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My first few weeks as a Client Liaison

After spending over 8 years in the retail banking world, I decided it was time to start looking for a new opportunity. Retail banking was forever changing but I was struggling to find the opportunities to grow and develop.

I wanted something that would take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me, but also somewhere I could have a long-lasting career. I found the advert on Indeed that caught my eye instantly, it detailed the role; client facing, building relationships but with a lot of variety. It also mentioned what a future in the company could look like, which was not something I had seen a lot of before.

After applying, I was given the opportunity to interview at Francis Clark Financial Planning. This process was unlike any I had had before. After spending a considerable amount of time in one company, you get used to the typical questions in an interview, preparing your answers ready to be scored against others. It was not like this at all, they wanted to know about me, understand my experiences and my skills. I felt at ease straight away.

I was delighted to be offered the chance to join the company as a Client Liaison and accepted straight away. The onboarding process was seamless, efficient and I was updated every step of the way. From communication from the People Services team to my direct manager keeping me updated and informed.

First days at a new job are always daunting, especially having spent such a long time in my previous job, but there was something different about starting at Francis Clark Financial Planning. I was excited, not scared. I wanted to get stuck in. I met with my line manager first who showed me around the office, introduced me to lots of new faces.

My laptop was ready and waiting for me and I was also given a new starter pack to follow with steps/guides of what I needed access to and how to do it. My line manager and another Client Liaison supported me in working through these and made me feel so at ease and part of the team instantly.

I am now four weeks in and that first day seems like it was a lifetime ago. I can wholeheartedly say this is due to how brilliant and supportive my direct team, management and the wider teams have been. Everyone I have met has been incredibly welcoming and it’s a joy to see a large team who want to work together and towards the same goal. I have so much to learn, and I am excited to grow, learn and be a part of this team.

Life as a Trainee Accountant

I started as a trainee accountant at PKF Francis Clark in August 2021 and since joining the firm I feel I have grown in both confidence and ability. Over the last six months I have really settled into the life of a graduate trainee and as cliché as it sounds, I have not experienced a day which has been exactly the same.

I chose to do a graduate apprenticeship with PKF Francis Clark because, from the very initial stages of the interview process, I felt supported and welcomed. I felt as though if I were to join the firm, I would be valued for both the work I did and who I was as a person. I saw PKF Francis Clark, and now know it to be, as a friendly and sociable place to work, where I feel part of a team and enjoy working with those around me.

The firm provides an amazing opportunity to work towards the ACA qualification and support you through this by the time spent at Reed Business School and by creating an environment where you feel comfortable asking for help from anyone around. Whether it’s a manager or a recently qualified accountant, everyone is happy to take the time to help you understand the content you learn for your exams and the tasks you will perform as a trainee accountant.

PKF Francis Clark offers exposure to a wide variety of clients, from large international firms to smaller family run businesses. It’s a great way to experience different industries and understand how different clients run their businesses. So as a trainee, each week could be completely different in terms of what kind of business you are auditing, where you are working – whether it be in the office or out on site at a client’s and the team of people you are working with. Audit teams differ with every client and I have found this has been a great way to get to know people in my department as I’ve had the chance to work with everyone.

Reed Business School is a fantastic way of learning and studying for the qualification as spending a week learning the content for an exam provides you with a full focus on your studies. Additionally, it also allows you to meet all the other trainees from the PKF Francis Clark offices, as well as trainees from independent firms. This is a great way to make friends and to meet people who are going through the same experience as you, which means you can learn, progress and develop together.

Although the thought of learning new skills, talking to clients and taking exams for a professional qualification initially seemed incredibly daunting, PKF Francis Clark provides a supportive and encouraging atmosphere and does everything possible to ensure you have the best chance possible of passing your exams and progressing within the firm. My experience so far has been really enjoyable and I’m excited to see how my career with PKF Francis Clark grows.

