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How technology can enhance the learning process

Like many organisations over the last year, we’ve had to embrace ways to teach remotely and digitally, and while we are back teaching face-to-face in a classroom, there are some elements of technology that might be here to stay. So today we’re running through how technology can enhance the learning process, and what we’ve learned over the last year.

Driving improvement

Consistently improving is a huge priority for us, to ensure we provide the best possible training we can for all of our students. We’ve adopted various approaches to maintain our high level of teaching, and our results over the last year go to show how successful we’ve been.

Our regular model is based on small in-person classes, and adopting technology enables us to keep that small-group discursive atmosphere, while our students can access online resources to get assistance on demand – beyond the physical reach of their teacher.

Perhaps both a downside and upside of using technology is that education now doesn’t stop when the physical class finishes. Students can access teachers, resources, and assignments via the web whenever and wherever they have an internet connection.

Efficient communication

Opening up new work and study channels online facilitates new ways of communication, allowing learners to communicate in a way that best suits them, and challenging others to build up their skills in online channels. Documents can be shared, with comments, discussions and all manner of break-out groups formed for specific topics to streamline communication.

Our approach has adapted the traditional classroom into a network where teachers can post assignments progressively, and students can ask questions more easily–of teachers and of their peers–and reference a structured record of past discussions and classes. Those that might not feel confident in putting their hand up in class can still ask the questions they need to without fear of embarrassment, and sources can be shared easily.

Faster referencing

The days of flipping through heaps of books to locate a specific reference or theory are all but behind us, as resources, links and guides with specific page, section and line markers can be shared easily online.

Since it is now much simpler to access a wider array of sources quickly, students can consolidate their learning and discover new material to complete their assignments or support their studies more efficiently.

From a practical perspective, ebooks also save students money and the burden of hauling around piles of books to different classes. Digital books can be stored on a tablet or e-reader they can bring everywhere, making digital course material and books much more convenient.

Effective assessments and data measurement

Technology not only allows teachers to prepare practice exercises in a productive manner, it also allows them to better measure the advancement of their students, and quickly make relevant changes or follow-up actions as they see the relevant data.

We’ve embedded smart data across the school not only for teachers, but for all support staff so communication is efficient, and students never have to wait long for answers from any of our staff.

Self-paced learning

Our small classes mean that tutors can tailor the speed of their teaching towards each group. However, self-guided learning and revision is another enormous advantage that students appreciate with the help of technology. Sometimes the theories and processes we discuss are very complicated, and students who might need more time can review these areas when they want to easily.

With technology being a core pillar of their learning, students can keep pace with their peers by using guided exercises and reading to take on new concepts at their own pace, and to practice again later, at home.

Platform familiarisation

Working on new online platforms is something we all have to get used to in the professional world. Especially when we change job or organisation. Many workplaces use Teams and many don’t – either way, it’s a useful platform to learn and become familiar with.

Becoming a digital native and adapting to new ways of working is what is expected in the 21st Century, so we believe in supporting that as much as we can, in combination with face-to-face contact where possible.

Maintain your wellbeing through changing times

The term ‘wellbeing’ is personal and subjective, but also universally relevant, and perhaps never more important as we tentatively adapt from one way of living and working to another.

It encompasses many aspects of our lives that we determine ourselves: through our own capabilities as individuals, how we feel about ourselves the quality of the relationships that we have with other people, and our sense of purpose.

These psychological needs are an important part of what makes us human, along with our ability to feel positive and negative emotions. It matters how often, and for how long, we experience positive emotions – such as pleasure and a sense of purpose – or potentially negative emotions, like anxiety.

Wherever you are and whatever your cultural background or personal circumstances, people intuitively understand the value of happiness and wellbeing. But we don’t all know how best to manage it within ourselves. So today we’re looking at how you can do that, at home and at work.

Wellbeing at work

In the UK nearly 1 in 7 people experience mental health issues in the workplace. And while that’s a scary figure, it isn’t exactly surprising. Most people spend the majority of their waking lives at work, encountering stress, long hours, difficult colleagues and customers, financial worries, and a poor work-life balance – which can all take a physical and mental toll. So how can you manage this as big changes are going on around you?

