Pathways route to qualification: James Wallace CPFA CA
James Wallace CPFA CA, Head of Social Security Finance at the Scottish Government, shares his story to becoming a CA and joining ICAS through the Pathways Route.
After studying Accounting and Finance as an undergraduate, and Information Technology as a postgraduate, James joined Audit Scotland as a Graduate Trainee in 2004. From there, James has had an interesting career working in and for the public sector.
“While training with Audit Scotland, I was involved in the usual range of audit activities one might expect with a professional trainee, although I was primarily working with NHS and Central Government clients.
"I spent two years with Audit Scotland post-qualifying, leading on the audit of a number of Central Government bodies before leaving Audit Scotland and auditing in 2010, to join the Scottish Government.”
The pathways route is for individuals who are looking to develop their careers beyond their current role, following a test of relevant expertise (TRE), and is available to CIPFA members with more than seven years post-qualification experience.
What do you like about working for the Scottish Government?
“One of the benefits I have found in being employed in the Scottish Government is the broad range of experiences and roles available as a result of the scale and diversity of its functions. This has opened up a lot of interesting opportunities and allowed me to progress in an exciting array of job roles and responsibilities throughout the last seven years.
“My first role was as Head of Finance with Accountant in Bankruptcy, an Executive Agency of the Government responsible for administering the process of personal bankruptcy and recording corporate insolvencies in Scotland.
"I left Accountant in Bankruptcy on secondment to the core Scottish Government to provide accounting support for a programme of work on potential constitutional change, in the lead up to the Independence Referendum.
“In 2013, following the completion of my secondment, I joined Disclosure Scotland (again an Executive Agency) to lead their Corporate Services division. This was an exciting time for Disclosure Scotland due to significant environmental and business changes that were ongoing, allowing me to become involved in supporting some significant process and IT changes.
The access gained to ICAS services, including the technical guidance, is another clear benefit, and one which I believed would be very complimentary to my existing access to CIPFA technical services.
“For the last year, I have again been deployed in the core Scottish Government, working with Health Finance, supporting colleagues across a number of Health Directorates to manage some significant elements of the Scottish Government’s budget.
"However, from there I have taken on a new role as Head of Social Security Finance, working on the development of financial capability for a new delivery agency, which will administer social security payments in Scotland.”
What motivated you to complete the Pathways Route to becoming a CA?
“I was motivated to complete the Pathways Route and join ICAS membership for a number of reasons. The global recognition ICAS has is clearly a benefit to any CV.
"The access gained to ICAS services, including the technical guidance, is another clear benefit, and one which I believed would be very complimentary to my existing access to CIPFA technical services.
“I also viewed the Test of Relevant Expertise (TRE) assessment as an independent verification that the experiences I had in the public sector were appropriate and relevant to my continued growth as a professional accountant. This was something I felt I was at the right stage (post-qualification) to be testing.
What would your advice be to other candidates considering the Pathways Route?
“For future candidates considering the TRE assessment, start early! I found I had to rewrite my essays numerous times to ensure I was presenting the full picture of my professional skills within the word limit and it took me much longer to complete the essays than I had expected as a result.
“The other piece of advice I’d relay is to really engage with your sponsors. I asked my sponsors to review my essays well in advance of submission to ensure that I was detailing my experiences at the correct level and checking that, based on their knowledge of my work, I was not missing any key skills they would have expected to see detailed.
“In terms of advice to other candidates considering the Pathways Route in general – I would certainly encourage it!”
The Pathways route to ICAS membership