For more information about early careers with PKF Francis Clark, please visit: https://www.pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers/

Why I did an apprenticeship with PKF Francis Clark

When I graduated university with a Maths degree, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my career. After months of applying for a range of finance and data analysis roles, I came across PKF Francis Clark who were recruiting graduates across their offices. The company immediately caught my interest. Some key points were the company’s passion for the South West region, the support they offered apprentices, and the structure of the application process. They also participate in regular charity and social events.

PKF Francis Clark offers a very competitive salary and fully supports apprentices in their studies and exams. After doing many exams through GCSE’s, A levels and university, I have developed my exam technique and revision skills to a very high level. Therefore, I knew that pursuing a career where I would have to pass exams to progress and earn qualifications would be beneficial to me.

At PKF Francis Clark, there is an opportunity to have a prestigious career. After qualifying and gaining experience, you have the autonomy to explore many different areas of audit and tax. Many employees go on to become Managers and Senior Managers. I was also surprised to learn how many employees reach the level of Partner, so there are lots of positions to strive for.

Most ambitious people who wish to succeed in a career in accounting aim to be employed at the Big 4. But I found that PKF Francis Clark would be a better place to work and grow as a professional. The company takes pride in being a South West exclusive company where you can enjoy the quiet and peaceful life of the countryside, while also experiencing a vibrant, big city job in places like Bristol and Exeter. Francis Clark is more relaxed than the Big 4, offering a stable work-life balance while maintaining similar salary rewards and other benefits.

The company have a hybrid working approach where you have the freedom to decide where to work each day. Working from home is a great option to save time and money on commuting, as well as focusing on projects without being distracted and enjoying the comfort of your own home. Online communication services and regular meetings allow you to stay connected to your colleagues. The office is always available and open to anyone who wishes to be in that environment to meet with colleagues and discuss work in more detail.

I have been surrounded by helpful people since the day I joined, including my ‘buddy’, Manager, supervising Partner, the People Team, the IT team, the Recruitment Team, the Marketing Team, and colleagues in similar positions to me. There will always be someone to help and support you.

Overall, PKF Francis Clark is a friendly and enjoyable place to work, that offers rewarding benefits and career progression. They support their employees and treat each member of staff with respect, no matter their job title.

If you would like to find out more about our early careers ACA, ATT-CTA or AAT accountancy apprenticeships, visit: pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers

How PKF Francis Clark supports new joiners

My name is Jezz, and I started as an ACA trainee at Francis Clark in the Taunton office back in January 2021 (during a lockdown). This isn’t how I pictured the start of my professional career to look like, however, the team at Francis Clark gave me a huge amount of support to get me started in my new role. Upon starting at the firm, I was assigned a work buddy who checked in with me at the end of each day, which really helped to ease me into the job.

The amount time and energy that the firm has invested in me still surprises me today. Within the first month of starting, I was on a 2-week training course to get my base knowledge up to standard which really helped to ease me into the job. Subsequently, I have had regular performance discussions, a variety of other training courses, and multiple ethics training days. All of these have aided to bolster my skills and competencies massively, and I know that I have only just gotten started.

In addition to training and development, there is a real family feel to the firm’s culture. From day one, I have been made to feel at home, and I feel that this is very important when starting a new job. Since starting, I have been to multiple social events that have been organised by the social committee, such as bowling, water sports, and virtual meetups! These social events really help to bond the team, and I feel that I have got to know my colleagues on a more personal level at these events.

Overall, I can’t thank Francis Clark enough for all the help and support over the past 9 months, and I know that I will continue to receive this support throughout my career with the firm.

If you would like to find out more and apply for our early careers ACA or ATT-CTA accountancy apprenticeship training programmes, visit: pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers

Why PKF Francis Clark is different

I joined the firm in January 2018 after spending the first nine years of my working life in an unrelated area.  Accountancy had always appealed to me since studying Management and Business at university, but after nine years I decided that it was now or never if I was ever going to take the plunge. After taking the decision to apply for an ACA trainee accountancy position, the most important decision became where to apply.  PKF Francis Clark stood out to me for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, I wanted to find a firm that would provide me with good quality tuition to complete the ACA qualification.  As 15 exams need to be passed, it was crucial that the level of teaching was of the highest quality to give me the best possible chance of passing each. PKF Francis Clark stood out in this respect as they provided residential accommodation at Reed Business School, a provider in the Cotswolds with extremely high pass rates in ACA and ACCA exams. Not only was the tuition very strong but the week away studying with my peers was also important as there were always colleagues to discuss issues with and revise together.

