More now than ever, and regardless of the sector you’re in, the only constant is change.
It’s therefore essential while supporting businesses on their journey, that any good accountant and tax advisor can respond and adapt as the tide turns.
Susan Pattison (30) joined Henderson Loggie fresh from the University of Dundee in 2014.
As well as her First Class Honours degree in Accountancy with Finance, Susan also left with a collection of prizes, including one sponsored by the firm.
With Henderson Loggie on her radar, she applied for and secured one of their three-year training contracts, where she would work full-time while pursuing the CA Qualification through the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).
Balancing work whilst studying
As Susan explained, studying every night while holding down a full-time job is no mean feat – “It wasn’t always easy studying on top of my day job in the Audit and Accounts department but the work I was doing at Henderson Loggie echoed what I was covering in my studies. It made a huge difference being able to see it from both sides as the client work helped make sense of the technical aspects of my studies and put it all into context.
“Also, because the firm takes on a group of trainees at the same time, you’re not alone and working away in isolation. You’re in it together. The peer support and more formal mentoring from other colleagues is invaluable and made the whole process more manageable.”
Before qualifying in 2017, towards the end of her CA training contract, Susan was given the opportunity of a six-week secondment to the Tax Department, after which she was offered a permanent job as well as the chance to pursue the Chartered Institute of Taxation’s Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification.
Not surprisingly, achieving the highest tax qualification available in the UK was ‘very challenging’ – “The CTA qualification is the gold standard in taxation qualifications and was a lot of work. However, by then, I was firmly rooted within the Tax team so my studies in the evening were crystallised through my day to day work and having the support of senior colleagues and other CTAs in the team also helped me achieve the end goal.”
Career expectations vs reality
Promoted to Assistant Manager in 2019 and then Manager just seven months later, Susan was rising through the ranks. But, with so much extra study, was the reality of a career in accountancy living up to expectations?
Susan explained, “If I’m honest, I never planned to work in tax and, in the early days, I didn’t appreciate the diversity of work and experience I would gain through tax or audit work. There’s so much variety. No two clients are the same. Over the last few years, I’ve worked with a range of businesses in different industries, from publishing, oil and gas, manufacturing, housebuilders, landed estates and life sciences to museums, theatres, creative industries and charities.
“I particularly enjoy making a tangible difference to my clients, whether it’s saving charities money to put towards their charitable objectives or surprising theatres and museums with savings they can claw back through productions and exhibitions tax credit claims or saving owner-managed businesses money on their tax bill to drive back into the local economy. It’s really rewarding to know that your work has made a difference to clients’ operations and really impact their future. That sense of making a difference wasn’t an aspect of accountancy or tax I had envisaged when I was a student.”
Susan was also pleasantly surprised to gain a say in her client portfolio which, again, keeps the job fresh and the challenges rewarding.
“In the early days, I was given a brilliant grounding across all areas and was working on everything from small charities’ accounts to audits on large companies. The knowledge you build through that broader exposure is just phenomenal.
“But, as time went on, my interests and preferences were taken into account and I had the chance to home in on some of the areas I was developing a real interest in. I grew up on a farm so I have a strong interest in agriculture – it’s my world and resonates with me but it’s also about the sweeping changes affecting rural, land-based businesses like carbon offsetting and the increase in farmers diversifying into new areas. I also love museums and theatres and now specialise in Theatre Tax Relief and Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief – again, that feeling of making a difference within your community.”
How have the recent changes within the country’s political and economic climate affected accountants?
“Historically, there have been two budgets each year with repercussions for all of our clients but the political and economic climate has been particularly changeable recently and, in some cases, we have required to adapt to changes overnight.
“We always provide clients with a summary the morning after the budget and, for those who will be significantly affected, we approach them separately, just to make sure they’re fully aware of how any changes will affect them and the steps they need to prepare. We go to great lengths to ensure that we’re up to speed on the finer implications of any legislative changes which will affect our clients, whether now or in three months’ time, so there are no surprises down the line.”
Looking forward to the future
Approaching her ninth year with the firm and now a mother to a two-year-old daughter, what’s the forecast when it comes to Susan’s own future?
“As a team, our priority is to stay agile and at the top of our game. I’m really lucky to have access to a range of different technical courses as part of my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) but there’s also a range of internal courses relating to personal development, whether around management skills or support with building our client base. However long you’ve been with Henderson Loggie, you’re always learning.”