1. Practice all-round self-care

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to maintaining wellbeing, so staying healthy and positive to start with can prevent deeper issues arising later. Remember the basics:

Eat well, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, maintain a good social life, and minimise use of drugs and alcohol.

That might sound simplistic, but when life gets too much, it can be easy to stop doing any number of these self-care essentials. Building them into a daily routine will help prevent and alleviate wellbeing-related issues.

2. Take breaks

We can all sometimes feel like there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Often, it is a case of constantly playing catch up to stay on top of the situation.

Therefore, taking breaks can seem like an impossible luxury, but to avoid burnout, what it takes is a good dose of self-discipline! Even the shortest break can make a world of difference.

Just because you might be back in your workplace after a long time, remember to get away from the computer and into the fresh air. Put the phone down and do something personally gratifying such as reading a book, having a healthy snack, sitting in the sunshine, and generally taking a breather. Doing these things will be sure to improve your overall health and wellbeing in the workplace.

3. Maintain your work/life balance

It can feel difficult to switch off that computer and pack your bag bang on the dot, but it helps when you’re nearing the end of the day to work out what you can realistically complete in time, and what will have to be rolled over or passed on. Practicing efficient time management works for you and your colleagues.

Then when you’re out of work, try organising fun things to do in the evenings and weekends too! Join a social club, sports team, yoga class, or take part in any other activity of interest. Doing these things will imbue life with a greater sense of meaning, purpose and happiness to take forward into the working week.

4. Communicate openly

The communication of wellbeing needs at work is of real importance, yet we know people can be wary of ‘complaining’ about perceived non-essential things.

Communication of any physical or mental issue is key to receiving help and improving the situation. All employers have a responsibility to support the wellbeing of their staff – but they need to know the situation first. A one-to-one session with a line manager can make a significant positive difference.

Equally, encouraging these conversations throughout the workplace helps create an atmosphere of openness and tolerance, especially during times when we all need a bit of a boost!

5. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness of the present-moment, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Countless people now practice it every day in support of all manner of physical and mental struggles. Among its many known benefits, mindfulness is scientifically proven to help relieve pain, reduce stress, and ease anxiety.

By focusing on a sensory experience, such as breathing, attention is brought firmly into the here-and-now. Worries and concerns get side-lined as people ground themselves in the reality of the moment.

Practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes each day, or in the midst of a tough situation, can make a big difference to overall wellbeing. There are many apps that can help – take a look on your next break or ask friends and colleagues about what they might recommend.

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy return to your respective work places.

Why accountants should take notice of diversity and inclusion

We saw an interesting discussion started by our friends at ICAEW about the importance of diversity within the profession, and why accountants at any stage in their career should pay attention to it.

Following on from their Member Spotlight event featuring Catherine Vaughan (partner and diversity champion at EY Ireland), ICAEW have prompted us all to think about the relevance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) for accountants, how and to whom we communicate such messages, and practical steps we can take to make the profession more inclusive.

Four reasons why D&I matters

Firstly, there is a moral obligation within the profession to be trustworthy. Accountants provide guidance, which often involves moral guidance on particular matters as well. By promoting diversity and inclusivity, the profession should be an example of how people should behave.

Secondly, there are tactical reasons for why accountants should care about D&I. Research shows that if an organisation excels at D&I, its workers are better at teamwork and collaboration, retention rates are higher, and they tend to have better market share and a greater chance of succeeding in new markets. These facts demonstrate how important D&I is to stability, growth and success of businesses.

Thirdly, accountants have to always have one eye on the future as well as managing what’s happening now. Building partnerships that will be profitable in the future means keeping one step ahead of the game, and keeping all options open. Key questions might be: where is my pool of future talent? Am I doing enough to help them develop?

Finally, D&I goes hand in hand with empathy – a word not often heard in accountancy! But clients often want to feel empathy between their accountants and and themselves. For people to believe that you will help them, there has to be a level of understanding. You have to be able to identify with them, and openness to new people and ideas is an important part of that.

Communicating D&I topics

Once you’re sorted on your position and policy in relation to diversity and inclusion, how and to whom should accountants communicate these for maximum effect? In general, your audience will be people of privilege: white, male (and some female), cis, middle-aged and well-educated, who are running the show and need to make changes. As accountants, you have an obligation to convince yourself and your colleagues and counterparts to do the right thing. It is not enough to assume this is ‘someone else’s responsibility’ – inclusion is everyone’s responsibility all of the time.

