Emma Peterson, Director FinTech Awards Wales & Finance Awards Wales Meets:
AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)
In this series of ‘Emma Meets’, Emma Peterson, Director of Recruit 121 Finance & Accounting Solutions, finds out more about the sponsors of the Finance Awards Wales 2023, that took place on the 12th May at Cardiff’s City Hall. Finance Awards Wales is designed to recognise, attract and invest in the talented finance professionals working in Wales, showcasing the best of the best in the finance industry. In this edition, Emma meets Christina Earls, President at AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians).
Tell me about yourself and career to date?
My background is as a Chartered Public sector accountant, qualifying with CIPFA when I was 30. I have worked in local and central government (including the Foreign Office, MOD and DWP) until recently when I took early retirement. I gave up the work I was doing as a Work Based Learning Coach for AAT Level, 3, 4 and 7 accounting apprentices last September 2022, when I took on the Presidency of the AAT.
I have been a non-executive director for AAT since 2012.
Can you give me an overview of your company and what you do?
AAT is the UK’s leading qualification and professional body for technical accountants and bookkeepers. We have nearly 124,000 members and students in over 105 countries around the world and have been helping people enter and build careers in the accountancy profession for over 40 years.
Our mission is to make it possible for more people to experience the opportunities a career in finance brings, through our accessible qualifications and supportive community by keeping our profession relevant, driving up professional standards and building responsible business.
We believe everyone should have an opportunity to realise their career ambition – so we make it happen. Studying with AAT enables people of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels to gain up-to-date, relevant practical and technical skills and equips them to meet challenges head-on and give them the real-world expertise to support their clients and employers across a range of sectors.
Being a part of AAT also offers our members and students access to an inclusive network of accountancy professionals as well as insights, opportunities and lifelong learning.
What has been the biggest challenge the company has faced and how have you responded?
As President, I see a number of challenges, such as keeping our qualification and membership relevant to the current dynamic work environment and needs of employers, but we also have a real challenge in attracting new talent to our profession. AAT has responded with our new Securing Future Relevance Strategy to 2030, launched in February 2023. Our three overarching themes are to keep our profession relevant, drive up professional standards and help build responsible business. This will help us to increase the recognition of accounting technicians around the world, increase access to finance careers and develop a community of accounting professionals with the skills to support business and economies, both now and in the future, whilst keeping our members and students at the heart of everything we do.
How do you feel the Welsh economy will fare over the next 12 months?
Like the rest of the UK, the Welsh economy is facing significant pressures from inflation and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, along with the ongoing impact of Brexit and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. This is particularly affecting small businesses, including many AAT members who are operating as sole traders.
However, we believe this represents a real opportunity to highlight just why accountancy and financial sector roles are so critical at this time, both in the UK and around the world. Having highly qualified finance staff who are equipped with real-world skills will help businesses to not only survive, but thrive despite the ongoing external challenges, and I believe that the Finance Awards Wales help to showcase just how vital they can be. However, there is an expectation that they must adapt, particularly by becoming more digital, data and insight-led, with a focus on sustainable growth and ethics as well as balancing the books. Businesses must therefore be able to rely on high standards of advice and guidance from specialist staff and advisers – including accountants who are members of a relevant professional body such as AAT – to reduce costs and improve productivity.
What plans do you have for your business in 2023?
Our plans in 2023 following the launch of our new Strategy is to implement the plan and support our students and members throughout these changes. The vision in this plan builds on our strong foundations and core values, with a focus on giving our members and students the real-world ready skills needed to drive the accountancy profession to evolve, adapt and meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Why did you choose to sponsor the Finance Awards Wales 2023?
Since AAT was founded over 40 years ago, we have had a strong track record in supporting and developing thousands of students and members based in Wales to help them gain the qualifications and skills needed to enter the finance sector. We are committed to our ongoing support of accounting technicians in Wales, including through collaborations with partners.
We are also aware of our responsibility to showcase how accounting and finance can provide rewarding and exciting careers, with routes into a wide range of businesses and industries, and that it is open to everyone, regardless of their age, previous experience or background. The Finance Awards Wales offer a great opportunity to recognise and showcase the remarkable work of individuals and businesses across the country, celebrate their contribution to the economy, and encourage others to join the sector and expand the talent pool. Why we’re delighted to sponsor them again this year.
If you have sponsored the awards previously what were your highlights from last year’s ceremony?
As sponsors of the Accounting Technician Award, we were particularly pleased to see Poppy Vincent of UNRVLD take home the trophy, as well as Jack Bennett being Highly Commended. Both highlight key roles accounting technicians play in supporting their organisations’ success and I hope they will not only go on to achieve great things themselves but also inspire others in the future. They are just two of the many great examples of finance talent within Wales and the importance of harnessing and celebrating accomplishment and achievement, and showcase how these awards really make a difference in terms of uplighting talent, building confidence and how that really can change lives.