My journey towards ACCA membership

Student profile: Kerstin Benthack, financial analyst, American Express, London, UK


Kerstin Benthack’s accountancy career really began while studying for her degree in International Business with French.

‘I found I enjoyed the accountancy modules most of all,’ she says, ‘and so I applied for a number of graduate traineeships with accountancy firms.’

One employer, American Express, stood out from the others. ‘American Express has a global presence – and I want to travel during my career – and has a reputation as a great place to work,’ explains Kerstin. ‘The company also offers financial services but without a banking or investment arm, which appealed to me.’

As a result, Kerstin was delighted to join the company as a trainee, and to start her journey towards ACCA membership. ‘I opted for ACCA because of its flexibility,’ she says, adding: ‘I was also attracted by the mix of management and financial accounting.’

On joining American Express, Kerstin began her career in the controllership department: ‘I worked on projects designed to improve our financial reporting systems, ‘which helped me gain a good grasp of how the business is structured.’

She then moved on to join the world service finance team in Brighton: ‘This team provides reporting and decision support to customer leadership teams in Europe, Australia and Japan. The focus is on adding value and on working closely with business partners, an aspect I really enjoy, as well as undertaking detailed analyses of different issues and then presenting my findings.’

American Express is an ACCA Platinum Approved Employer for trainee development, which makes life significantly easier for its ACCA students. Study is well supported (‘I receive study leave and my manager understands that I need extra time around exams’), giving Kerstin all the encouragement she needs for exam success, as shown in her December 2013 performance which won her the Paper P3 prize.

In addition, gaining work experience becomes an automatic process, which is a real benefit for students who combine study with a demanding job: ‘As the work I do is already recognised as relevant to ACCA membership, I don’t need to answer challenge questions or formally complete and record performance objectives. This means I’m confident that my role is always relevant to the ACCA Qualification; I am around 30 months through my work experience now and aim to achieve ACCA membership in September 2014.’

Global companies such as American Express offer great career opportunities without the need to leave the organisation, as Kerstin is already discovering. Having moved once since joining as a graduate trainee, she’s about to move again and join the pricing team, based in the company’s London office.

‘It’s a new role for me and I’m very excited!’ she says, also acknowledging her longer term ambition to work abroad. ‘American Express is a multinational company with offices worldwide. I am confident that I will be able to work overseas in the future, perhaps in the US or Asia – American Express is an employer which offers accountants many opportunities.’