When communicating, it is important to understand what is being asked of people. It is more than a ‘tell’ instruction, ie ‘you need to be more diverse’, rather it is an ask for change management. Succession planning is a good example. When a white person is always being replaced by a white person, a man is always being replaced by a man, and a straight person is always being replaced by a straight person, there is no change. Questions should be asked about who is making decisions around these replacements and how those patterns can break, most importantly, to include people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives in the decision-making process.

Practical steps

It is helpful for organisations (and teams) to have D&I scorecards, which include things like percentage of women in leadership roles, gender and ethnicity pay gaps, training and development opportunities and requirements etc. Other measures involve self-identification from staff. Employee groups are also important, whether related to ethnicity, education diversity, gender or sexual identity, religion or other areas.

It’s also important to look beyond university degrees for recruitment. For example, many LGBT+ young people become excluded from the home and thus face higher barriers to completing formal education. They may be talented, but on paper they do not tick the expected boxes. You might be losing your highest potential future talent without even meeting them. Apprenticeships are now a very popular method of training new accountants from diverse backgrounds, so this is something to consider.

Essentially, it’s all about going back to the core values of our profession which relate to fairness, equity and trust. All accountants have a moral obligation to remember that. Diversity and inclusion give you the reason to find out why someone is different and then to invite them in to express that difference and contribute to your success.

On-Demand Exam FAQs

ICAEW – Certificate Level E-assessments:

Can I still attend a Certificate Level courses and take my exam ?

Yes courses will continue as currently timetabled.  ICAEW have agreed with Pearsons to temporarily run Certificate Level e-assessments via remote invigilation.  To find out more and how to book your e-assessment, please refer to the ICAEW website.



ACCA – On demand Exams:

Can I still attend and take my Skills level on-demand exams ?

Yes courses will continue as currently timetabled.  In locations where our on-demand CBE centres are not available due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are offering students the opportunity to sit remotely invigilated on-demand CBEs. Find out more information on how you can take these exams HERE.

CIMA – On demand exams:

Can I still attend and take my OT on-demand and Case Study exams ?
Yes courses will continue as currently timetabled.  CIMA have confirmed their on-demand and Case Study examinations will continue via remote invigilation.  Please refer to the CIMA website for further information.

Here are a number of essential CIMA resources to help you ?
FAQs are continuing to be updated and refreshed so please see if your question is answered here first. Recent updates include a step by step guide to scheduling an exam, and whiteboard demo. The CIMA PV page is where students need to go to do a system test, it also has some other policy and procedure information which might be useful. We have produced a series of videos which are all available here and include:

  • Introduction to Online CIMA exams
  •  Your top questions answered
  • CIMA study support resources
  • Online exam whiteboard guide. In addition, the online whiteboard demo is available here (please note: this is an open source whiteboard which is very similar to the Pearson Vue online whiteboard, so will help students get familiar with the tool)
  • How to guide for checking in and beginning an exam


I am an apprentice and have a meeting booked with my Learning Coach, will this go ahead ?
All meetings will go ahead via Skype.  Any changes to Coach meetings must be agreed with your Learning Coach via your OneFile account.

How do I contact Reed Business School ?
Please continue to call us 01608 674224  or email us on rbs.reed@reedbusinessschool.co.uk

How will we receive notification of any changes ?
We will contact you directly with any updates that affect you and your course bookings.

We will keep this page updated with any further developments.

Updated: 27/07/21

Covid-19: Current Courses

Online FAQs

How will I receive details of my on-line course ?
Joining instructions will be emailed to your chosen email address providing you with a link to access your on-line course.  These will be sent to you 2 working days ahead of the start date.

What do I do if I haven’t received the joining instructions ?
Please ensure that at least 1 working day before your course is due to start you check you have received your joining instructions.  If you have not received an email, please check your ‘spam’ folder.  Failing that check, please email rbs.reed@reedbusinessschool.co.uk

What platform will be used to deliver the online classroom?
Reed Business school will be using Microsoft Teams.

Do I need a login and password to enter the classroom ?
You will be sent a Teams login.

Can I log on with more than one device ?

