Enhancing your CA skills: Distance learning with CAI
ICAS offers members the opportunity to upskill their financial expertise through a number of specialist diplomas offered in partnership with Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI).
Ross Hutchison CA, Real Estate Fund Accountant at Aberdeen Standard Investments, made the decision to pursue a Diploma in International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as a distance-learning opportunity last year.
Why did you decide to undertake the IFRS diploma?
On moving to the financial services industry in 2011 from an SME, I felt a bit light on technical knowledge compared to my peers, so I completed the ICAS-run Investment Accounting Diploma. After the intensity of the CA qualification, I was reticent to ever consider another exam. However, I was surprised at how much I took from the course and studying again, particularly as it was relevant to my role.
This positive experience led me to look for further professional development opportunities.
The IFRS diploma run by CAI and promoted by ICAS was the market-leading diploma and the next obvious choice for me at the time. This positive experience led me to look for further professional development opportunities and particularly encouraged me to continue refreshing my IFRS knowledge in light of the introduction of new UK GAAP.
Did learning from a distance affect how you approached the course?
With a young family and a busy job, I was concerned that finding the time to complete the course would be a challenge. However, the work is completed via an online ‘Moodle’ system, which is excellent, and allowed me to dip in and out of the coursework at times that suited me. The lectures are all recorded and available 24/7 online, so I didn’t feel disadvantaged in any way to those following the classroom programme.
The course is really well structured over a reasonable period of time. Half of the grade is awarded through a multi choice test and assignment, both of which have sensible time allocations from between being released and a submission deadline. This allowed me to identify times I could really focus on the course, study intensively and complete the assessments.
How has upskilling benefited your career? Was your employer supportive?
Showing willingness to commit to meaningful CPD was well received by my then employer. They were very supportive and also appreciated that, other than a half day for the final exam, no study days or time off was required.
I recently moved roles and the diploma was a huge benefit in the recruitment process.
My experience is that this course, and others offered by ICAS and CAI, have an excellent reputation. I recently moved roles and the diploma was a huge benefit in the recruitment process, as was being able to demonstrate a history of committing to upskilling.
What is the most important thing you learned that you use in your current role?
The practical application of various IFRSs. The course is brilliant at not just explaining the theory behind each IFRS, but actually detailing their implementation in relevant real life scenarios. The lecturers also offered insightful analysis regarding upcoming changes to IFRSs, and where practical guidance can be found. For example, IFRS 16 is an important standard in the Real Estate sector in which I work. The course covered this in detail, highlighting various papers and commentary I would otherwise have struggled to source, and all of which were extremely useful.
Would you recommend the course and others like it to fellow and future CAs?
Without hesitation. The course offers a qualification with some substance and distance learning allows the flexibility to complete it around work and other commitments.
Even as a distance learner, there is the opportunity to network and make contacts.
Studying with CAI was also a real plus. The team could not have been more helpful or responsive. Even as a distance learner, there is the opportunity to network and make contacts.
The next cohorts of our Specialist Qualifications commence soon: