ICAEW spoke to Odysseus Tavros, ICAEW Council Member (for Cyprus) and Deputy CEO at Globaltraining, about the value of the ACA qualification, professional development and being flexible and responsive to change.
In Tavros’s own career, he has experienced great opportunities thanks to the ACA qualification. After university, he joined a medium-sized accountancy firm in London, which was then taken over by PKF, where he qualified as a chartered accountant. Following a move back to Cyprus for national service, he was approached by KPMG in Cyprus. For the past 20 years, he has been in the educational field looking after ACA chartered accountants in Cyprus, focused on training. Last year he was elected ICAEW Council Member for Cyprus.
Tavros acknowledges that his qualification and training have made his career: “I’ve had a fantastic career. I have no regrets whatsoever. The qualification has opened doors and given me inner strength and confidence. I am extremely grateful for what I’ve gained over the last 20-30 years.”
For younger members starting out he has this advice: “There are plenty of opportunities for young members and it’s about spotting them, particularly when a big one turns up. Sometimes people worry about risks. But if you don’t take risks, you’ll never gain anything.”
Recent years have seen great challenges in the profession in Cyprus, partly because of Brexit, but also due to the pandemic. Following Brexit, the Cyprus government has recently confirmed continuing regulatory recognition of all UK qualifications including the ACA. “This is tremendous news,” Tavros says. “[Before] people who qualified in the UK were going to struggle getting recognition and therefore couldn’t join certain organisations because they had to have a recognised qualification as per the regulator body here in Cyprus. Where we stand today: it’s been recognised, not a problem. All our trainees are very happy, they will qualify in Cyprus. And they will be recognised in Cyprus, and they will have exactly the same opportunities as anyone else.”
Along with Brexit, the pandemic has also brought challenges, as well as some new opportunities. Tavros is particularly aware of this. “In the 15 years before the last five years, there were no changes. We were moving along smoothly doing our standard thing, the normal delivery and then in the last five years, I’ve seen so many changes, I’ve now come to the conclusion that change is normal, and it’s going to be changing all the time. You have to accept this. And those that are able and willing to adapt and seize opportunities will be successful.”
Online learning has been a major area of development during this period. At the organisation where he is the Deputy CEO, Globaltraining, Tavros works on developing professional qualifications. Two or three years before the pandemic, the firm had invested in online technology. When the pandemic came, they were ready to go online overnight. This has been vital, as students now have a range of preferences for learning and they come from all over the world, which would not have been possible before a fully digital offering.
“Some students prefer recordings. Some students prefer the blended version. Some students prefer hybrid. All our participants want options and flexibility. We have done studies and found something we weren’t expecting: 70% of the course participants were using their mobiles. So suddenly, some people prefer their mobile now, rather than using their tablets. We also surveyed where people were when doing the courses. The majority happened to be in different places: some were at home, on their sofas, with their pizzas. Some were in cafes; others were in the workplace.
“This has opened our eyes about how things have changed in terms of what these people want, how they want it, and what content they want. With regards to our short courses at Globaltraining, we used to focus on more traditional areas like Financial Reporting Standards, changes in taxation and new compliance regulations, but now there are new areas like sustainability, cryptocurrencies and risk management.”
When it comes to flexible working, things have also changed. Tavros notes the differences in the offices where he is based. “It’s now a much more relaxed atmosphere. There are a few pool tables, a few bean bags. We all recognise that things have changed. Why shouldn’t our employees work from home if they can? I’ve spoken to clients who have told me that actual productivity has increased. The young people want this. The older generation are still questioning the idea. But I think whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay.”
When it comes to the changing nature of accountancy, Tavros notes new key areas that younger members should be considering. Where traditionally there was a focus on financial accounting, financial reporting and management accounting, today things have moved on. What accountants do on a daily basis mainly involves finance, strategy, risk management, analytics and communication.
Tavros suggests five areas that young chartered accountants should really focus on to develop their careers. “They need to be tech-savvy thinkers. There is so much technology changing our lives. They really need to understand things like big data, AI and blockchain – they need to move away from being accountants to understanding how technology can help us. Second, they need to be very strong communicators. They need to be able to explain complex areas in a very simple way. Next, they need to be flexible; they need to adapt old ideas and make changes. Fourthly, we need strategic thinkers. People need to give more than just an answer; they need to be able to explain why that answer is the right one. Finally, networking is key, along with the ability to sell oneself and one’s ideas.”
Tavros is interested in succession and finding the leaders of tomorrow. How they train and the skills they develop will determine their future success. He is thankful that he has always had employers that invested in him and were interested in his own development. He hopes to provide this for future generations.
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