Continuing Professional Development

Attending the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Conference – A Returning Delegate’s Perspective

It’s been nearly two weeks since I set off for the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) annual conference and once again I have returned with plenty of inspiration, motivation and food for thought about the future of accountancy, bookkeeping and business as a whole. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and ideas as a way to reflect on the conference.

Why did I attend the AAT Conference?

Last year the AAT gave me an opportunity to attend the conference whilst filming me and my experience of attending as a delegate. You can read more about that experience in last year’s blog post and the results of filming can be seen here.

I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s event and learned a lot as well as gaining insight into how the profession might evolve in the future and what I would need to do to ensure my business evolved along with future changes. So, knowing how useful it was last year and how much I learned from attending, I signed up for this year’s conference the moment it was advertised!

Attending would also be an excellent opportunity to meet other accountants and bookkeepers within the wider community. To ask them about their experiences and learn from them and be inspired to work towards my goals and actually achieve them.

Self Portrait photograph of Alessandra Parsons AATQB attending the 2019 AAT Annual Conference
Here I am in front of the 2019 AAT Annual Conference Welcome Stand

AAT Conference Day 1

How to Identify and Act on Business Opportunities with Sue Tonks

Last year I attended Sue Tonks’ session on networking, which was an excellent practical workshop on how to network at events. I’ve attended a few of Sue’s sessions now and they are not to be missed, so I was looking forward to learning more from her.

This session built upon last year’s networking session focusing on the questions you can ask beyond the initial ones everyone has in common, such as talking about the weather, how you travelled to the event etc. She took us through an example topic inviting the audience to ask her questions about her business. At then end of this she explained which types of questions are the best ones to ask to get the most information and we were asked to identify if we had had any ‘ah ha’ moments – those moments where we had seen an opportunity to do business – during her interactive audience example.

Finally, she explained what to do with those opportunities and how to follow up on them, reminding us not to let the self-doubt demon on your shoulder stop you from making the most of your opportunities.

Keynote: Embracing Digital Education by Vikki Bean, Xero

The first Keynote speech of the event was an interesting insight into digital education and how it can be used to help others as well as further your own learning. Vikki Bean from Xero talked about learning styles, such as visual, audio and kinaesthetic, but also about learning habits, such as snacking, bingeing and addict habits. I’ve known for a while that I’m a kinaesthetic learner, as I learn most by ‘doing’ tasks and than from any other way, however, I’ve not thought about my learning habits before. It was interesting to think about the different ways we absorb information:

  • Snacker – absorbs information in small amounts but often
  • Binger – absorbs information in large amounts all in one go
  • Addict – starts learning something and finds themselves down a rabbit hole
  • Planner – makes a plan for learning and sticks to it

Vikki also talked about the training that Xero offer and I took the opportunity to talk to Xero about this at their exhibition stand and have signed up to their programme.

Session 1 – AML – The Latest What, When and Why with Adam Williamson, AAT

Anti-Money Laundering is something that bookkeepers and accountants have to be aware of every day. We need to understand what it is, how to recognise it and how to report any suspicious behaviour we become aware of whilst recording transactions and preparing financial statements. If we don’t report suspicious behaviour we can be penalised for failure to report under the Money Laundering Regulations 2017.

This session was a useful update on recent changes and things to be aware of and what to do to ensure compliance with the regulations.

Did you know that in 2016 there were 3744 drug related deaths and that the value of the drugs market is £5 billion? This money is laundered through the banks and bookkeepers and accountants are one of the lines of defence to spot and stop this trade. Other trades involved in money laundering include prostitution, human trafficking, modern slavery and illegal arms trade.

Adam also talked about client client due diligence checks and the importance of ensuring client information is accurate and up to date.

Practice Management and GDPR with Rachel Farris, Croner-i

Next I attended another useful session, which followed on nicely from Anti-Money Laundering, on Practice Management and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations). Rachel gave an overview of GDPR and an update of the current status a year on from the original launch with reminders about time frames for reporting breaches and the maximum fines for breaches and infringements.

Rachel also talked about ensuring client records are kept in accordance with the GDPR regulations.

The story behind the numbers with Samantha Perkin, Zamu

This session was an enlightening talk on fraud and how it happens and how bookkeepers and accountants can spot it and report it. Samantha presented several different real-life scenarios of people who had committed fraud and explained how they had the means, motive and opportunity to commit fraud.

She went on to reveal how each person had been caught and that it was generally as a result of the spending habits of the person committing fraud.

HMRC are constantly trying to combat fraud and it is becoming less frequent as a result of measures they have introduced, such as ‘Real Time Information’ (RTI) for payroll and Personal Tax Accounts, which allow individuals to log onto the HMRC website and check their personal tax – it’s worth checking yours to make sure no one is using your details illegally.

A Roadmap to Mould and Attact Your Perfect Clients with Patrick McGloughlin

The final session of the day returned to Practice Management, looking at your client base and working out who are the clients you like working with and who you don’t. Your diamonds and your doughnuts.

It was a refreshingly different perspective on a topic I have researched before with interesting anecdotes and real-life examples of the different types of clients.

