Harvey Johnston CA
Harvey Johnston CA, consultant, speaks to ICAS about making friends throughout your career and the importance for CAs to stay up to date with their knowledge and current developments.
What made you decide to become a CA with ICAS?
When I was nearing the end of my secondary education I wanted to continue to University for a degree.
The problem was that my father was a bank teller at that time and a university degree would have been a difficult financial burden on the family.
My uncle was a CA and he got me interested in the CA qualification and arranged an indentured apprenticeship with a small firm in Glasgow.
What were the biggest challenges and opportunities when undergoing the qualification?
The biggest challenge in gaining the qualification was time.
An apprenticeship was a five-day working week from nine to five and lectures took place from five until half past seven most evenings, which meant I spent my weekends working to complete work set by the lecturers for the next week.
Since I was also involved in youth work, I found that I had very little spare time.
One of the benefits of my apprenticeship was that other members in the office, including the partners, took an interest in what the apprentices were doing.
They ensured that the work we were asked to carry out always allowed us to develop our knowledge and abilities.
I was able to learn the tools of my trade and extend my knowledge at the same time.
What do you consider the biggest challenges for CAs today?
The CA qualification has changed a lot since I qualified in 1961.
With the development of Computers, AI, and other techniques, which were unknown when I qualified – I remember training as a programmer on one of the first main frame computers in 1964 – CAs today are working in a very fast changing environment where what was up-to-date last year is now old-hat.
Unless CAs take steps to ensure that they keep up to date both in their basic knowledge and current developments, they could fall behind very quickly.
My fear is that too many will put their trust in the programmed machine information without trying to understand how that information is arrived at and what questions should be asked.
I also feel that some will do the financial work and people control but not be able to understand what happens on the shop floor.
When I started out, I was told to find out what the client produced and how. A few hours spent finding out what the client actually does makes it easier to understand the problems they face and how we can help.
How would you describe the role of CAs in business and in wider society? And what are the opportunities?
The CA qualification generates an enquiring mind, but unless that mind spends time on the mechanics of the industry in which they work to understand everyday problems, then their advice could be questionable.
The letters after the name are an indication to society of a person with ability and experience who can help.
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest personal achievement is easy. I have managed to provide for and - with my wife’s help - bring up a family who are able to stand on their own two feet and who I am proud of.
Professionally, gaining my CA qualification is high on the list and the fact that people still seek my advice on matters - not necessarily always related to my qualification - is wonderful.
I have made many friends through my work over the years.
During a consultancy assignment in Belfast in the mid-60s I was tasked with reducing the shop floor workforce in a bus depot by at least one third.
This was achieved by training the work force to carry out their own work study on the work being carried out on the buses and then helping them to design better work practices.
When I left, after the assignment had been running for the first period, the workforce had dropped by 20% and it looked as if the workforce reduction would in fact be achieved.
More important to me was that I received Christmas cards from some of the men for many years after.
What makes you proud to be a CA?
I am proud to be a CA because I have been able to help clients become friends, and that after a long career I still feel great when I look at my Membership Certificate on my wall.
I have helped a lot of clients over the years and the initial training I received during my apprenticeship instilled in me a work and personal ethic of giving of my best.