What time will my lecture start and when do I need to log on?
The class will begin at 9.00am unless you are otherwise advised in your joining instructions.  Please ensure you have logged into the class by 8:45 to ensure you have sufficient time to resolve any technical issues.

What should I do if I my on-line course connection fails ?
Please contact Reed Business School on 01608 674224.

Will a recording be made available to me ?
Yes.  All your recordings will be available within your Microsoft Team login

Can I talk to the tutor ?
Yes.  All communication with your tutor will be via Teams.

Apprenticeship FAQs

I am an apprentice and have a meeting booked with my Learning Coach, will this still go ahead?
All meetings will go ahead via Skype, any changes to Coach meetings must be agreed with your Learning Coach via your OneFile account.

What am I able to include on my timesheet whilst I am furloughed from my workplace?
You are able to include any new learning and training you have undertaken as long as it has been accessed during normal work hours. This can include all the time you have spent on online courses related to the knowledge, skills and behaviours for the accountancy standard which may include Reed, any Webinars, AccountingCpd, TaxTV or STEPS programs you have taken part in, or any study and revision you have done towards your exams.

ICAEW Examinations

Please remain up to date with announcements released on the ICAEW Coronavirus Qualification update website.

ACCA Examinations

Please remain up to date with announcements released on the ACCA Coronavirus Exam information update website.

ACCA On-demand exams

Please contact Reed Business School to enquire on availability to sit on-demand exams at the Manor. rbs.reed@reedbusinessschool.co.uk

CIMA Examinations

Please remain up to date with announcements released on the CIMA website.

CIMA On-demand exams

Please contact Reed Business School to enquire on availability to sit on-demand exams at the Manor.

Updated: 06/09/21

Nurturing Student Success – William Fowler

This week we caught up with William Fowler, a newly qualified accountant at Whitley Stimpson. William completed his professional ACA qualification with us, and placed in the top 10 in ICAEW’s 2020 Annual Order of merit, for consistently high top marks across his exams.

Finding his feet

William has always been a numbers man, studying Maths at Warwick university, and is no stranger to hard work, grafting his way through various hospitality jobs during the holidays as well. Glad to move on from pot-washing after graduation, he briefly considered software development as a career option, but thought his analytical skills might be put to better use in accountancy.

“The first accountancy firm I applied to rejected me on the grounds that they didn’t think I was suited to accountancy, but the second one disagreed and offered me a job.”

After joining Whitley Stimpson as a trainee accountant, William began his formal training in July 2017. He started off with the basics – like tax returns and manual accounts preparation, but as he progressed with Reed Business School, his skillset, client base and technicality of his work began to soar.

Covering the basics

William admits that he found his early days at the manor somewhat “brain-frazzling”, as he got to grips with bookkeeping.

“It was a lot to take in, but once you get that knowledge, you have a really good basis for your career.”

He really enjoyed the experience of his regular stays at the school. In particular, William responded to the structure of the lessons, combining learning with practice paper questions, having in-depth discussions with tutors, and always being able to ask for clarification on anything.

“It was a really worthwhile experience, and I’d recommend making use of the tutors and their knowledge as much as possible.”

Time Management

“Some advice I was given by someone a year ahead of me on the course was to aim to complete half an hour to one hour of revision each night, then as much as possible at the weekend, so that’s what I tried to do as much as I could.”

This perhaps sums up William’s methodical and thorough approach to his studying, which is what he credits to his continually high marks throughout his qualification. He was meticulous in making his own notes, and then practicing every question and paper possible in the run-up to exams.

“You only get to do these things once, so you want to do them properly and not have to worry about redoing them.”

William admits there were times he found everything quite stressful, but was very thankful to his partner for her support, as well as his colleagues and extended networks for their guidance in how best to approach his studying. Being able to completely focus on his studies while at the school was also really beneficial for him.

Aiming high

Perhaps another driver for William’s success, was a competitive rivalry he had with another student going through the same process.

“We had a friendly and light-hearted rivalry, and it was good to work with someone who also wanted to do well, to bounce off in terms of revision and work ethic etc.”

William’s hard work saw him triumph over his rival in most exams, but he does admit he struggled slightly more on the non-technical papers.

Technical vs non-technical

Most students will have a preference for either the technical or non-technical papers, and for William, he liked the certainty of knowing the relevant rules and information, and being able to apply the correct part to specific situations.

