Mercedes High Performance Powertrains (HPP) works across three main projects - Formula 1, Formula E and the AMG One. Developing and providing the Formula 1 power unit from concept to race has been a key milestone for the brand. The current world champions have won seven consecutive championships and are aiming for their eighth in 2021. Mercedes also won the first Formula E race of the 2021 season.
Mercedes HPP has built a team of confident business advisers, with six current ACA trainees, and five more starting their training soon. While Mercedes HPP is mostly associated with Formula 1 and Formula E, there are over 1,000 employees working across different departments to ensure all projects run smoothly and on time. As a business function, Mercedes HPP’s finance department provides a range of business and commercial advice to various departments.
Mercedes HPP started offering the ACA qualification to graduates in 2016 – a conscious decision to put all trainees through the same qualification. Trainees join from various universities and degree disciplines. The majority of trainees complete a year-long university placement with Mercedes HPP before joining the company on the graduate programme.
I started studying ACA in 2016 when completing my graduate scheme at HPP. The qualification helped me grow and develop throughout my career, and has contributed to my progression to Financial Accountant whilst studying, and soon after qualifying, Senior Accountant within HPP.
Choosing the ACA
Both James Green, Senior Financial Controller, and Matthew Roberts, Head of Finance, agree that the ACA is one of the most well-known and recognised chartered accountancy qualifications, and therefore sets a precedent within the organisation.
The qualification encourages a culture of continuous improvement and professional development which is key to the success of Mercedes HPP.
The ACA is seen as a benchmark in the finance industry, and the syllabus complements the work HPP does, as it's tailored to match the tasks trainees perform within their job. Areas such as audit and tax can still be applied within their role, so each module is valuable. Trainees recognise how the HPP graduate scheme complements the skills and technical knowledge delivered in the ACA exams and professional development ladders. Alex Slater Automotive Controller comments: "I was able to develop my technical knowledge and skills and, with the support of HPP, progress through my professional level exams."
If successful in their placement year, trainees can be offered a graduate position at HPP including the possibility to study the ACA. The experience gained on the placement year can help graduates decide on their next steps after university. William Banfield, F1 and Operations Controlling: "Speaking to different members of the team during my placement year made it clear that being qualified and doing that through the ACA was a path I definitely wanted to take."
The majority of trainees have a keen interest in motorsport and want to build their professional development and technical skills in an exciting and dynamic working environment. Billy North, F1 Controller comments: "I am now achieving my dream of working for a world-championship winning sports team, whilst developing my own technical skills with the ACA."
"As Mercedes HPP is in industry, the technical aspects of the ACA gives our students a great depth of knowledge, which can be applied in various aspects of their role." James states that the ACA provides a well-rounded framework for professional development, outside of the project rotations graduates complete. This encompasses the exams, professional development and ethics that are embedded in the qualification.
The ICAEW professional development ladders are used as a framework to ensure trainees gain knowledge from across the business. This is complemented by the job rotations graduates carry out across different departments at Mercedes HPP.
Ethics and professional scepticism
The ACA provides a greater technical understanding through the exams and helps our students to understand the bigger picture.
Ethics is a fundamental part of the ACA and important within engineering, especially in discussions where trainees need to challenge costs. The exams and regular ethics review sessions have helped trainees to focus on developing their professional scepticism and understanding of ethics. Certain situations require students to think critically and always do the right thing; the ethics element of the ACA ensures this becomes second nature. Dan O' Brien, F1 controller comments: "Working within a competitive sporting environment, it has been extremely useful to develop the skills in professional scepticism which give you the confidence to challenge outside of your field. Although I had no technical engineering experience, these skills have encouraged me to learn, and grow outside of the remit you would usually expect from an accountant."
Since 2020, Mercedes HPP has partnered with First Intuition as an online learning partner for students to help them get the best possible results. James is also responsible for mentoring the trainees, which involves monitoring progress, exam sittings and their engagement with First Intuition.
Theory in practice
Trainees have highlighted the Financial Management and Financial Accounting and Reporting exams as being significantly beneficial to their roles at Mercedes HPP.
Studying for the ACA qualification has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the knowledge required to become a rounded chartered accountant.
Professional scepticism, technical financial accounting and informing strategic business decisions are key skills that trainees develop throughout their training which they can then implement within their roles. The ACA qualification allows trainees to develop a breadth of knowledge in business and accounting which is valuable to Mercedes HPP's decision making.
The ACA provides the skills and knowledge to provide critical analysis of information and for graduate trainees at HPP to make data meaningful, understandable and comparable for stakeholders.
Welcoming back three successful interns
Mercedes HPP views the ACA as a key mechanism in attracting students and graduates to the training programme in years to come: "The winning mentality and on-track success is emulated at the Mercedes HPP factory and throughout the support functions, ultimately translating to our trainees being successful in their ACA training."
The team is looking forward to welcoming back three successful placement students from their 2019-2020 intake and a further two graduates in September 2021, all of whom will start studying the ACA this autumn.
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