Colombia.

    You can listen right now and the podcast is available on all major podcast platforms.

    Subscribe and listen now.  

  • Is studying with an AAT training provider worth it?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 15, 2021

    AAT, or Association of Accounting Technicians, is a great place to start your accounting qualifications, and it’s possible to study alone without any support. But let us tell you about the benefits of studying with a training provider.

    Support

    By choosing to study with Kaplan, you can get expert tutor support seven days a week, and you can use Live Chat for an immediate response. We’re only happy when you succeed, so we’re here to support you all the way, no matter what.

    If you’ve got questions about a tricky topic, or you need support to balance your home and study life - there’ll always be someone to help.

    Expert tutors

    Studying alone can work for some, but by doing so you’ll miss out on the expertise from those who have actually worked in accounting and have insider knowledge of the field.

    When you study with a training provider, you receive direct teaching from tutors who know the subject and industry inside and out, and can focus your learning to areas that are likely to come up in your exams.

    They’re also there to help you with areas that you might find harder, and can explain them in a way that you’ll understand and retain.

    Study methods to suit your learning

    With a training provider such as Kaplan, you can choose the way you study. For AAT, Kaplan offers Classroom, Live Online, OnDemand and Distance Learning.

    They’re all designed to suit individual learning preferences - whether you like face-to-face learning, or to be left to work through the subjects at your own pace. No matter what, you get tutor support, online resources, and study materials as a minimum. We even have a quiz you can do to work out which study method will suit you best.

    Learn with others, face-to-face or online

    Depending on your study method, you’ll experience a different level of social interaction with your fellow students, but you’ll always be able to talk to them about the course.

    With online learning you can chat to your classmates via chat panels and forums. You can find out what they’re struggling with, and help them out, or ask questions about areas you’re finding hard, and get the answers you need.

    You can share revision hints and tips, or ways of learning tricky topics, as well as general conversation that doesn’t have to be all about accounting. Totally up to you.

    Well-being

    Studying can be hard, and adding it to an already busy work and home life can increase your stress levels. We want to make sure you’re coping with the work level and getting the most out of your course.

    There are times when we all need a little extra help and support so we have blogs and supportive information to help you at times when you need it. You can also reach out to tutors or student services for help. We want you to succeed, not struggle.

    Ready to start AAT with us?

    If we’ve managed to convince you that studying with a training provider is the best option, have a look at our AAT pages for more information about the course and the study methods available.

  • 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?

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