William’s passion for correctness was also evident in his approach to practice papers and questions, where he would follow the marking guidelines, make specific notes of the points he missed, and revise these areas specifically twice a week.

For the case study and strategic business management units, William found that learning to identify what the question was asking for, and how to get easy marks, was the most challenging aspect.

“In the non-technical papers, the numbers don’t matter as much as what you say around them – so exam practice and technique are really important. That’s what the tutors at Reed Business School are really good for, you can trust them to get you through the exam.”

Combining work and study

Often cited as one of the biggest challenges to completing a professional finance qualification, William found the structure of the course, and his own ability to manage his time very beneficial. Being able to combine what he’d learned with his job also helped him be better at both.

“The first accounting exam is good to get under your belt. After that, other things started clicking into place. I found the audit side of the course quite high level to begin with, and it took slightly longer to fit with what I was doing at work, but when I was able to combine the two, I felt much more confident going into the exam.”

Advice for others

William states that he was personally very rigid with his revision, and wouldn’t let anything get in its way, which he believes is the attitude you have to have if you want to do well. He admits it’s not much fun at times, which is why your networks and support bubble are so important.

“Do as many questions as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask the tutors any questions you have. They always make the time to go through any queries, and are always just a phone call or  email away. Trust their knowledge, and use them as much as you can.”

What’s next?

William is now fully qualified, and assessing his options for the future. He’s been lucky to be exposed to quite a few areas within the profession so far, but particularly enjoys working with clients.

“My director looks after quite a few trusts, and I enjoy managing and overseeing tax returns and operations for them. I might look to specialise in that area in the future, but I’d like to take a break from studying for now!”

William also has half an eye on becoming a director one day, but only if he can manage the work-life balance, which is now even more important for him as he’s due to get married soon. But whatever happens, getting qualified means many more options are now open to him, and we wish him all the best.

Celebrating student success – Lily Gammon

This month we caught up with Lily Gammon, a Senior at PKF Francis Clark, who is currently completing her ACA qualification with us, and who recently achieved first place and the Knox Prize in her Tax Compliance exam.

Humble beginnings

Like many people when they come towards the end of their A-Levels, Lily didn’t have a clear direction of the path she wanted to follow.

“I knew university wasn’t for me, as I’m a home girl at heart, but when I finished college I wanted to continue learning while working at the same time.”

Lily chose to stay close to her hometown of Plymouth, and explored options related to her interests and skills. Always enjoying and excelling at Maths, Lily joined local firm PKF Francis Clark as a trainee accounts assistant, and enrolled on a local college course to begin her AAT. She enjoyed the balance of spending one day a week studying, while being able to apply her learning to real world situations at work during the other four days of the week.

Starting her ACA

After completing her 3-year AAT qualification, Lily took a break from studying, which allowed her to consider her options again. Then realising the study bug was still alive and well, she joined some of her colleagues from across PKF Francis Clark’s offices in undertaking her ACA qualification with Reed Business School in 2019.

Lily really enjoyed her trips to our school while working through her certificate level papers, taking advantage of everything our idyllic setting has to offer.

“Going to the manor was great to get away from other distractions and just focus on studying, and I loved being cooked for every day as well!”

Classroom vs online learning

While Lily valued the classroom environment and the structure and pacing of the lessons, she’s also enjoying our online classes, and is clearly excelling in them too.

“Being in a classroom allows tutors to respond to student questions, and give further explanations where we need them, but the quality of learning online is still excellent, and the tutors have adapted really well.”

Secrets to success

While Lily was surprised to do so well in her recent paper, she puts her success down to her hard work and preparation.

“I’m someone who likes to be prepared with my revision, and I hate leaving things to the last minute.”

Lily admits she’ll attend our revision sessions having already done a lot of work herself, so she can be ready and armed with questions about things she’d like some extra support with. And when it comes to practice papers, her approach is just as thorough and well-planned.

“I’ll make use of every practice paper I can, starting with individual questions 2-3 weeks before the exam, working up to full papers in timed conditions, to make sure I’m as prepared as possible.”

Lily will mark her own papers using the guidance and mark scheme provided, but be quite harsh on herself to keep her motivated to do better.

“I just want to do the best that I can do.”

