After completing an introductory accounting module in my final year of university I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in studying for the ACA qualification. After extensive research, I came to the conclusion that a medium sized practice such as Alliotts would be the perfect fit for me. Working at Alliotts provides me with real variety in my workload as I have exposure to a very diverse client base. So far, I have worked on auditing the accounts of academies, attended stock takes and prepared statutory accounts. You are given responsibility for tasks and provided with continued support as well as on the job training as you progress through the qualification. As a graduate trainee you will receive tuition for the ACA at Kaplan as well as practical training courses at SWAT UK.

As well as the technical side, through Alliotts I have been able to develop my networking by attending numerous networking events. I have also been elected a representative of our staff action team, the group responsible for organising social and charity fundraising events within the firm.

My advice to prospective candidates looking to apply for the trainee scheme is to research the ACA qualification thoroughly and be prepared to balance working life with studying. Ask lots of questions, speak to trainees in different types and sizes of firms and get the insiders view before making your mind up where to apply.

Johnathan Randall, an Economics graduate trainee studying for the ACA.

I feel incredibly honoured to have been awarded the Knox Prize by the ICAEW and am delighted with the result as I had invested a lot of time and hard work into my studies. I would like to thank my Kaplan tutors, and my colleagues at Alliotts for their continued support and for providing a great working environment for me to flourish in.”

Lisa, an award winning graduate trainee

I graduated with a degree in French, Business and Mandarin Chinese (see, us arts students can do it too). When I was in my final year of university, I could not face trying to find a career while finishing my essays and exams, so I lined up a year teaching in China. While I had a great time, all it did was put off the inevitable decision for a year.

Upon return, having realised that what I thought I wanted to do was not going to suit me (running a tutoring centre – it is a bit of a story), I had to have a good think about where to go and finance came out on top! I am good with numbers, always have been, and through teaching I know that I like to be in a position to help people with my own technical knowledge, so it seemed a good decision.

I did some research and decided that I wanted to train for the ACA or CIPFA. SWAT were interviewing on behalf of ten different firms, which seemed a good way to be matched to somewhere that would suit, so once I passed their tests and got into my face-to-face interview, we agreed that London was not for me but Alliotts had a Chinese specialism and an opening in Surrey.

Not long after that I went down to meet them and a few weeks into training, I knew it was for me!

Almost three years later I have passed all my exams and am nearly qualified, at which point I am assuming there will be a snazzy graduation ceremony? Right??

Sarah, a graduate trainee studying for the ACA qualification

Nearing the end of my University studies I contemplated what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and there was no obvious answer. I had studied chemistry and whilst loving it I did not find the thought of spending any more time in the lab appealing. However there were some clear pointers that lead me to accountancy; I loved the process of learning at University and the prospect of working towards a new qualification really attracted me. Also with my scientific background I knew I enjoyed working with data and as I had no past experience in business I thought training for the ACA would be a perfect introduction.

Initially I was a little unsure whether I would be able to adapt to accountancy but the ACA training does not assume any knowledge so it’s an ideal way of developing new skills and gaining knowledge. Initially losing free time to studying is a bit of a shock but the sacrifice is minimal in relation to the benefit and sense of achievement in passing each exam and progressing.

SWAT provides a fantastic resource of technical and soft skills to guide students through to qualification and beyond. Courses are engaging and relevant and forming links with other people from a variety of firms is a real benefit. During the interview process SWAT paired me up with one of the firms they recruit for. Working in a firm the size of Alliotts has allowed me to gain a wide range of experience, from dealing with small to medium size corporate entities to charity and Academy clients. Working with such a variety of clients makes my work really interesting and rewarding. When I started three years ago I thought I could leave the profession with a qualification at the end of my training if nothing else but now I have discovered a career that I want to pursue.

Elizabeth, a graduate trainee studying for the ACA qualification

I chose to study Accounting and Finance at University, not knowing which I would like the most. The more knowledge I have gained, the more determined I have become to pursue my career in Accountancy through studying ACA. I felt that this career path would create a good foundation to advance my knowledge. I always enjoyed learning something new every day, and I believed that becoming a Chartered Accountant would offer the option of constant development. I was not wrong! Starting my career at Alliotts Chartered Accountants and pursuing the ACA route is even better than I could have imagined.