On top of this, PKF Francis Clark offered an ICAEW approved STEPS programme to be provided alongside our Reed Business School tuition. This was a platform to enable me to develop my communication, interpersonal and other professional skills. In addition, it was an opportunity to discuss with other ACA trainees our development and seek additional support in integrating into the firm.

Another key reason I decided to apply for PKF Francis Clark was the size of the firm. I knew friends from university who had gone to work for larger, multinational accountancy firms. Their feedback was that work life balance was always an issue. I therefore knew one of the larger firms was not for me. However, I also didn’t want to be in a small firm where opportunities for development would be limited and there would be less exposure to a variety of specialisms and clients. PKF Francis Clark stood out as being the perfect size; large enough to offer exposure to many different areas of accountancy but with the feeling of a smaller practice where everyone is valued and considered a key member of the team. In addition, as a member of the PKF network of accountancy firms, this gives even more opportunity for development, particularly with secondments to international firms in the network.

Finally, another key factor was the social side of the job. When applying I discovered that the firm offered frequent social events, both at an individual office level with regular socials, as well as for the firm as a whole. In my second year, the firm celebrated it’s centenary. To mark 100 years from 1919-2019 a firm-wide party was held at Powderham Castle in Exeter. This event allowed everyone from the firm in all offices to celebrate together. It was a truly memorable occasion with a 1919 theme, food, drink and wonderful entertainment, as well as a firework display to round off the night.

Of course, Covid-19 has had an impact on the social side of the job as we have been physically unable to meet-up in person for significant periods. However, the firm have been very good at arranging opportunities for us to meet electronically. This has meant that despite the difficult circumstances, I have still been able to maintain a good social life with colleagues.

All in all, applying to work for PKF Francis Clark to study the ACA was one of the best decisions I’ve taken and I look forward to many more years!

If you would like to find out more and apply for our early careers ACA or ATT-CTA training programmes, visit: pkf-francisclark.co.uk/careers.co.uk

Early Careers Training Programmes – what PKF Francis Clark are looking for and useful tips for your application

Do you want to make your application stand out from the rest? Our application process is designed to give you the opportunity to be different and shine. We don’t just look at your academics and past experiences, we are interested in much more than that. We want to know what motivates you and where your passions for Accountancy stem from. Applying for graduate roles can be daunting and it can be difficult to understand exactly what is expected of you. Here are some valuable hints and tips that I have learnt throughout my experiences with PKF Francis Clark.

Your Application Form

This could be the first time we hear your name, so remember first impressions count! Ensure you have done your research about the role and the professional qualifications you are applying for. The ACA training programme is a three-year qualification, so make sure you know what you are signing up for. We don’t ask for a CV or cover letter, but instead want to hear about your motivations behind your application, your hobbies, what you enjoy, and your past experiences. Be authentic in what you write, and let your passions shine through. Before you submit your application, proofread your answers. Correct spelling and grammar are very important.

Numerical and Verbal Testing

This is your chance to demonstrate your strengths to us.  The psychometric tests are designed to test your mathematical skills and your ability to analyse written information. These can be very different to the tests you are used to as a graduate. Take some time to complete practise tests and get a feel for the format and what might be expected from you.

Telephone Interview

Inside of University and out, you will have experienced a lot of different scenarios which have shaped you to be the person you are today. The purpose of this interview is for us to hear about these experiences by asking you some behavioural based questions. To answer these, think about using the S.T.A.R technique to form your answers, that being Situation; set the scene of the situation in hand, Task; describe what role you had in the situation, Actions; what steps did you take to address the situation, Result; what was the outcome of the situation? This will paint a very well-rounded and detailed picture for the recruiter. Be engaging and most importantly, be yourself. Telephone interviews are not just a chance for the recruiter to ask you questions, they are a great chance for you to ask them any questions you have. Be curious and eager to learn more.

