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My ACA Experience: Florentina

Florentina is based in a Paris office. Her work is varied, ranging from preparing UK and French tax returns to preparing annual accounts.

Florentina Harris

Florentina Harris Trainee Accountant at Dixon Wilson

ICAEW route: Graduate

Industry: Tax, Audit and assurance

Location: Paris

Florentina's story...

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

When I first started my training contract at Dixon Wilson (in the Paris office), I found myself absorbing a lot of new information. Gradually I began to consolidate my skills and learn from experience, even if this involved occasionally throwing myself in at the deep end! Over the course of my training, I have become much more autonomous and client facing.

Being based in a Paris office, the work is extremely varied, ranging from preparing various kinds of UK and French tax returns to preparing annual accounts from start to finish. I also interact with clients in either French or English.

Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications?

The ACA is a highly esteemed and internationally recognised qualification which was established by the ICAEW. The training is highly effective as you are learning on the job as well as in class.

The ICAEW offers training in a particularly broad range of areas including business strategy and financial management (topics that trainees may not always encounter in practice). The ICAEW places a large emphasis on ethics and in this way ensures that accountants work objectively and are trusted by the public.

Who or what inspired you to become a chartered accountant?

Before applying for my training contract, I worked in marketing (far from accountancy but nevertheless in the commercial domain). Whilst being in the world of work for the first time, I took note of my strengths and weaknesses and felt that my skill set was such that I would be well suited to becoming an accountant. I am meticulous, I strive to be objective and always respect rules.

My dad, who had a successful career working in financial management, inspired me to become a chartered accountant. He spoke to me about the large role that accountants play in society, whether it be ensuring that companies and individuals pay their tax correctly or whether it be validating financial statements (and in this way protecting the interests of shareholders). I felt that I wanted to play an important and protective role in society.

I wanted to find a training contract that would allow me to use my French (having studied French at university). Dixon Wilson offers the unique opportunity for ACA trainees to work with French and British clients and develop an understanding of both French and UK tax/accounting regulations. I am very lucky to have gained so much experience over the course of my training.

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

Many people imagine accountants to be highly detailed and just interested in the numbers. 

For me, being good with numbers, is not the most important quality of an accountant. Being able to communicate in person or in writing is just as important as the calculations. 

I think many people forget the role that accountants have in society and that there is a huge ethical framework behind what accountants do. For example, if an accountant is carrying out an audit, the accountant focuses not on the occurrence of a misstatement in the financial statements but the effect that the misstatement will have on shareholders’ decisions (in this way they focus on the ethical implications). If the misstatement is material to the decisions of the shareholders, then the misstatement should be corrected. Accountants focus on the wider picture not just the details.

What advise would you give to aspiring accountants? 

Be prepared for lots of studying during the training. The training contract is hard work but not something I have ever regretted. 

During your training, never shy away from challenges and try to gradually take on more responsibility. This is how you will gain worthwhile experience. 

What do you love the most about what you do and why? 

I enjoy getting to know clients. I like using my expertise to help clients and for them to develop a trust in me. This is often the case when I prepare personal tax returns. 

I love the fact that the work is so varied given the combination of serving French and British clients. 

I would possibly like to do more tax planning within the firm after I qualify. Helping an individual or company better navigate the tax system (whether in the UK or in France) would be very rewarding.