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My ACA experience: Liam

Despite choosing to study finance at university, Liam wasn't sure a career in accountancy was for him. It was a placement year at global financial firm Morgan Stanley and speaking to other chartered accountants convinced Liam to start the ACA qualification. He now enjoys the buzz of supporting a busy trading desk and working with lots of different people.

Liam Brown

Liam Brown Finance Analyst, Morgan Stanley

ICAEW route: Graduate - degree with placement

Industry: Banking

Location: London

Liam's story...

As strange as it sounds, when I initially started my Accounting and Finance degree, I didn’t have a huge desire to become a chartered accountant. It was a degree I felt I would excel in, but I kept an open mind as to which path it would lead me down. 

It was only during my industrial placement year at Morgan Stanley that I had the chance to speak with other chartered accountants and it became clear how much it would benefit me to study the ACA. 

From that year onwards, I knew I would be pursuing a career in finance, and the ACA seemed like the most well-rounded and respected qualification I could undertake. 

I based my final year module choices at university on what would most benefit me in my ACA studies and this has to date given me a great foundation for the ACA. 

My employer is a recognised training provider and all employees are able to study for a professional qualification if they have a valid business reason. From those on the finance division graduate scheme at Morgan Stanley, the most commonly chosen qualification is the ACA. 

I usually start work at about 8.30am and attend a meeting to run through the prior day PNL commentary from across my division. 

The time of the month dictates the rest of my day, as during the two weeks of a month we are tasked with month-end processes to help us reconcile and gain comfort in signing off net revenue, expenses and balance sheet accounts for the product line i am responsible for (currently securitised products). 

In other days, I will usually be assisting our Mumbai office in preparing daily profit and loss files and liaising with other teams around the bank, both in the UK and overseas, to help them understand the trading activity and drivers of PNL for the desk my team supports. 

I am a big worrier when it comes to exams and as a result begin revision very early. I have a long commute into work and use that time to read through my notes to help guarantee that everything I have been going through in college stays fresh in my mind. 

I also make sure that regardless of how busy I am I stay active by regularly exercising and playing sports; usually football, cricket or golf.


In the period in between finishing an exam and starting the next course I also do my very best to completely get away from thinking about learning and try to squeeze in a well-deserved holiday.

The best part of my job is supporting a trading desk working in a very interesting market. I have learned about products that I had previously never been aware of and am in a position to see how these strategies make money for the business. 

I work with some great people from various different backgrounds and while we are aware of the seriousness of our jobs, we always enjoy our days and support one another.

I’m still at the beginning of my career so far and so my main highlights have been related to studying.

I am extremely proud to have won two awards at the University of Bath for being the best performing student in the School of Management and have been able to add to that by winning a further two prizes from my ACA exams.

It’s great to be rewarded for the hard work that I know I have put in and keeps me motivated for future exams and beyond.

I have certainly developed my problem-solving skills and ability to logically think through tasks that initially appear abstract.

I have found that in every exam there are questions with elements which I have not practised before and, in these instances, it is crucial to remain calm and really think through what the examiner is asking. 

Working in a bank, it’s always difficult to know what the future holds, but I would certainly like to think that in five years I could still be at my current employer and have achieved a couple of promotions. 

If things were to change, my alternative ambitions would be to have started my own business, or to be using my finance background in the world of sport.

My biggest challenge is managing the many ACA exams while continuing to perform my usual day-to-day tasks at work. I have to learn the content in evening and weekend classes which can be extremely difficult and frustrating at times. 

I have to make sure that I put everything in perspective and keep my mind focused on the end result of becoming ACA qualified.


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