Assessment Centre

The goal is for you to get as much out of the Assessment Centres as we do. In that, you will be faced with real situations that our team encounter daily and give you an insight into what you might get up to as an employee. Although the pandemic may have changed the way Assessment Centres are held, the fundamentals remain the same. You will have the chance to work as a group, demonstrating your teamworking abilities, as well as on your own to highlight your individual capabilities. We will be looking for your commercial awareness, your problem-solving skills, and your abilities to build relationships. These are all skills which our employees possess in which to provide the best possible service to our clients and ultimately have a successful career.

Good luck with your applications, and we look forward to hearing from you.

For more information about early careers with PKF Francis Clark, please visit: https://www.pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers/

LinkedIn Tips for Undergraduates

With more than 31 million users in the UK, LinkedIn can be a brilliant tool for building your professional network, connecting with likeminded people and learning about the world of work.

Over 15% of the social network’s UK users are aged 18-24. But if you’re just starting out in your career or looking to land your first job, it can be tricky to know how to get the most out of LinkedIn. Here are our top tips to help:

Build your profile

Your profile is the first thing potential new connections (and employers) will see, so it’s worth spending a bit of time making sure it gives the right first impression and keeping it up to date.

As well as adding details of your education history, gap year or summer jobs and work placements, writing an optional summary is a chance to say more about your interests, experience and what sort of opportunities you’re looking for. Click on ‘Add summary’ under the ‘About’ section of your profile. Write this in the first person, as you would introduce yourself to someone, rather than as if someone else has written it about you.

Don’t forget to add a (suitable) photo. People are less likely to trust or engage with faceless accounts. If you wouldn’t take a beer to a job interview, probably don’t have one in your LinkedIn profile pic.

You can find handy guides to editing your profile – and other features of the platform – in the LinkedIn help section: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin

Start growing your network

Most LinkedIn users are unlikely to accept random requests to connect, so a good place to start is with your university classmates, schoolmates and people you’ve met while doing work experience or internships. You can seek them out manually or sync your contacts via your account preferences settings on the LinkedIn app.

Connect with them now and it’ll be fascinating to see what everyone is doing in a few years. And who knows what opportunities will come from those connections further down the line?

What to say

If you aren’t an expert in your field (yet), it can be hard to know what to post about. And while there’s no point commenting for the sake of it, here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Post about what you’re up to – it sounds obvious, but if you attend an event, open day or seminar, it’s often good to thank the organisers or speakers and say what you thought about it. Include a photo or video clip to get more engagement
  • Follow companies or organisations you’re interested in or might want to work for – commenting on or sharing their content is a great way to show your interest. This will also help you gain a better understanding of what they do and get a feel for their culture
  • If you’ve seen a news report or read an article that’s relevant to the field you want to work in, why not share it with a comment?
  • Find influencers in your field and see what they’re talking about. Again, engaging with their posts shows you’re taking an interest and deepening your knowledge
  • Follow relevant hashtags to see more posts that are relevant to you and join conversations where you can add something of value

Whatever you do, do it consistently. Doing one or two posts then nothing for six months makes it look like you’re not really trying.

Be professional – but don’t be boring

Ultimately, LinkedIn is a place for professional networking, so the type of content you post and the language and tone of voice you use are likely to be different to on other social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your future boss could be reading anything you post, but that doesn’t mean you have to be boring. People tend to do business with (and hire) people they like, so don’t be afraid to show your personality.

Best of luck with your search for that dream job – and don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn at PKF Francis Clark chartered accountants and business advisers.

For more information about early careers with PKF Francis Clark, please visit: https://www.pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers/

Why PKF Francis Clark is right for you

The moment I decided PKF Francis Clark was for me, was when I was looking through their website and started reading about the ACA training program they offer. They boasted a range of clients of varying sizes meaning exposure to different areas, offered a supportive pathway studying at Reed Business School, and seemed the perfect size of not so small the clients are repetitive – but not so big that you get lost in the flow.

