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Paul Brand – Finance Graduate – AA

Accountancy, Biological Science & Technology, Case study November 24, 2008

Name: Paul Brand
Age: 23
University and degree: Loughborough University (BSc. Hons.) Sport & Exercise Science
Work title: Finance Graduate at the AA

What do you actually do? Currently I’m working in a business planning role, consolidating the Group’s accounts and preparing monthly forecast packs. However, the Graduate scheme involves rotating placements, so I have also worked in Management Accountant roles in our Road and Insurance business, and will soon be moving into a Financial Reporting role.

Were you always interested in Accountancy as a career? No. But to be honest I didn’t really think about a career until I was 20 anyway! I never had my mind set on a particular career when I was at school, and the last thing I wanted to do was decide on a career that I ended up not liking. I therefore chose to go to university and let the career sort itself out – fortunately, I ended up house-sharing with friends who were doing Business and Accounting degrees and they got me interested in finance.

How did you find out about this particular career? I was actually working across the road for an Insurance Company trying to build my work experience (all I’d done beforehand was temp jobs on breaks from uni). I was busy applying to graduate schemes at lots of accounting practises ranging from the Big Four to small private practises, when a friend who worked at the AA told me that the finance department were setting up their own Graduate scheme, and that it sounded similar to what I was applying for. He gave me the information pack, I did my research, applied and the rest is history!

Would you undertake further study to progress in your career? Yes definitely. I believe you can never stop learning – I am also a qualified Personal Trainer & Aerobics Instructor which I do in my spare time, and if you stop learning there you’ll get stuck with old practises and never be able to really help your clients. I guess I take that attitude with me into my day job – further study gives you the chance to stand out and perform your work to a higher level. The business world changes so fast and so regularly that if you’re up to date with study I think you have more chance of earning that promotion. I’ve opted in to ACCA’s opportunity to do a research project through Oxford Brookes University as part of my qualification – so we’ll see where that takes me!

What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? From a finance perspective, it is being an integral part of the business. You value your role because people come to you for advice, support and guidance, and finance support is highly valued. I also like the graduate role because I get to see so many areas of the business that I wouldn’t do if I was doing an ordinary role. In 15 months I have worked in Road, Insurance and Planning, visited two of our call centres, and spent three months on secondment at our Birmingham office. You never stop learning about the business because you get to speak to so many different people in different areas – which is vital for my development and the start of my finance career. The only downside to my job is because I’m doing placements I never really get to implement anything long term – once I get to grips with things I move on to the next placement! But then again that’s what makes it so interesting, so it’s not really that much of a downside.

What strengths do you think you need to succeed? Social Skills/Relationship building is crucial as you will meet and work with many people of different backgrounds and interests. Being thorough, logical and proactive is essential in helping you with your day job. Finally you need a fairly decent sense of humour and an ability to cope with things that are thrown at you – if not you’ll end up frustrating yourself because not everybody works the same way as you!

What would be your best advice for people coming into this sector? Research it so you know what you’re going in to and be prepared to get involved – that’s where the best experiences come from. Also make sure you keep active outside of work, the more you enjoy your free time the more you can enjoy coming in to work.

Is there anything you’d like to add? People have a stereotypical view of Accountants, but I want it put on the record that we’re not all what they think! At the AA I know Accountants who are also a Personal Trainer, a National Standard 400m runner, a Marathon runner, a Tri-athlete, and even Back-Packers! You can be whatever type of Accountant you want to be!

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