She’ll average about 20 hours per week of study time, across evenings and weekends, and believes that hard work and preparation is more important than being naturally clever.

Lily also believes being able to apply her studies to what she does at work is an excellent way to help embed her knowledge.

“I do quite a lot of tax in my current role, and it’s interesting to learn more intricate details on the job, to take my understanding that one step further – I have quite a few moments where I think ‘Oh that’s why we do it that way,’ or ‘that’s what that means.’”

Advice for others

Lily believes everyone has their own style of learning, and advises students to follow what works best for them.

“I’m quite an independent studier, and love starting early to get ahead, then just getting into my books to figure things out. But it’s good to have a network of people to call on when you get stuck on something.”

She also advises taking a pragmatic approach to time management, carefully balancing work, study and home life.

“In some ways covid has made things a bit easier to focus on studying, as I go out a lot less, so have more time at home to revise and do practice papers, but I make sure I give myself breaks, and if I want to take a night off sometimes, I do. Because I plan in advance and start early, I take a bit of pressure off myself by the time the exam comes around.”

However, Lily advises against underestimating how hard the training really is.

“It’s a lot of work and a big commitment. You need to be willing to put in the hours if you’re going to get anything out of it.”

What’s next for Lily?

All being well, Lily has about 18 months left with us to become fully qualified, at which point she’ll definitely take a break. At the moment she works in her firm’s client services team, with quite a varied role that she enjoys.

“I don’t see myself specialising in one area at the moment, I just want to get through my exams and then see where we are.”

Lily, we wish you all the best and we look forward to welcoming you back to the manor soon!

Why lockdown shouldn’t limit your career progression

There might not be as much recruitment happening at the moment, and fewer projects lined up for the medium term, but that doesn’t mean you should stop progressing in your career or lining yourself up for the next step when things get back to (kind of) normal. “But how?” we hear you ask. It’s time to take another look at networking, and how the game has adapted online.

Many of us shudder at the thought of traditional networking – being in a room full of people we don’t know, yet knowing we should somehow ‘work’ it to our advantage. So, if such scenarios are out of the question for a while, how can we continue to meet and make introductions to potentially useful people while at home?

Start with your existing network

Networking advice often focuses on meeting new people and developing professional relationships with them. But while making connections is important, so is maintaining the relationships you already have.

If all of your interactions with your connections can be tied back to particular projects, take a little time to check in on a personal or nostalgic level. Everyone is under a lot of stress right now, and a friendly message can help brighten someone’s workday.

Personal messages are just a start. You have the technology, so invite someone – or a group of people – to a virtual coffee break or happy hour. The more ways you can interact with your network, the stronger your bonds will become.

There’s no social distancing on social media

You have a LinkedIn account, but how often do you use it? Many people spend hours perfecting their profile while we’re job hunting, only to let it languish once in a new position. But right now, LinkedIn is more active than ever, so why not join the conversation?

To start with, make sure you’re connected to all your colleagues. Join groups that are relevant to your interests, and don’t be shy about speaking up. You never know when you might meet someone new or reconnect with an old contact – and that won’t happen if you’re only lurking.

While many finance and accounting professionals prefer LinkedIn, you can connect with individuals and relevant groups on virtually every social media platform. Just stay professional, approachable, and consider your strategy as you build a social media presence.

Knowledge Exchange

Some people are busier than others at the current time, but if you do find yourself with a couple of spare hours on your hands here and there, why not organise a knowledge exchange with some of your connections?

Simply identify some individuals whose experience you’d like to learn more about, and see if there’s anything you can offer them in return. A simple presentation about what you’ve learnt in a specific area might be very valuable to some of your connections – allowing you to develop your skills and knowledge, as well as your network at the same time.

A blended approach

To network most effectively, you need to use each method carefully as part of a wider strategy. By strengthening your relationships with people you already know, you increase the likelihood of them wanting to introduce you to new people or new opportunities.

In addition, the more you interact with people on social media, the more visible you are. And the more visible you are, the more likely you are to attract attention from potential new contacts. A friend of a friend or even a perfect stranger might want to respond to your comments, but that requires you to make comments in the first place.

Just as your real-world contacts can help you network on social media, your social media contacts can help you network at virtual events. By joining relevant groups on social media, you can discuss upcoming conferences with your friends and potentially meet fellow attendees. If there isn’t a group for your interest area already, start one yourself — perhaps a knowledge exchange group where you each take turns to educate each other.

