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My ACA experience: Sherv

I’m now in the internal audit team at The Donkey Sanctuary, an international animal welfare charity. The one constant I have is relationship building with other colleagues, no matter what their job roles are, and considering the welfare of donkeys and other beneficiaries, supporters, and staff in everything that we do.


Sherv Cheung Senior Audit Assistant

ICAEW route: Graduate

Industry: Charity

Location: Sidmouth, Devon

Sherv's Story

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

I’m in the internal audit team at The Donkey Sanctuary, an international animal welfare charity.  Saying I have no day-to-day is somewhat of a cliché but it’s true. I’ve found myself in team meetings all across the organisation, visiting farms, presenting findings to senior executives.

Earlier this year, I was appointed as a Trustee of Charities Internal Audit Network (CIAN), who aim to support and promote the profession of internal audit in the voluntary sector, and as a Trustee Governor of a local academy school. I’m really excited about both of these opportunities.

Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications? How did completing CFAB and BFP help you develop as a professional?

The ACA was really attractive because of the practical work experience, and professional development requirements as part of the training agreement. I was also swayed by how the modules sounded diverse, and I liked that the Professional and Advanced Level papers were just as much about the discussion and practical application skills as the technical finance skills.  I think I’m also in the first cohort to be doing every single assessment through a computer-based exam, which I don’t think other qualifications offer. 

Coming from a Humanities degree background, I initially found the ACA content challenging, so completing the CFAB and gaining the BFP designation was a really nice acknowledgement of the hard work and perseverance I’ve put in so far. It has also given me a huge confidence boost to know that I am on the right track! The ACA is ever-evolving and the recognition of the changing technological advancements within the exam is testament to how the ICAEW is always ensuring that it is relevant. 

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 think a lot of accountants start training in a firm and work their way up. I’ve been really lucky to have started in a charity in a team of 2. You get hands-on on the big issues from Day 1, and I feel like I have been empowered to get involved in work that would typically be reserved for more senior staff. I’d encourage all organisations, whether large or small, regardless of sector, to consider training ACA students. Hopefully, one day, we won’t have ‘traditional accountancy routes’ anymore. 

Diversity and equality are fundamental values in ICAEW. Could you speak about how you have supported these values and what they mean to you?

Diversity, inclusion, and equality is about creating a space where people can be their true selves, and ensuring respect, dignity and empowerment for every single person. It’s about being courageous, self-reflective, and critical of imbalances of power that cause harm. Sometimes it’s about speaking up – and other times it’s about knowing when to listen and champion other voices.

Sometimes, just being in the room can be positively disruptive. I recognise adversity that I have faced, but also acknowledge the privileges I have acquired, and bring those experiences to the table. I’ve just joined the ICAEW’s Diversity Community online so I’ll be looking for opportunities to get involved!

What do you enjoy about working for a charity? What are the benefits compared to working in other sectors?

For me, working for a charity is about being here for something more than just myself. I value working with people who are passionate about what they do because they hope to bring about change. I like that in my team and with my manager, I can say things as I see them, and know that my ideas will be valued. I enjoy having autonomy, and being challenged to improve, but also having the space to make mistakes, be reflective, creative, and grow.

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

Having roots in an English degree means being equipped with a critical mind. It develops concise writing skills and the ability to process large volumes of sometimes impenetrable information.

When you are trained through Film Studies to notice colour, words, actions, set construction all within a few seconds of a shot, those skills come in really handy when you are in audit interviews or reviewing documents. 

You also learn to question everything you take as fact – meaning is subjective, even numbers, so judgement is really important. 

Lastly, it taught me to do what I love because I love it and that is not up for judgement by anyone. I didn’t do English because I wanted to be an English teacher, or I wanted to be a fiction writer. I didn’t pursue Film Studies because I wanted to be an actor or a director, I did it because it resonated with me. To anyone out there who is hearing that Humanities degrees don’t lead to opportunities: don’t listen to that, it’s just not true.

It’s largely why chartered accountancy appealed to me really – I felt that my existing skills and experience would be valued, whilst pushing me to learning new skills.

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