Training & CPD » How the Institute of Financial Accountants is improving the effectiveness of SME finance teams

In an era of rapid change, there is an urgent need for finance teams of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop the skills that can help drive efficiency and profitability in their organisations.

The pace of change in terms of increasing regulation, growing competitiveness and wider uncertainty is tough enough for large companies able to invest in their finance functions in order to meet these challenges.

For smaller organisations there is as much onus on being able to grow the knowledge and skills of their teams, but with limited resources available to do so there needs to be careful assessment of how to develop finance professionals.

With that in mind, the Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA), in partnership with CU Coventry, has developed a flexible continuous professional development (CPD) programme that provides the means to embed a culture of professionalism within finance teams.

The programme, called IFA Direct – click here for more details – has been designed to equip both IFA members and non-members of your team with the means to stay abreast of new developments and best practice in finance.

Carefully curated, designed and tailored

Some of the key areas covered include sound technical skills, especially in the areas of financial reporting and tax knowledge. The programme also includes a strong appreciation of management accounting, budgeting and business finance as well as a focus on building commercial, influencing and communication skills.

This can boost team motivation, which in turn will improve the quality of work and lead to increased client satisfaction. There are also the longer-term benefits of staff retention, often critical to ensuring the success of smaller organisations.

The programme aligns closely with the experience of the IFA as the only professional accountancy membership body which focuses specifically on SMEs and SMPs through an active branch network, regional conferences, workshops, webinars and website.

“The Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA), in partnership with CU Coventry, has developed a flexible continuous professional development (CPD) programme that provides the means to embed a culture of professionalism within finance teams”

In the 103 years of its existence the IFA has set a standard for the highest levels of professionalism, reliability, and customer service with an outlook that is dynamic and enterprising, reflecting the entrepreneurial instincts of its members.

As an organisation noted for responding to members’ challenges with consistently relevant advice, no matter the speed or magnitude of changes in the business environment or economic climate, the IFA is perfectly placed to offer such a programme.

IFA Direct sits within a range of carefully curated  products and services designed and tailored to help members in their role as accountants and tax advisers including access to a tax portal providing up-to-date information and case studies, guidance in numerous consultations, via “Financial Accountant” the print magazine and digital platform, and a variety of helplines covering insolvency, legal and R&D tax credits.

Pushing for excellence

Finance directors and finance managers will be aware that if their finance professionals are members of a professional body, they will be required to undertake a set amount of verifiable CPD by 31 December.

There is therefore some urgency to consider what options might be available in the time left.

Given that there are plenty of competing priorities such as Brexit, Making Tax Digital and GDPR, such decisions can easily be put to one side and forgotten.

“Finance directors and finance managers will be aware that if their finance professionals are members of a professional body, they will be required to undertake a set amount of verifiable CPD by 31 December.”

By making an informed choice now about the development needs of your team will not only bring peace of mind to you, it will also be appreciated by team members who are looking at ways to ensure their relevance in the years to come.

There is still time to register for IFA Direct by 6 September for the following modules that run from 23 September 2019 – 1 November 2019:

  • 107 Financial statements, internal controls and systems in a business environment;
  • 201 Management information; and
  • 301 Assurance.

Or register by 25 October for these modules that run from 11 November 2019 – 20 December 2019:

  • 108 Budgeting in a business environment;
  • 209 Financial reporting; and
  • 302 Advanced taxation.

Modules are studied one at a time over a six-week period. Materials are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and there is also invaluable access to an expert academic adviser with five hours of contact time per week.

Rigorous attention to detail has ensured that IFA Direct does not cover subjects that are irrelevant to small businesses. For example, there is no audit module as small businesses and practices fall below the audit threshold.

IFA Membership

The modules can also be used to study towards gaining IFA membership. Becoming part of a professional body will enhance the professional reputation of your team by developing relevant knowledge and skills.

They will gain a broader and deeper understanding of key subjects relevant to accountants in or supporting small businesses.

By signing up, you will be recognised as a leader that is encouraging and supportive of finance professionals in your team – critical for ensuing an efficient and effective organisation.

Now is the ideal moment to take your team to the next level.

For more information on IFA Direct, including a timetable for 2019/2020, click here.