Based in Manchester, digital publisher LADbible Group became an ICAEW authorised training employer in 2021. We chat to its current ACA students, Nathan Forrest and Sam Croston, about their experiences so far.
Q What first attracted you to a career in accountancy?
Sam: I studied business management at university, and the accounting courses were the ones I enjoyed the most. Plus my dad works in finance.
Nathan: I wanted to be a lawyer originally, but my maths was better than my English. I thought about forensic accounting too, but in the end I decided to do more general finance. That way I could get a taste of everything then choose to specialise later on.
Q Tell us a bit about your employment journey so far?
Nathan: I did a couple of internships at KPMG, then worked at PwC while studying accountancy at university. I spent a year in audit at PwC after graduating, where I worked with the now financial controller here at LADbible. I joined LADbible just under a year ago.
Sam: I’ve been at LADbible for five months. Before that, I worked in due diligence at RSM for seven months.
Q What are the biggest differences between working in practice and at a company like LADbible Group?
Nathan: It’s more about the person than the work. In a bigger company you can feel a bit like a cog in a machine – if you’re away for any reason there’s always another associate to fill the gap. At LADbible it’s a pretty lean finance function, so you have more responsibility and more of a defined role.
Sam: It’s the team aspect and the people you work with. At LADbible you feel like people really care about you. You get to know them a lot better, and enjoy coming into work every day.
Q What appealed about joining LADbible Group?
Sam: It’s just that you understand it. It’s easy to understand, and it’s something I’d consume every day anyway. I’m interested in the product. If I didn’t work here, I’d still look at LADbible and consume what they produce.
Nathan: Same here. I followed LADbible’s Facebook page around 10 years ago when they only had 100,000 followers. It’s interesting to see the background. When you’re in audit, you only scratch the surface of the different clients you work with, whereas here you’re on the inside.
Q Whereabouts in your ACA training are you? How have you found it so far?
Nathan: I’ve just got my final three exams to sit in November, then hopefully I’ll be fully qualified in December. I’ve only failed one exam, Business Planning: Taxation, but I felt OK about it because I definitely found it the most difficult.
Sam: I’ve done four of my Certificate Level exams and one Professional Level so far. I failed Financial Accounting and Reporting at the first attempt. It was the exam technique I struggled with.
Q How do you find balancing work with studying?
Nathan: Balance is an interesting word. I think it’s more about acceptance. Accepting that it’s going to be tough for a certain amount of time. I was working at LADbible when it went through an initial public offering (IPO) last year, and that was quite stressful because we’re a small team and there was a lot to do, so not much time for study. It’s nice that there are other people around us doing exams as well, though – Sam and I are the only ACA students, but we’re not the only students in the accounts team.
Sam: As Nathan said, it’s what you expect to be honest. You’re not expecting to have loads of free time, but it’s fine. You feel supported by the people around you, too – Nathan once sat me down and explained leases to me.
Nathan: I think I’d be a better auditor now having been in industry, because you understand it more and see it every day. Before I came to LADbible, I didn’t know much about leases, but now I do all the leases for the Group. You learn a lot more and you can pass it on.
Q When you do have free time, what do you like to do with it?
Nathan: I’m in the process of getting my own apartment, so I’ve spent a lot of weekends looking at colour schemes and tiles and kitchen countertops. That’s my hobby at the moment – spending money I don’t have! I’ve been to a few events organised by the Manchester Chartered Accountants Students’ Society over the past three or four years, and I took Sam along to one last year.
Sam: Yes, a summer barbecue. That was my first student society event. I also like to get out for walks when I can.
Q What are your plans or ambitions for your career? Any dream jobs?
Nathan: I want to be a financial controller by the time I’m 30. I used to plan a lot further, but now I’m taking it as it comes. With the ACA you really can do anything. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, is a chartered accountant. So you never know – maybe multimillionaire entrepreneur in the long term!
Sam: I’d like to be a chief financial officer (CFO) one day. My ultimate goal would be CFO of a Premier League team. It’s always been my ambition to work at a Premier League team. Kieran Maguire was one of my lecturers, and I found football finance really interesting. I’ve read all his books and I listen to his podcast, The Price of Football.
Nathan: I like processes and automation and things like that. I like the idea of going in and out of businesses and streamlining them. Not as exciting as working for a Premier League team, though.
Q What advice would you give to other students considering the ACA?
Nathan: I’d say go for it. When I was at university I didn’t really appreciate how hard it can be, so you need to weigh it up. You need to be committed – you can’t just turn up and do the bare minimum. There's definitely value to it, especially in a competitive job market – it helps you to stand out and get recognised. It’s a hallmark, and a level of quality that you can then build on from your own experience and personality.
Sam: Absolutely. Once you’ve got it, you can do so many things.
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