Alliotts Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors is a medium size partnership. It specialises in providing advice and business support to growing businesses and the people who run them. Their comprehensive service includes, audit and accountancy, UK and international tax advice, corporate finance, outsourced book keeping and management accounts, payroll services, business consultancy and human resources management. They have 'centres of excellence' in central London and Guildford. Alliotts have a proven track record of helping companies from start up to become mature businesses, and where relevant to maximising the value of a business on exit. Alliotts provide a personal partner led service that meets the needs of all types businesses, helping them to achieve optimum success. Through membership of Alliott Group International the services come with a truly global perspective. They provide international business and tax advice across all major commercial centres worldwide.

I joined the firm as a trainee accountant at the Guildford office. The work never gets boring and each day is different. I provide services to a very diverse group of clients in different business sectors. I have performed basic bookkeeping for celebrities and attended an audit of famous brands. Working for the firm the size of Alliotts allows great opportunity to be an important part of the team and work with other trainees and managers as well as partners. Also, as I progress within the ACA route, my effort gets recognised and the work I perform become more complex and I receive more responsibilities.

When I was applying for jobs, I came across this question: “What would you like to be in 5 or 10 years time?” My answer was to become a partner, and I believe by choosing a smaller firm, the opportunity to climb the career ladder is greater than working for one of the Big 4 and being overlooked as one of the 300 other trainees. Balancing work and studying can get very challenging. It can be very stressful when the professional exams are round the corner and you have to go to work. I try to study in the evening and sometimes during my lunch break, but it gets hard to keep the motivation up. However, when the exam results come out and I have passed, it is the most euphoric feeling. Also, being able to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in the practice creates great satisfaction, particularly when you can stop bothering your manager and other colleagues every minute and complete the job yourself.

Becoming a successful Chartered Accountant through studying ACA does not only consist of studying towards professional exams and working. It also includes the development of key competencies and ‘soft’ skills. The main concern that I had when joining a smaller firm was whether I would receive structured training and support. Having SWAT organise courses as well as provide additional training was a very important factor for choosing Alliotts. I can focus on performing tasks to the best of my ability and not worry about finding course providers.

The development of softer skills is crucial, and becomes more important when the level of responsibility given increases. Dealing with clients is a day to day task. Fortunately the courses organised by SWAT provide all round support throughout each stage and very aspect of your professional development. When I was searching for a job, I attended a handful of interviews at different firms, and the interview at SWAT was very friendly and had a supportive atmosphere. I have felt cared about as an individual. The first stage of the interview felt very informal and was more of a chat than the grilling process some firms put you through.

My advice would be that when deciding whether to follow an ACA route, make sure you do extensive research on what type of firm you would like to join, what type of exposure you want to gain and what type of clients you would like to work with. Also, I would recommend attending employment events and talking to firms’ representatives. When you do get invited to an interview, meeting someone you already know is a great ice breaker. In addition, nerves will not get the better of you and you will have a successful interview.

Agne Jankeviciute who took the ACA route and qualified through Alliotts

I had decided during my final year at university that I wanted to study for an accounting qualification, and moved to Surrey after graduating in Business Finance at Durham University.

The accounting industry is vast, and from my research it was evident that no company was the same. However, after applying to several firms and attending many interviews, it was clear from the outset that Alliotts were able to offer exactly what I wanted; a medium sized firm with a vast array of clients, which would give me the opportunity to gain experience of accounting in different industries.

During my training contract I was located in the Guildford office, working within the Audit team. This gave me plenty of exposure to both accounting and auditing and, coupled with the fact Alliotts have a diverse client base, meant that no two jobs were the same.

The size of the firm meant that during my training contract I was recognised for the work I performed so I felt valued within the firm. The responsibility I was given from an early stage far exceeded what I expected when I first joined, and it was this responsibility that motivated me to excel in each assignment I was given and this transferred to my studies.

From day one the nature of the assignments Alliotts offered was diverse. I was required to work at clients' premises as often as I was required to work in the Guildford office and this, coupled with the responsibility I was given, aided my learning. The studying aspect of the contract is managed by SWAT UK, which meant that I was able to meet students from other SWAT UK member firms and was then able to train with these people throughout the three years. Just make sure that you are prepared for all of the hard work that it entails; working hard in the day and studying hard in the evening and at weekends!

I completed my training contract and worked as an Audit Senior in the same office. All of the staff are friendly and approachable and are prepared to assist whenever it is required. The office atmosphere makes it easy to be motivated and made my decision to continue beyond my training contract easy to make. I would recommend the Alliotts training contract to anybody interested in studying at their own pace, and learning in a way that suits them rather than 'fitting into a mould' that the larger accounting firms expect.

Garry McGrail, as a graduate trainee, took the ACA route to professional qualification and qualified through Alliotts

Chris Mason
Chris Mason