Meet three CAs assisting the ICAS Foundation in its mission to open the doors to accountancy and finance.
The ICAS Foundation launched in 2012 with the goal of enabling young people from less privileged backgrounds to study accountancy and finance at university. Since then, and thanks to the generous support of ICAS members, more than 200 young people across the UK have been supported in their journey through higher education.
The ICAS Foundation offers bursaries of up to £2,500 per annum, easing the financial burden of pursuing a degree. It also operates a mentoring scheme that puts students in touch with leading professionals in their area. Around 120 ICAS members are currently mentoring foundation students, sharing knowledge and preparing them for the eventual transition from lecture hall to workplace.
The work of the foundation also helps to demystify the financial and professional services sectors, demonstrating to young people that they offer rewarding careers regardless of background. The message is that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed if they have the interest, talent and motivation.
It all relies on the continued support of ICAS members. We meet three donors, who share their involvement with the foundation and explain why they believe in opening doors to the profession.
ELIZABETH MURRAY CA
EVP and CFO, Trax Group
I moved to the United States 30 years ago and even though I no longer practise accountancy, I made sure never to lose touch with ICAS. For me, it is an incredibly important organisation because the training it provided has made my career and travels possible. I’m now blessed to be in a position where I can give back via the ICAS Foundation.
When you think about the bright young individuals who are interested in pursuing accountancy and finance as a career, it’s a shame that economic and social barriers may stand in their way. When I look back at how I got involved in the profession, it was thanks to the encouragement of my teachers, as well as family and friends. They helped to open my eyes to the opportunities that a career in accountancy could bring my way.
Similarly, as financial professionals, we have a responsibility to ensure the sector is accessible to anyone who has the interest and the aptitude. Collectively, we are all the better for it. Better access to education for young people will allow better ideas to be brought into our firms, building on the solid foundations that we have already achieved. No career is a solo endeavour – and those of young people represent our future.
I had the pleasure of meeting one of the students supported by the ICAS Foundation when he was on a work placement in Los Angeles. It was incredibly inspiring to hear his story and his enthusiasm for the subject. It reinforced what is possible with opportunity and hard work, something I hope my career has also demonstrated. There are many more success stories to be shared, but that particular encounter really cemented my belief in the foundation’s work.
DAVID CRUICKSHANK CA
Formal Global Chair, Deloitte
I’ve been giving to the ICAS Foundation since 2015. One of my goals is to help provide aspiration and inspiration to students who may have fewer role models. Talented people ought to be given opportunities regardless of where they start from. And, looking at it from the point of view of business, any group of people benefits from being diverse in terms of thinking and background. The more exclusive groups are, the less valuable they are to themselves and others.
For those who have had great careers, it is important to pause and think about how you can help provide the opportunities you had to other people. I’ve always believed in doing what we can as professionals to open doors for the next generations coming through. We need to raise awareness that the accountancy profession is a great place to work and a great place for young people. The ICAS Foundation very much embodies that philosophy.
The support the foundation offers is very flexible – it is not tied to achieving the CA qualification and students are free to forge their own paths in finance and accountancy. Whether or not they continue to pursue the profession after completing their studies, financial training is a great equaliser in starting a career. Crucially, the foundation helps people to shape their thinking about what they want to do in the future and sets them on the right track.
Looking at the impact of the pandemic, we’ve all got to do more over the next six months. There’s going to be continued disruption in the job market, especially for school leavers. Many young people will not come through this period with their previous plans intact, making the foundation’s work more important than ever.
MICHAEL SCOTT CA
Group Financial Controller, DPS Group
I was first introduced to the work of the ICAS Foundation when I was named One Young CA in 2018. Part of my presentation to the judges focused on the need to give back to young people from less privileged backgrounds, so I was immediately interested. A few months later, I got to meet around 30 foundation students at an event held at CA House in Edinburgh. Many came from backgrounds similar to my own – I was raised by a single parent in a council house – and hadn’t viewed accountancy as a viable career path until they began working with the foundation.
Breaking those invisible barriers to entering the accountancy and finance sectors will only create benefits. As well as offering stable and fulfilling careers to people of all backgrounds, it means we are able to recruit and retain the very best talent that is out there. In other words, improving access to education is a long-term investment in the health and strength of our profession.
ICAS has a long tradition of improving access to accountancy. The removal of the requirement to have a university degree allowed people like me to join the profession – I was one of the first students to qualify without one. The work of the foundation is the next natural step, raising awareness among those of different backgrounds about the careers available in accountancy and finance and actively encouraging and enabling their participation.
As professionals, we have an obligation to lead by example and champion the causes that improve our community and wider society. Coming from a different background to many of my peers, I know just how much of a difference the work of the ICAS Foundation can make to the lives of young people.
The ICAS Foundation is a registered Scottish charity No SC034836.
You can support the work of the ICAS Foundation by donating, volunteering to mentor a student or providing an internship or work placement. You can also contact us to discuss a specific area where you would like to help.
This article was originally published in the ICAS CA Magazine, November 2020.