I have been in practice since September 1977 when I joined the Chartered Accountancy firm Keens Shay Keens Ltd (KSK) having been poached by John Vincent and Robert Keens from my previous firm, Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC), where I began as a student in 1970. I had really enjoyed my seven years with them under the leadership and guidance of my principal, Tony Marshall.
Not only did I have an excellent training programme at the time, gaining huge experience, but Tony would often sit me down and discuss his personal and business philosophies. Above all he would stress that if you ‘live and work in a town and make a good living then every year make sure that you give some back’.
In the main, that would mean making the firm’s presence known in the town and contributing in one form or another. But it also referred to providing opportunities for students, providing them with a solid base to start their career or, more simply, just being available to mentor young people who are considering accountancy as a career. The mentoring does take time out of a working day but that is part of the ‘giving something back’ commitment.
So here we are now at KSK, with two 21-year-old ACCA students, Bethan Leadbeater and Jamie Leonard. Jamie joined from school in 2018 with A Levels, and Bethan graduated from Nottingham Trent University before joining us last September.
You cannot take on students unless you have a training programme in place with a really trusted mentor of staff to oversee its progress. In our case, we are very fortunate to have, in a mentoring role, Vicky Moore, who is ACCA qualified and who joined me in September 2006. Vicky is responsible for the training programme leading up to exams and also students’ day-to-day work allocation, making sure their work is varied. Our younger staff are encouraged to have direct client contact at a much earlier stage than would be the case at larger firms. Vicky’s door is always open for them to approach her on any work issues that arise.
We are already talking with a further graduate student and we intend to be recruiting for another placement in early 2022. I believe that you have to continually think ahead and be seeking to put in place an enhanced staff structure within the ‘working family’ so that the firm is in a position to readily take on new and special work, as it surely will in the coming years.
I will close on our student story by saying that three weeks ago Vicky and I met with Jamie and Bethan for their individual six-month reviews and at their end of the interviews I felt so proud of what we have achieved with them in such a short time. Vicky has already been a large influence in their fledgling careers.
The Big Four firms still have a huge recruitment drive, each taking on board some 1,000 students a year, but for an office of our size it is unusual to even consider the student involvement. If properly planned, however, the rewards are enormous.
I am retiring in 2022 and my successor will be my rock, Rachael Mabbott, who first joined as an ACCA student in 1999. So yes, investment in student training has bought so many rewards, with the ultimate benefit being succession planning for the future.
Contact Keens Shay Keens in Bedford on 01234 301000 or visit www.ksk.co.uk