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Student Insights

Student societies: building communities

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 01 Feb 2024

students standing in a group laughing talking lanyards ID London Student Society

As Chair of London’s student society, Sunny Yang is helping to create a modern, inclusive community. He tells us about some of the latest initiatives.

When Sunny Yang took over as Chair of the Chartered Accountant Student Society of London (CASSL) in 2022, he became the youngest – and first Chinese – leader in the society’s 150-year history. 

As for other student societies, diversity and inclusion are top of the agenda. “ICAEW is changing with the times, and CASSL should too,” Sunny says. Along with increasing the number of events from three or four a year to 12, the society has aimed to schedule them better and ensure broader appeal, particularly to those from smaller firms and the increasing number of school leavers coming into the profession, by offering a varied programme of networking, revision, career development and wellbeing events. They have also trialled new ways of marketing, including social media, to reach more of their 6,000-strong target audience.

Growth opportunities

CASSL has undertaken several partnerships to help enrich students. Events have been opened up to students at other professional bodies, as well as those in complementary professions such as banking and law. “It gives a chance for our students to build valuable networks, to create connections in different industries and be able to talk amongst themselves and understand what different career paths are,” Sunny explains.

In addition, CASSL has also joined forces with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to organise events and provide resources for students. “ICAEW and CIPFA have just launched a dual membership route, so now seemed like a brilliant time to join our student societies,” he says. “They have fantastic events and ideas that we wouldn’t even have thought of - including a Microsoft Power BI masterclass and salsa networking nights.”

The partnership came about in part through another CASSL scheme, a three-tier mentorship programme with Kingston University and the London Society of Chartered Accountants (LSCA). CASSL committee members like Sunny mentor students at Kingston University, giving them the opportunity to shadow them in their roles. The students gain valuable experience of presenting financial information, and get to see the practical application of what they’re learning.

In turn, the CASSL team are mentored by members of the LSCA and other volunteers, including a former president of CIPFA, the head of the ethics committee at ICAEW, and Sunny’s mentor, who was the first Black female president of the LSCA. “A lot of people in the industry are very excited to mentor people who are very interested in the industry,” he says. “So we’ve introduced that and we’ve had some fantastic volunteers.”

It’s the success of these varied initiatives that contributed to CASSL being named Student Body of the Year by PQ Magazine in April 2023.

Building community

There are numerous professional and personal benefits to be gained from getting involved in a student society, Sunny believes. For those, like him, who move to London from a small town and may not know anyone, “having a community where you can come together, meet new people and build your network is immensely valuable”. 

Now, CASSL is just a few short weeks away from its flagship event: the annual ball. Offering a great networking opportunity for like-minded ACA students from different firms to come together and enjoy an evening together, balls are the showcase event for many of the ICAEW student societies. For CASSL, this year’s theme of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ reflects its ambition to be a modern and inclusive society. “It’s about promoting acceptance and understanding of culture,” Sunny explains. “We always encourage traditional dress and cultural wear. It makes the ball not just about having a great night out with your friends, but about meeting some really cool people and understanding different cultures.” Alongside high-profile speakers, industry leaders, and ICAEW Deputy-President Malcolm Bacchus, attendees can expect a Britain’s Got Talent finalist magician, a three-course meal, photo booths and a live band.

To anyone thinking about going along to a student society event – whether it’s a cinema evening, an employability skills workshop or an online training file clinic – Sunny’s message is clear: “Just come along. If you don't like it, you don’t have to get involved – but there’s never anyone who doesn’t like it!”

Get involved by finding your local ICAEW student society.

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