I applied to other firms as well but always felt like just a number, doing online assessments, and not actually talking to anyone. Francis Clark was the only firm who did their assessment day in person! I really liked this about them, and the assessment day seemed like a two-way street – ensuring the firm is right for you as much as you are right for them. The whole day everyone was really welcoming and whilst there were tasks to do and an interview, it didn’t feel like a high-pressure situation.

The first day of any new job can be very daunting, but everyone in my office and team were lovely, and put me at ease from the get-go. My team became my friends very quickly and going to work has never felt like a chore because of the people.

I was worried before I started about the settling in period, as I have had jobs in the past where I’ve been made to feel like of a burden of lots of questions and a drag on resources. My time at Francis Clark has been the total opposite of this – even now I’m 2 years in and my manager is always telling me to ask questions when I need! This is a big factor in why I believe the FC culture is different, everyone wants you to succeed, and anyone is more than happy to sit and go over any questions without hesitation. As with any new job, the work to start with can be overwhelming, but it didn’t take me long to settle into the rhythm of it, and now I can look back and see how far I’ve come.

There are office and team level social events, which when I first started were a fantastic way of bonding with people outside work and building relationships with people in the office that I otherwise wouldn’t speak to. Now I’m 2 years in, and we’re starting them again more regularly after Covid, so it’s been so nice catching up with people face to face rather than online. It’s lovely to have a good social side to the office, as I think it helps bond you closer as a team, and the work then reflects this.

Going to Reed really helps you focus on learning, as you have days of lessons with a tutor going through the material and doing practise questions, and then you can review your learning in the evening, and the tutors are still available to ask questions to or for extra help if needed. Having a week every month or so to go to Reed and just focus has been particularly helpful for me, as there are no outside distractions and stresses of home-work life.

When you start at Reed you go with your cohort of ACA students from across the different offices, and it’s nice to have the support of people going through the same thing as you. It makes going through Reed less stressful even when the work is hard or you have exams, as you get to see your friends.

They also organise other activities, so you get some fun and relaxation in there as well. There’s a pool for summer, loads of walks, we had a bowls night at the local social club and of course there’s the pub! One of my favourite Reed visits was one October, when a group of us went to the local fire academy for the bonfire night fireworks display.

To anyone looking at ACA training with FC, I would say go for it! The training is hard work, but so worth it, and Francis Clark really make it a pleasure.

I’m now 2 years into my ACA training contract, with my final 3 exams left to sit. I’m so glad I chose Francis Clark, owing to their training and how much they value me as a person. I’m really looking forward to my final ACA year before continuing my journey as a qualified ACA accountant.

By Jasmine Roberts.

For more information about early careers with PKF Francis Clark, please visit: https://www.pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers/

Thinking of starting a career in accountancy? 5 Myths of Accountancy Busted

Emily Stephenson

There are many myths and common misconceptions surrounding the world of the quiet, calculator-carrying, green visor-wearing professionals that you walk past on the street, see on the train, or may even live with. However, here we breakdown the most common accounting myths and outline what it is really like to start a career in accountancy.

  1. You need an accounting degree

This is one of the biggest myths when starting an accounting career. The truth is, you can study anything you like and still become an accountant and for some accountancy programmes you don’t even need a degree.

Many chartered accountants didn’t know what their career would ultimately be when making the choice of what to study at university and read a vast array of subjects from English Literature to Biology. The great thing about accountancy is that you learn on the job. Whether you go into industry or practice, audit or tax, you will gain far more experience and knowledge out in the working world than you ever would in a classroom.

There are many great programmes available such as the ACA qualification, ACCA, or AAT for post-graduates, graduates, career changers, and school leavers to make the move over to accountancy.

2. Accountants spend their life looking at spreadsheets

Completely false.

The truth is there is a lot more to accountancy than just spreadsheets, invoices, and bank statements and it is far from being a boring profession. Your day will involve frequent interactions with clients and colleagues as you solve problems, answer and debate queries, and investigate transactions.

