Lifelong learning can enhance our understanding of the professional and business world around us, lead to more and better opportunities and improve our quality of life.
Having the right attitude towards lifelong learning and continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential part of what it means to be a CA. ICAS adopts an output-based CPD framework, meaning members are expected to undertake relevant CPD for both existing and targeted future roles. They should follow the four-step ICAS CPD thought process in order to plan any relevant CPD activities for the year ahead and reflect on what they have learned.
CPD is not just about attending courses and webinars (albeit ICAS was delighted that attendance for last year’s Ask ICAS and ICAS Insight webinars exceeded expectations). Nor is it about achieving a set number of hours, credits or points. ICAS’ development framework allows members to be the best judge of their own needs. That said, ICAS has introduced mandatory ethics CPD from 1 January 2021. This does not involve compulsory courses or the purchase of material but will require members to be able to demonstrate within their CPD return how they have maintained their knowledge of ethics-related matters during the year. It could simply mean reading relevant material available online, including ICAS publications and resources.
Wider CPD activities may include work-based learning, taking on new projects at work, researching an issue relating to a client or a role, mentoring or focused discussions with colleagues or other professional advisers. We hear from three CAs as they reflect on their CPD activities from the past year and their plans for 2021.
Sobhan Afzal CA, Senior Auditor, Audit Scotland
My approach to CPD differs from year to year. Usually, I start thinking about the areas I want to concentrate on at the beginning of the year. Last year, however, the pandemic meant I had to be more flexible and reactive with my plans.
Working within audit, there are a lot of technical updates that come out. These form part of my day-to-day job, so I don’t usually need to seek out CPD in this area. Instead, I like to make sure I am seeking out CPD around my areas of interest or good development opportunities. That includes accounting standards and legislation, which I find really interesting, but also broader topics around working environments and ethics. It’s easy to take these topics for granted, but CPD gives you a much greater understanding. It’s also important to keep on top of developments in tech and AI as they will heavily influence audit, our organisations, and how we work more generally in the future.
I am a PD ambassador on the ICAS Members Board. Professional development is a priority area for ICAS and this role ensures CAs have the opportunity to share thoughts on objectives and planning. We’re working together to see how the CPD offering can be as helpful and as relevant as possible for members.
Hamisha Mehta CA, CFO, Know You More
Even though CPD is a requirement, I like to see it as something I do because I want to. I try to follow the 70/20/10 method. That means 70% of my learning comes from my job, 20% from mentoring and learning from others, and 10% is formal training. A lot of my CPD comes from my day-to-day role and the great teams I work with. I meet regularly with my mentor and have recently undertaken executive coaching, which has helped me to truly understand my career direction and develop myself.
One of the areas I’m really passionate about is equality, diversity and inclusion. I’m part of the ICAS ED&I committee and have undertaken unconscious bias training as part of this role. One of the challenges facing women in finance is that we aren’t well represented in senior roles. The training was really useful in understanding how to accelerate change in that direction.
The pandemic has meant that my CPD plan for 2021 is more flexible than it usually would be, but I’ve made sure to earmark a few days in the coming months for formal training. From a technical perspective, I’ve long had an interest in cryptocurrencies, so will be looking to understand more about their tax treatment.
And from a work perspective, as CFO of a fast-growing online coaching organisation, I’m particularly interested in the ICAS CFO of the Future series.
Karen Kennedy CA, Director, KABS
I was working in the public sector until October 2020, when I decided to set up my own firm instead. Until then, my CPD was very tailored to the role that I was working in. Now, I’m looking to develop my own business skills, as well as my skills as a CA. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot more training to refresh my knowledge, including in areas such as tax and money laundering, and to help me best serve my clients. I’m also looking to investigate some new software.
The introduction of the ethics requirement is a great move by ICAS and I’ll be focusing on that a lot. It will help bring discussions around ethics, which can sometimes be forgotten, to the forefront of our minds as CAs.
I’ve created myself a CPD plan for the year, so there will be something every month, but my approach is also flexible and I will identify those areas that are likely to be the most useful to me on a rolling basis. The flexible nature of CPD at ICAS allows me to combine courses with more independent learning, which I believe fits perfectly with the nature of running your own business.
The last course I completed, which was on owner-managed businesses, helped me to think about the best way to structure my company and how to pay myself, which are also questions I often get asked by clients. It was a great refresher and the course leader was really helpful.
ICAS has a wide range of tools, resources and opportunities to support you with your CPD. Find out more here.