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Catherine A Williams

Author: ICAEW

Published: 20 Jan 2020

Building a practice from the ground up, Catherine A Williams has kept ACA training at the heart of its expansion and talent growth for almost two decades.

Company profile

With over 15 years as a private practice, Catherine A Williams Ltd. provides clients with practical, proactive accountancy advice. The business has grown on its reputation for attention to detail and a friendly, quality service, with the team offering day-to-day help and advice for small to medium sized businesses. 

With one ACA trainee already qualified and additional training in the pipeline, Catherine A Williams Ltd. is committed to expanding its employees’ technical knowledge and business skills. By putting ACA training into practice, the firm stays up to date with the latest accountancy, finance and business knowledge. 

Prior to starting her business over 15 years ago, founder Catherine Williams completed her ACA qualification at one of the Big Four firms. Building the practice from a sole-trader, the team has significantly grown and Catherine has seen first-hand the professional and personal benefits of the ACA qualification, including the positive impact on her firm.

Choice of training routes

Catherine identifies training and development of her employees as key to the success of the firm, especially in providing clients with a high level of service. Having joined the practice eight years ago, ACA trainee Josh Meredith, was initially unsure of the path he wanted to take. But after five years’ work experience, Josh decided he wanted to train as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. Josh’s experience and in-house training led to the decision to train locally with the ACA qualification. The process of becoming an authorised training employer was simple for Catherine.

The professional development at Catherine A Williams Ltd. incorporates the AAT qualification to initially give trainees fundamental knowledge depending on their experience. Following this, the ACA is valued as fitting with staff members who wish to develop professionally and climb the ladder within the workplace. Catherine notes the benefits of the AAT qualification leading to credit for prior learning in the ACA, which she sees as fast-tracking the time it takes for her employees to qualify. 

The right qualification for the company

As an ICAEW Chartered Accountant herself, Catherine says this influenced her decision for Josh to complete the ACA, based on it being a stronger qualification. The location of ACA training in Newport was also a key benefit for Josh, who could travel there for his day release, whilst still carrying out his on-the-job training the rest of the time. 

The firm utilises ACA training as a way of keeping technical knowledge and best practices up to date. Internal discussions take place where trainees feedback anything that can be implemented into the day to day accounting services. 

As a small practice, Catherine comments on the flexibility that’s required to multitask in different areas of accounting. The variety of experience from the trainees’ in-house training is supported by the range of exams the ACA assesses. Covering areas of audit, management accounting, as well as statutory accounts and tax, the ACA has a wide variety of learnings which can be applied within the business. 

Theory into practice

Catherine A Williams Ltd. prides itself on the level of service it provides to clients. Catherine can see a clear link between the ACA qualification and the firm’s high service standards through the application of ACA theory into practice. She notes how trainees have the skillset to take on more complex jobs, assignments and tasks, and approach them with a pragmatic view.

For Catherine, the skills gained through the Tax Compliance and Financial Management exams are especially key to the firm. The Case Study also provides the opportunity to apply all of the skills gained on the qualification, which is the nature of the job. 

Making tax digital

One key project for Josh as a trainee was to support the firm in the transition to Making Tax Digital. His role incorporated researching the rules and conditions of MTD, and supporting clients at various stages in the process. Josh identified which phase clients would be impacted and how best to support their requirements within the process, including preparing those not initially affected MTD. 

The ACA training helped Josh to develop the skills required to work independently, and provided the technical knowledge around VAT returns to be able to assist with the MTD process. The team within the practice supported Josh at every stage of this project, especially with the roll out of MTD to clients. 

Leaders of the future

Following the completion of Josh’s ACA training, Catherine is looking to recruit a new trainee. Long-term plans will see Catherine passing additional responsibilities on to Josh and the other qualified members of the team, as part of her succession planning strategy for the practice.

As an authorised training employer, offering ACA training not only helps Catherine to attract the best talent but also helps to raise the firm’s profile.

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