‘NQ of the Year 2013’ shares his accountancy story

Heading for their 12th year in 2014 the PQ Magazine Awards are the UK’s premier accountancy awards with a range of categories, including ‘NQ Personality of the Year’.

Last year GAAPweb sponsored ‘PQ Personality of the Year’ but this year we’re sponsoring ‘NQ of the Year’.

Last year’s winner of ‘NQ of the Year’ was Jonathan Simons, this year it could be you!

Jonathan Simons became an ACCA member in 2012 at the tender age of 22 and has won numerous accolades for his achievements in the field since then. In addition to winning NQ of the Year he was also accepted by by ACCA’s ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ programme 2013. He was also awarded a prize for highest global score in the Advanced Audit and Assurance exam by the ACCA and highly commended at the 2012 British Accountancy Awards – Individual Excellence Award – New Accountant of the Year.

We decied to find out more about how the career for this high achiever began and take a look at his journey over the last few years….

What was your route into accountancy?   

I went into accounting straight out of school, so for a while I was the ‘baby’ of the office. It was quite daunting going straight from doing A-levels into full time work, especially given I started to interact with clients within the first few weeks of joining. Being thrown in at the deep end, and finding yourself outside your comfort zone, isn’t always a bad thing I’d say as I was able to earn an awful lot very quickly and this experience proved invaluable as I continued to progress through my career.

Why did you choose accountancy as a career?   

My A-levels included business studies and economics and both of these subjects really opened my eyes up to the world of finance. Accountancy opens a number of doors and this was what I found most aappealing about the profession; I felt I would be unlikely to be stuck in one role which is what made it quite an interesting propect for me. There was also the added fact that most of my family are involved in accountancy or banking in one way or another, so in a way I guess I was always going to go down a similar route

What is your long term career goal?   

I’d love to continue to learn new things and be able to make a difference to both my employer and the wider accountancy profession. In terms of a job, I’d love to be CEO or FD at a large multi-national company as I’d like to be involved in those high-level conversations around strategic direction and future plans.

How did it feel to win the PQ Magazine NQ of the Year award?   

It felt fantastic – to be recognised for all the hard work I’d put in to date was brilliant. It kept me motivated as it was a reminder that individually you really can make a difference; be it to a colleague, an employer, or even the wider accountancy profession.

What have been your greatest challenges faced on the job and how did you overcome them?   

One of the greatest challenges with the job overall is trying to maintain the right work life balance; with exams this becomes even more important. My advice is to ensure you always schedule in some ‘down-time’ during the week – and don’t feel guilty about it – you need some time to recharge your batteries. In terms of challenges on a job, tight deadlines and having all the necessary information are probably the biggest challenges – effective and timely communication is key in helping to manage the situation.

What has been your greatest achievement to date?   

It was defnitely winning PQ Magazine’s ‘Newly Qualified Accountant of the Year’ award. I was also fortunate enough to be shortlisted for a couple of British Accountancy Awards evenings, and for me these encapsulate all the hard work I’ve put in over a number of years. As such, I would say these, as well as obtaining some good scores during my exams, are my greatest achievements to date.

What advice would you give to Newly Qualified and aspiring accountants?

The hard bit is now over and you’ve now finally passed all those exams – so do take some time out to relax. However, remember to stay focussed at work and put the theory you’ve learned into practice. Accountancy qualifications give you well rounded skills, but after putting in hard work to pass all the exams it#s time to take your ‘foot off the pedal’.

You were awarded a prize for highest global score in the Advanced Audit and Assurance exam. What exam tips do you have for PQs with a few exams to go until the finish?

Keep going – you’re almost there. It was a relief to finally finish all of my exams, but looking back I did enjoy learning new things through my studies (and we also got to start later than we usually would at work, which was a bonus). I guess my advice would be to (try to) enjoy your final exams – the finish line is in sight, and use that to stay motivated and ensure you’re well prepared for the exams so that when you’re walking out the exam hall, you can say ‘I’ve given it my best shot’

What is it that you think got you selected for ACCA’s ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ programme?

Being selected for ACCA’s Leaders of Tomorrow programme was a real privilege for me. Being a prize-winner certainly helped in being selected for the programme, but in my opinion, what the ACCA were really looking for were people who were willing to ‘give something back’. I’ve always enjoyed trying to help others where I can, such as through writing articles/blogs and mentoring colleagues, and I think this also aided my cause.

If there was one thing you could change in accountancy practice today to improve efficiency, what would it be?

If you asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said that subsidiary companies in a ‘large group’ should have an option for audit exemption if certain criteria were met, but this is now in place. Next I’d like to see greater uniformity of international accounting standards. With the IASB and the FASB working jointly on a number of important issues currently, this, in my view, is certainly a step in the right direction, although there is still a long way to go.

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