Accountancy: Become a number cruncher

Helen Pillinger, 23, has completed her AAT training and is now working at PricewaterhouseCoopers while she completes her ACCA qualification
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The Independent Online

I left school with the intention of going into accountancy - my original plan was to do a GNVQ in business and then go on to do accountancy at university. I did start the GNVQ but then had to relocate and, on the advice of a tutor, decided the AAT would be the better way to go. It meant I could get the training while gaining experience and getting paid for it all at the same time.

I wanted to get a job in accounts before I started the AAT but with no experience or qualifications in that area I found it extremely difficult. Instead, I started the AAT independently and after I'd completed the foundation stage I managed to get a job with an accountancy firm in Oxford. They went on to support me through the intermediate level.

It took me four years to gain the AAT qualification. The foundation and intermediate levels can be completed in a year - but the technician level is quite demanding so I chose to spread it over two years. If you wanted to, you could complete the course over three years though.

When I'd completed the intermediate level I relocated again. I started off in temping jobs and then my agency put me forward for a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). I started with them when I just started the technician level of the AAT and have qualified since I've been with them, so I'm now a qualified accounting technician (MAAT).

I've moved on to the ACCA qualification. I started on Part 2 because my AAT qualification gives me exemption from Part 1, and all the professional qualifications are the same in terms of two exam sittings per year.

Once I've finished Part 2 I'll be considered a part-qualified accountant and then once I've completed the whole thing I'll be a chartered certified accountant. Since working for PwC I've transferred to their Birmingham office from the Gloucester office. In Gloucester I worked in personal insolvency where I dealt with bankruptcies and compulsory liquidations. Now I work in Corporate Simplification and Reconstruction (CSR) and have spent the last 18 months dealing with Members' Voluntary Liquidations (MVLs). These are solely the liquidations of solvent companies.

There are a number of reasons why a company may be placed into MVL. For instance, a client may wish to simplify its group structure by eliminating dormant companies that are no longer required. We carry out a pre-liquidation review of the company to establish key risk areas. This includes a statutory book review which, depending on the nature of the case, can take anything from a few hours to a number of days. Last week, for example, we had a case where we liquidated 64 companies. That was a lengthy review where we were on-site for three or four days. It involves going through the company's books to identify any possible liabilities and reviewing the statutory accounts of the company.

Once we have reviewed, identified and managed the key risks we go on to place the company in liquidation, and during that time we seek various clearances that include VAT, pensions, taxation and PAYE/NI. CSR run frequent internal training sessions that enable me to keep up to date on new legislation, regulations and best working practice.

We work as a team and are there to help and support each other but everyone has individual case responsibility as well. I think you're always building knowledge during your career but I feel comfortable in my role now. I'm intending to stay with PwC and my aim is to complete the ACCA and progress with my career within the firm in the area of business recovery.