We’re all limiting our human interactions these days, but that doesn’t have to mean limiting your human connections. With these techniques you can continue to develop your professional skills and contacts without ever leaving home.

What can accountants learn about the collapse of Nuffield Southampton Theatres?

It’s a trying time for businesses and third sector organisations right now, with many gritting their teeth and hoping they’ll be able to keep going when life returns to some semblance of normality. And while it’s unfortunate, it is also unsurprising that many have had to close their doors for good.

One particular organisation entering administration last week that caught our eye was Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST). But what makes their case interesting, and what clues can it give about the future of the arts in the UK?

A city in turmoil

Southampton General Hospital is the largest in the UK, and with Southampton being the main city in Hampshire – a region with one of the highest rates of Covid-19 confirmed cases, it’s certainly been very busy in the last few weeks. But just up the road, Nuffield Theatres Southampton has never been quieter.

Greg Palfrey of Smith and Williamson, joint administrator of the venue, said: “This is a sad day for Southampton, of which NST has been a venerable part of the city’s cultural fabric for more than half a century.”

The Nuffield Theatres started life when the University of Southampton, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, built a venue on its campus. Known today as Nuffield Southampton Theatres, it opened a second venue last year, NST City, in Southampton’s Cultural Quarter.

Are the Arts keeping us together or falling apart?

The lockdown has seen us all turn towards the arts – from television, to music, recorded theatre to crafting and even creative gaming. But in times of trouble, will they also be the first thing we lose?

Understandably, the closure of NST has provoked an outpouring of grief and sympathy for the 80-strong staff, but also nervousness – can we expect more arts centres to follow suit, given the demise of Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax last month?

While we don’t claim to have inside knowledge of NST, it is possible to view public records, including their Annual Accounts filed with Companies House for 2018/19, from which we can gather a few things.

Low reserves

When moving into the new City Centre venue in 2018/19, NST recorded losses of over £500k. These losses were covered by their unrestricted reserves – leaving them almost entirely drained, and with much less security than was clearly needed in light of Covid-19.

Charities are generally advised not to have reserves at too high a level (which can make funders question whether investment is necessary); while low reserves pose serious questions about whether an organisation can be a going concern. For 2018/19 the salaries bill for NST was £1.7m (including Tax & NI) – meaning a reserves policy that covered three months’ operating costs would still require £425k for salaries alone.

The move was clearly designed to increase their income potential, so dipping into the reserves for a project with that end result makes sense in a lot of ways. It would be easy to say every organisation should always operate with secure reserves, but then we are effectively saying the arts should be risk-averse – which is contradictory to a lot of people’s beliefs.

Funding cuts

NST have also faced cuts to their funding. An agreement with University of Southampton saw NST receive £170k a year, but this was on the basis of them running a venue on campus – and with them due to vacate that venue in April 2020, this income would disappear. In addition, funding from Southampton City Council has been reducing year-on-year due to austerity measures.

Arts Council NPO funding is secure and available (for now), even though the bureaucracy involved can be burdensome. Arts Council England (ACE) generally don’t like seeing organisations in the NPO portfolio go to the wall, so will help where they can – but these uniquely challenging circumstances no doubt limited what they could provide.

Lost visitor spend

Part of the appeal of undertaking capital projects is the ability to increase visitor/secondary spend. Most large venues turn over huge amounts of money at their bars, or through merchandise sales – in addition to ticket sales. In 2018/19 NST recouped £250k from these areas of income, a figure which no doubt would have increased in a new City Centre venue with increased visitor footfall.

This requires the venue to be open, though – and with the lockdown, there’s no income in these areas. Even after theatres can reopen, who’s to say what the numbers will look like, and how long it will be before we get back to ‘normal’ levels? We have to assume most venues will see significant drops in audience numbers during the next 12 months at least, so a reduction in visitors means a reduction in income – and with the expected increased income NST would have budgeted for, this could have been the fatal blow. How many arts centres are in a similar position?

Touring of own and co-productions

One of NST’s most notable successes in recent years has been the development of their own work and co-productions with touring potential. In 2018/19 this work recouped around £750k in income. It’s unclear from the report how these productions were paid for, so it’s hard to tell how profitable such ventures were. But this is another revenue stream that will also have dried up given the lockdown.