I think we’re often told that to have a successful business you must appeal to your ideal client, but struggle to identify who they are. This session gave me a few more pieces to help me complete the jigsaw for my ideal client.

The 2019 AAT Professional Member Awards Ceremony

Having attended the 2018 AAT Professional Member Awards ceremony last year, I was really looking forward to the evening this year and it didn’t fail to disappoint.

I had fun and interesting conversation with colleagues at my table and the stories of those winning the awards were just as inspiring as the year before. There was a theme amongst the winners this year; as part of their AAT journey, they all had helped teach, inspire and mentor other people to learn about bookkeeping and accounting, which is something I try to do here at AKay Bookkeeping.

Self Portrait photograph of Alessandra Parsons AATQB attending the 2019 AAT Annual Awards Ceremony
Here I am dressed up and waiting for the AAT Annual Awards Ceremony to begin

AAT Conference Day 2

Networking Walk led by Past President Henry Cooper

The Networking Walk was so popular last year, that another one was organised for the start of Day 2 this year. The Crowne Plaza doesn’t have grounds to walk in, but was located very near to the Stratford Canal, which is a pleasant area to walk in, with lots of history to see.

Self Portrait photograph of Alessandra Parsons AATQB on the networking walk along Stratford Canal
It was a bit damp, but good to stretch the legs and get some fresh air at the start of the day.

Keynote: The Face of Modern Accountancy with Darren Shirlaw

Last year Darren presented a workshop on the future forecasting of the accountancy landscape, which was an engaging talk on macroeconomics and using this data to plan for the future, so I was really looking forward to listening to him again.

The main takeaways from his keynote were:

  • In order to continue to be successful, businesses need to innovate
  • 20th century businesses were concerned with profit and 21st century businesses are driven more by purpose

He provided several interesting examples to accompany his talk, but the overall thought that stuck with me most is that people generally use Google to look for a business or product and when they decide which provider to use or product to buy, they also look to see what else the company is doing. For example, is the company plastic free, or donating profits to build toilets for those who don’t have them.

Financial Reporting Update with Steve Collings

The next talk went over the recent changes to the Accounting Standards, which are the guidance accountants use to ensure that accounts are prepared consistently for all businesses.

Steve’s knowledge of the accounting standards was impressive in that it was almost encyclopaedic. He explored the recent updates in a lot of detail and would be the person to go to if I ever had a question or needed help with the standards.

How to Build a Successful Career in Accounting with Duncan Brodie

I think this is the session that inspired me the most over the two days. I found the content to be a useful reminder of why I started on my AAT journey and what I originally wanted to achieve. It also reminded me that goals don’t need to be large, but can be small steps.

The session was a practical workshop that allowed each attendee to look at what they wanted to achieve in their career and what was stopping them from doing so. We also explored our skills and what our key achievements were so far.

At the end of the session we were asked to think about what our next steps would be and to promise to take action on those steps. This session was followed by lunch and whilst I was queuing for food I talked to a fellow delegate about the session, and my current career goal, which is to obtain MAAT status. She recommended attending local branch events to network with local accountants, so during lunch I looked up when the next one was for the Hereford and Worcester Branch and booked to attend.

Brexit: Counting on Change with Katrina McWhinnie

The penultimate session of the two days was an interesting update on what has happened so far with Brexit and what could happen between now and when we are due to leave in October 2019. There is a lot of uncertainty about the next few months, especially with the Tory leadership still to be decided.

Katrina took us through her Brexit strategy, which is designed to help minimise this uncertainty and plan for post Brexit. The key take away’s were to think about how your business operates and plan for worst case scenarios.

  • What are the risks to your business?
  • What are the opportunities for your business?
  • Have you planned for changes in the cost of goods?
  • Do you trade with Europe and have you updated your customs paperwork policies?

If you plan for worst case scenarios then you will be able to ride the Brexit wave more easily and survive as a business post Brexit. You might even find your business being more successful!

Keynote: How to remain relevant in a digital world with Christopher Argent

The final talk of the event was an inspiring keynote from Christopher Argent. It summarised much of what had been seen, heard and talked about throughout the other sessions and left me wanting to explore more about the future possibilities of technology and bookkeeping for my business and my clients.

Would I attend the AAT Conference Again?

I shall definitely be booking to attend the AAT Conference in 2020. It is a fantastic event providing inspiring workshops that are relevant to accountants and bookkeepers alike.

I love being able to connect with fellow AAT members and catch up with people I met the year before. It’s great being able to talk about accounting and bookkeeping with like minded people in a setting that is both formal and informal, so everyone is at ease and it’s not awkward to talk to people you don’t know. I spoke to many AAT members with unique perspectives, who were all willing to share their knowledge and experiences with me to help me with my own AAT journey. I even had questions answered that I didn’t know I had wanted to ask!

I have come away from the event feeling reinvigorated as it has reminded me why I started AKay Bookkeeping in the first place. I hope that by writing this blog post, I can capture some of the feeling and spirit of the event and use this as a reminder to keep moving further along my AAT and business journey.

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