A significant part of an accountant’s day will involve Excel and spreadsheets. However, there are many different ways that you will approach spreadsheets, invoices, and client information depending on your chosen specialty. You may be reviewing transactions for VAT or potential tax relief opportunities if you decide to go into VAT or tax, digging for missing or unusual transactions should you choose audit, or putting the spreadsheets together to prepare accounts as part of business services.

You will also pick up on some nifty Excel shortcuts that are always useful.

3. Accountants are boring

It is a cruel world where all accountants are painted with the same dull brush and deemed boring and uninteresting. We are actually quite a fun bunch! (If you know what we’re talking about).

Accountants are only boring to the outside world. Within the office walls (and office parties) it is a completely different story. Cringeworthy accounting puns and amusing memes are just precursors to fantastic Christmas parties and socials. We also cannot forget to mention the team building days out where everyone ends the day in laughter, with the exception of perhaps that one colleague who does fit the bill of the typical “accountant” and has taken the Lego building activity far too seriously.

4. You need to be a Maths genius to work in accounting

This is one of the most common accounting myths. Accounting is far more about problem solving and logical thinking than reciting pi to 100 places and being able to solve an equation mentally in 10 seconds. Most of us do still use a calculator to check that 10 + 4 is 14. Just in case.

Problem solving, logical and practical thinking are traits that lend themselves well to Maths prodigies but can be learned and developed through other subjects and non-academic experiences. It is those transferrable skills that are essential to a career in accounting which involves a great amount of analysing and investigating, rather than quick maths.

5. Big 4 or Bust

It is true that many job adverts do identify working for one of the Big 4 accountancy firms as an being advantage or desirable experience. However, many of these companies do not realise the advantages gained from having worked for smaller/medium sized firms.

Non-Big 4 firms are by no means small fish. There is plenty of opportunity, if not more, to get your feet wet in various areas of accountancy within smaller firms where there can be greater flexibility in transferring between departments to gain experience.

If you are industrious and proactive, you will also be able to take on more responsibility sooner as with smaller clients there is more scope for you to take on various aspects of an audit, or accounts preparation, and cement your experience and knowledge sooner than your peers in the Big 4. You will also have a greater chance of being noticed, pushed forward and encouraged throughout your career, and be able to develop good relationships with a wide range colleagues and build your network.

If you would like to find out more and apply for our early careers ACA or ATT-CTA training programmes, visit: pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers

Emily’s summer placement

Having always envisaged a career in accountancy, I was fortunate enough to secure a six-week summer placement at PKF Francis Clark in the Exeter office. Although having minimal knowledge in the accountancy profession, this placement gave me the opportunity to experience each department rather than just one specific area, making it highly appealing.

During the six weeks, I spent my first week in Business Services, learning how to submit journals and complete accounts preparation. Personal Tax and VAT were next on the agenda, where I gained knowledge on how to complete Tax and VAT returns. The middle two weeks of my placement involved being off-site, working in a team of six, auditing a large client. The teamwork and relationship building that took place between our team and the client was second to none and I will take inspiration from this for the future. During my penultimate week, I undertook the work of a Corporate Finance Associate and I was even given the opportunity to participate in client meetings and conference calls, which was a highly valuable experience. I was placed in Corporate Tax on my final week, gaining a detailed understanding of corporation tax computations. Throughout my placement I was also given a project to research on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to affect the professional services industry in the future. I concluded my research with a presentation of my findings at the end of the project. The subject of the presentation was such a fascinating, relevant and appropriate topic to understand how AI could affect the profession I want to pursue.

My six-week placement at PKF Francis Clark went so quickly; the variety of work that I was empowered to undertake was so varied, making every week as interesting and exciting as the first. The friendliness and community-feel of PKF Francis Clark is outstanding: there were pay-day breakfasts, charity bake sales and team-bonding lunches, just to name a few. The placement was such an amazing experience, confirming accountancy is definitely the correct career path for me. I have also been lucky enough to secure myself on the graduate scheme after university, so now I can start my third year of studying Mathematics at Durham, with the satisfaction of knowing that I have an exciting career lined up for when I finish.