Realistically, few venues should find themselves in a similar situation to NST, as not many have undertaken extensive capital projects in the last year. Such ventures put pressure on reserves, and are always risky – plenty of venues will have gotten away with much bigger risks in recent years, purely due to the world being more stable.

What we can assume is that it is not the impact of Covid-19 alone which has led to the venue being put into administration – which some may find reassuring. However, with limited income across the board, other venues may find themselves in similar positions should times continue to be tough even when lockdown is lifted, and the industry must brace itself for a difficult year.

Concluding, administrator Greg Palfrey added, “NST is a well-respected theatre company, with a range of assets, that could survive and thrive. The Board remain hopeful that the City venue will be able to reopen to artists and the community alike in the future.”

The future of finance: responsibility

Nick Jackson FCMA, CGMA was elected as the 87th annual President of CIMA, and he will also serve as Vice-Chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), the global accounting organisation formed by CIMA and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) representing over 650,000 accountants worldwide. He was quick to share his views on the future of finance, with one key term consistently getting a mention: responsibility. We take a closer look at what that might mean for accountants working today.

Accountants have a ‘vital role’ to play

Nick Jackson, an experienced digital transformation leader, began by acknowledging the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the world, pushing economies and businesses to their limit:

“Although events like COVID-19 are thankfully rare on a global scale, they do present an opportunity to make positive changes. We must be leaders in showing that change is not something to be afraid of. We should take this chance to reimagine what finance provides and how we work. It’s a time: to build trust, to take responsibility, and to grasp this opportunity to deliver broader stakeholder benefits, that takes account of social, environmental and economic value.”

He continued by emphasised that finance professionals need to be agents of change and lead their organisation towards the adoption of more sustainable, responsible business practices:

“We have to move beyond simply providing insight to the numbers, to bringing more value through recommendations and follow-up action. We need to recognise that the success of a business as exemplified by the figures on a balance-sheet, have many other elements – tangible and intangible.”

The time is now

Jackson encourages accountants to look beyond immediate ups and downs in relation to quarterly accounts, which can sometimes come at the expense of employees, the environment, and ethics. He believes that the quest for short-term profitability hinders long-term growth, resilience, and performance, and that now, more than ever, we need to focus on our organisations as a whole and think in terms of years instead of quarters.

Responsible finance looks at how businesses connect long-term growth and profitability with the greater good. On a deeper level, responsible finance is how an organisation integrates all parts of its business to ensure it creates value beyond the products or services it provides.

It’s easy to see why the ideology has garnered popularity throughout the profession, given how it makes perfect sense for management accountants, who need to understand all aspects of the business — how the varying parts integrate with one another and the organisation’s objectives, and how they are likely to perform in the coming years.

Jackson highlighted some key questions that accountants should be asking to understand the full scope of their organisation to ensure it creates value beyond the products or services it provides:

  • How does our brand stand up against the competition?
  • Does our supply chain reflect our values and mission?
  • How do we treat employees and build culture?
  • How are we improving processes, so we don’t deplete resources?

Across the globe, business leaders are already taking a more holistic approach to business planning, moving beyond balance sheets and annual reports, to examine values and behaviours, risks and risk appetite, and value creation for investors and stakeholders.

Resources to help implement responsible finance

  • Rethinking the business modeloffers insights from CEOs — from public and private organisations — as well as practical examples of how to measure value.
  • Creating a sustainable futureexplains how sustainable development goals (SDGs) are the root of responsible finance and offers steps for creating them. SDGs focus on transparency and consider social, environmental, and developmental implications in business decisions.
  • The Association’s integrated reportoutlines how the year’s accomplishments bring value to our stakeholders. Integrated reporting looks beyond the numbers and considers the value of the brand, employees, reputation, and other intangibles, revealing the interconnection of different parts of a business.

Final thoughts

Finance professionals serve as trusted advisers to their organisations and clients, and are relied upon not only to interpret data, but also to see the big picture and offer insights about how to marry the two concepts to drive prosperity. Therefore, the role of the accountant in the future depends on the ability to reimagine current functions – to go beyond simply being stewards of money, and to shape the global impact of each organisation for future generations.