Employer FSA

Sally Tanner, ACCA member and forensic investigator for the Financial Services Authority (FSA), talks to Student Accountant about the benefits of working for an ACCA Accredited Employer

This article was first published in January 2005 in Student Accountant.

Although accountancy wasn’t Sally’s first choice, she became interested in the subject when studying towards a business finance degree at university. Even then, she didn’t want to move directly into practice: ‘I decided I wanted to gain a broader experience of the financial services industry, prior to specialising in my chosen area,’ Sally explains. ‘So instead I joined the FSA’s graduate programme. This offered everything I wanted – a two-and-a-half year programme which moves trainees around the FSA and which includes a six-month secondment to an external organisation.’

Almost as soon as she started however, Sally realised she wanted to study for a formal accountancy qualification. ‘I started my training in the authorisation division on non-routine investigations, looking at individuals wanting to become an authorised person under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. It soon became clear that accountancy skills were very important, and that if I gained a professional qualification my career could develop significantly. I chose to study with ACCA because it seemed the obvious choice. It’s globally recognised, and offers highly relevant training, anchored in the real world.’ Sally started her studies six months into her traineeship. Three years later Sally was awarded membership last September.

An ACCA Approved Accredited Employer, the FSA has helped Sally all the way: ‘They have been brilliant and very supportive, giving me study leave before exams and understanding the pressures of combining a demanding job with demanding study, especially ahead of my final exams. The FSA appointed a trained accountant to act as my study supervisor and she was excellent – without her I could not have done it. She helped keep my study records up-to-date, identified gaps in my experience and made sure these were filled, and even helped me find a relevant placement for my secondment – six months in the audit department at KPMG. But my training also benefited my employer as I found my ACCA studies complemented my work – I could apply what I learnt immediately while finding my everyday experience informed my course work.’

Sally’s career at the FSA has flourished: ‘Following my first year in the authorisation department, I moved to supervision, helping support and oversee the activities of Australian and African banks operating in the UK.’ Following the KPMG secondment, and the formal end of her traineeship, Sally moved to the enforcement division where she is now a forensic investigator, examining organisations or individuals suspected of breaking or failing to comply with FSA rules. ‘I work in a team comprising accountants and lawyers, and my ACCA training is invaluable – not only the technical aspect, but also the ability to appraise and analyse information quickly and effectively.’

The FSA operates a policy of learning and development for all staff and as part of this Sally will attend ACCA continuing professional development courses to strengthen and develop her accountancy skills, further enhancing her career prospects. ‘The FSA formally updates in-house accountants,’ she adds, ‘to make sure we’re kept abreast of any changes in the industry – even more important as we work in a relatively specialised field. And I still use my ACCA training every day. It helped me get where I am today, in what I consider to be the perfect job!’

About the Financial Services Authority Based in London, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) is an independent organisation responsible for regulating financial services in the UK. The FSA’s broad task is to achieve a marketplace that is run in an efficient and orderly manner while ensuring that consumers receive a fair deal by being properly informed and appropriately protected. The FSA was set up by the UK government, which remains responsible for the overall scope of the FSA’s regulatory activities and powers.

"The FSA formally updates in-house accountants to make sure we’re kept abreast of any changes in the industry – even more important as we work in a relatively specialised field"