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My ACA experience: Ashley

Ashley Harvey

Ashley Harvey Junior Advisor

ICAEW route: Graduate

Industry: Audit and assurance

Location: Yeovil

Ashley's story...

Tell us about your career journey and what you do day-to-day in your role.

During my time at Old Mill, I’ve been exposed to all parts of an accountancy practice with experience ranging from accounts preparation and audit, to corporate finance, to personal and business tax. More recently I was given the opportunity to join BIC Innovation as a Business Analyst on a year long secondment. I work for the Sustainable Scale Up Cluster, a government-funded project which aims to help Welsh Food and Drink companies scale up. My day to day includes helping our cluster managers with projects ranging from attracting investment to Wales, to helping businesses cost their individual products and identify their profit margins. Additionally, I engage with a vast array of stakeholders who have a vested interested in the project, to see how we can work together in order to improve the prospects of our cluster members.

Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications?

The ACA qualification works in congruence with the work you do. Having previously studied for the sake of it, although enjoyable, I thought it would be refreshing to study something that I would immediately use in practice. It would allow me to build not only skills that are fundamental to preparing accounts and tax returns but are integral to helping businesses become successful. As well as the study support that is offered when completing the qualification, and the prestige it carries, it was a no brainer.  

Who or what inspired you to become a chartered accountant?

My interest initially started when I studied accountancy at A-Level. The problem-solving aspect was appealing to me and I found it enjoyable to study. However, as I progressed through further education, this interest waned slightly, mainly due to it not being directly related to my degree. It was when studying economics, particularly the micro side of things, where I really developed an interest in the behaviour of businesses. From there I decided to pursue a placement which enabled me to work closely with businesses and help influence their decision making – Little did I know I that accountancy was more than just the problem solving that I found so satisfying, but it was also about helping businesses succeed. My placement ended up being at Old Mill, my current firm. I clearly enjoyed it enough to return and pursue a career as a chartered accountant!



Our accountants are more than you’d imagine. They challenge the traditional accountancy routes and career paths. They have an innovative approach and skill to their work. How does your career path, attitude and skillset support this?

I suppose a neo-traditional stereotype of an accountant is a desk in a cubicle, not taking your eyes away from a spreadsheet (rather than the traditional abacus, printing calculators and green-shaded notary lamps). Although there are still a fair few spreadsheets to tackle, that’s where the similarities stop. Accountancy now is a much more collaborative, innovative, and dynamic, and that is very much the culture in which I developed my skills. I’ve had the opportunity to move on from compliance tasks to more advisory tasks, helping provide clients with that value-added service that helps them achieve their strategic goals rather than just ticking a statutory box. Moving largely onto the cloud, resulting in paperless operations, has enabled accountancy to be a much more proactive profession, making it a more nuanced and innovative industry. Overall, I try to embrace and encourage the new & novel ideas and opportunities that are developed. As with anything, new ideas and procedures can be hit and miss, but by having the opportunity to explore them is what makes the industry a lot more forward-thinking and enjoyable to work in.

Why did you decide to go down the route you did?

From a more short-term perspective, I took a secondment at BIC Innovation to expand my skillset, both for hard and soft skills. It still enabled me to meet and interact with businesses, but through a slightly different lens, all the while I have been interacting with stakeholders that I otherwise would never come across in my usual day-to-day. In the long run, the advisor route enables you to see more than the year end accounts, enabling you to specialise in an area and sector (if your preference is one sector) than you are passionate about. For me, that ability to see a variety of clients, and complete a variety of tasks, is what keeps the job engaging and interesting.

What do you love the most about what you do? 

It’s really satisfying when you see a client you have worked with achieve their objectives. Whether that is expansion, succession, or they want to achieve a real-time accounting system, knowing that you played your part makes your client’s successes all the better.

At ICAEW, we encourage applicants from all backgrounds. What skills do you bring to your career due to your degree in politics and economics?

Although there are a lot of numbers in accountancy, people often don’t realise the reports that go with accounts, the interpretation of rules, and the need to articulate and justify your conclusions. By studying economics, it helped enforce the interrelationship between words and numbers, enabling me carry forward this ability through to my job as an accountant. The same can be said about a lot of degrees and areas of study, and therefore, being able to work with people from a variety of backgrounds helps keep the job interesting, and the industry diversified.