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My ACA experience: Claris

Working in practice equipped Claris with the hard skills to move to industry, within the accounting and reporting team at BMW.

Claris Jekwa

Claris Jekwa Contribution Margin Controller, Finance Team, BMW (UK) Ltd

ICAEW route: Graduate

Industry: Business

Location: Farnborough, Hampshire

Claris' story...

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

In the summer of 2013, I completed an internship with Deloitte, which resulted in a job offer once I finished my final year of university. In 2014, I started working in Audit and Assurance whilst studying for the ACA Qualification. After completing the ACA and with experience from working in practice, in 2018 I decided to move into industry working for BMW UK. My first great opportunity as a qualified ACA, working as a Financial Accountant – a role utilising and developing my financial accounting, planning and reporting knowledge.

This year (2022), I have moved into a new role as a Contribution Margin Controller. Daily, I keep in contact with non-finance colleagues within the BMW Group Aftersales business for UK and Ireland. We have ongoing discussions about performance against set local and group targets and review business cases to improve key performance indicators. I am constantly reviewing information, impact on contribution margin, and communicating with my finance managers to support in decision making.

Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications?

I was aware that I would study the ACA if I joined their graduate scheme with Deloitte following my final year of university. I researched the qualification and the ICAEW. The ACA programme allowed me to gain practical work experience and complete the wide range of modules simultaneously. The ICAEW is a world-leading professional membership organisation, and the ACA qualification is internationally recognised. I chose not only to join the firm, but also to become an ACA chartered accountant with knowledge covering various accountancy disciplines, and many opportunities to follow.  

Who or what inspired you to become a chartered accountant?

My interest in accountancy started from a young age. Seeing my older siblings studying accounting inspired me to research accountancy career paths. With the association to business in mind, I connected this to my passion for dance and completed my first work experience with a local dance school, creating invoices and recording payments. I subsequently studied Accounting at A-Level and in my degree. Whilst studying at the University of Warwick, I took on the role of Treasurer for our hip hop dance society. Appreciating how accounting is important for all types of businesses further motivated me to become 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?

During my studies, I successfully transferred the skills gained from accounting to organisations associated with my interests. Working in practice equipped me with the hard skills to move to industry, within the accounting and reporting team at BMW. It is important for me to understand the business and how accounting information can help to add value. Therefore, I took the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the automotive industry, working closer with the aftersales colleagues. The hard and soft skills gained from the ACA qualification and my auditing background, have been valuable in my accounting, reporting and controlling roles. 

Do you think there is such a thing as a stereotypical accountant? If so, how do you challenge this stereotype?

Accountants have diverse backgrounds, which shape us into the professionals we are. We are more than just number crunchers. Like many of my peers, I am challenging this stereotypical view by combining the numbers with advisory and strategic information, which makes us great business partners.   

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

I decided to start my career in Auditing and Assurance as I could study for the ACA qualification. I also wanted to gain a strong understanding of accounting, auditing standards and internal controls, whilst getting exposure to different industries. I was interested to start working for the BMW Group, as this is an exciting company with successful brands in the automotive industry. It was appealing for me to learn more about the industry, and it has been worthwhile as BMW fosters a great environment and culture for knowledge sharing across the various business areas. 

What do you love the most about what you do? 

I love feeling empowered when preparing financial information relied on by key stakeholders. Within accounting and controlling, I have been trusted with the responsibility to produce statutory accounts, work with auditors, business and BMW Group colleagues in Munich.

At ICAEW, we encourage applicants from all backgrounds. What skills do you bring to your career due to your degree and why did chartered accountancy appeal to you?

My degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Warwick developed my analytical and organisational skills. The challenge of meeting the standard required for all modules prepared me well for the ACA qualification. I have continued to apply these skills to assist my presentation of daily and periodic financial information. The learnings from my degree were suitable to become a chartered accountant, so this was the clear intended path for me. 

When studying for the ACA, I enjoyed embarking on the journey to becoming a chartered accountant with students from various academic backgrounds.