Ifat Jhugroo is a director at Sleigh & Story
Despite graduating from university with an accounting degree, I felt I didn’t know much about accountancy as I had no practical experience. I found my confidence through the group work I did whilst completing a Masters in Finance, Accounting & Management. I had expected to walk into a job, instead I found that I was over-qualified for trainee positions and that experience was everything.
I was fortunate enough to attain work experience initially as an office admin in a practice where by the end of the first week, I was supporting the tax team and achieved the best exposure to life in practice in the nine months I was there. I started on the ACCA journey when I first started working.
"After qualifying, I realised I didn’t want to be a number cruncher behind a desk – I wanted to be talking to clients and supporting them in their decisions."
So I moved to Sleigh & Story and worked my way up. The partners were open to suggestions for improvements, and they had expressed their interest in both me and team member Jonny Stead taking over the practice, we were both ACCA members. We’d been managers in separate teams up until then, and we hadn’t done much work directly with each other. After spending some time working together, we realised that we had different strengths and viewpoints, but our values were aligned, namely that client relationships were key. We realised we worked well together and that’s when we decided to start the process. We obtained our practising certificates and took over the practice at the end of December 2020.
In the run-up to the takeover, we’d asked the partners to reduce their presence in the office so that clients and the team would rely on us more. With the pandemic, that happened naturally, and it’s been a smooth takeover – even though I gave birth three months before taking over the practice with Jonny!
"I’d say the biggest challenge has been the workload – continuing with the work I already had and then all the firm’s work on top of that – taking care of the team and our systems. "
There’s a lot more to focus on and I hadn’t quite appreciated all the extra stuff that happens in the background.
We’re so lucky to have such a great team and we have quite a unique set up in our office which is open plan for everybody – so from the most junior member of staff to the partners, we all sit together with our desks facing each other. If anybody needs any help, they can just shout out a query or have a conversation - the knowledge sharing is immense with our setup. The group dynamics are so good, and we look out for each other.
The personal relationship is so important between a client and their accountant. Being someone’s accountant, you’ve got that trust and you need to communicate information to them and get information from them. I love being able to connect people – sometimes the only person that clients can open up to is their accountant. If they have a problem, then I can often connect them with a contact that can help - it’s all about the people skills beyond the world of accountancy.
Currently, my spare time is pretty much taken up by my little girl, however, now that she’s 15 months I think (don’t want to jinx it!) she’s starting to get into a routine. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger and I’m hoping my next step is to become a trustee on a charity board within this next year to learn new skill sets and give back through my own skills and knowledge that I have attained over the years leading to now.