Since joining the company after his A-Levels, Haider has completed his Level 4 AAT qualification and is currently studying the Management level of the CIMA Professional Qualification. He is the winner of the BAME Apprenticeship Awards 2020 for Accounting & Finance.
What is your current role and what does it involve?
Right now, I'm on a placement in the Group Finance team at Rolls-Royce. I picked this placement based on how much exposure I could get to some of the more senior managers in the company and see what's happening at a higher level.
Our team focuses on the management reporting and statutory reporting of Rolls-Royce Holdings. We do management reporting every accounting period, collating the financial inputs from the different business areas.
Once we've got all the inputs, we consolidate everything, so we have a view of the financial data for the whole company. That information feeds into the work some of the other teams do, like planning and forecasting, allowing budgets to be set for the next few years and updated as we get more and more up-to-date data every month.
The statutory reporting is mainly focused on our legal requirements to file accounts. Our team pulls together all the numbers from across the business and then creates all the key accounting notes that we need to publish as part of the half-year and full-year results, along with some commentary and guidance to really paint the picture of what's going on in the business to external stakeholders.
I've been personally responsible for preparing two specific accounting notes for the 2019 year-end. One of them was on R&D expenditure and one on employee information which looked at all of our geographical headcount by different countries across the world. I also got great experience seeing the preparation of our statement of financial position, cash flow, balance sheet and specific accounting notes.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I like that in Group Finance, I’ve got a bird's eye view of the company. It's a lot easier to understand everything coming in, the importance of making sure that our numbers are right and why it’s vital we're getting everything done on time.
Can you explain a bit more about your apprenticeship?
It's a four-and-a-half-year apprenticeship scheme and I’ll rotate into different finance placements throughout the programme. Group Finance is the fourth team I'm working in and I’ll move into the Civil Aerospace Services team in a few months which will be my final placement. I spent the first two years studying for the AAT Level 4 on a day release basis, which I've now completed. I'm currently studying the Management level of the CIMA Professional Qualification.
Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship straight from school?
When I was younger, I thought if you did an accounting degree, you were a qualified accountant. No one tells you these things when you're at school! It was my older cousin who works in finance who told me that it’s the professional qualification that accredits you as an accountant. A degree just gives you some exemptions from that professional qualification.
I'd come across apprenticeship schemes at careers fairs, and they just sounded like a win-win to me. You're getting experience, getting paid, no debt, and you can work for some really reputable organisations.
Did you think about going to university?
A lot of people would say, "Oh, you’ve got good grades. Apply to a Russell Group university." Or, "Why don't you think about Oxford or Cambridge?" But I didn’t think that particular learning style was the best for me. And I was sure which career route I wanted to go down. So I thought if there was a quicker, more efficient way to go about it, why not?
In the end, I got advice from my Business and Economics teachers because they had industry experience prior to teaching. They supported my decision to pursue an apprenticeship. Experience is a lot more valuable than what you're told about in school, where you think it's just about grades. But I think the real world is different. You need a good balance of experience and academic credentials.
What was it like going straight from sixth-form college to working for a FTSE 100 company?
I started at Rolls Royce about a month after A-level results day. So my life changed quite quickly! It was a pretty daunting transition but I thought, “I'm going to have to make this jump at some point in my life”. It's better to do it sooner rather than later. At least, at 18, I had all my family support around me.
Why did you choose to study with CIMA?
I knew I wanted to work in accounting when I was still at school but it was hard to know which accountancy qualification to pursue because there are so many. I did a bit more research and found that accountancy isn't just the typical bookkeeper role — there's so much variety. When I learned about the management accounting side of it, I thought it sounded exciting and like it was an area that would just keep growing.
I also got advice from my Business Studies teacher, who agreed I’d be more suited to management accounting than financial accounting because I’m quite entrepreneurial and forward-thinking.
I think CIMA is definitely the right qualification for me. A lot of the CIMA syllabus followed on from my Business and Economics A-levels, while the placement side of my apprenticeship ties in really well too. I also enjoy learning all the different topics covered within the qualification which I think is important. It's not just something you want to get out of the way.
How did you find starting the CIMA Professional Qualification after AAT?
I feel like AAT gave me a very good grounding. If anything, it didn't just set me up for the Operational level – even at Management level now there are things I apply that I learned from AAT. There has been of a bit of a jump in the style of how you're examined but I don't feel disadvantaged that I didn’t do the CIMA Certificate level.
How have you found sitting your CIMA exams online in response to the COVID pandemic?
My F1 exam was booked a week or two after lockdown started in March, so I had to put it on hold until CIMA announced the option to do remote exams in May. I was really pleased that CIMA was so proactive and I think they’ve adapted to the situation with the right attitude. I think a lot of other accounting bodies have recognised that and followed CIMA’s lead.
Having the option to sit exams online made things a lot easier and it felt like the real exam environment. All the software felt exactly the same. If anything, it was more flexible, because you had more time slots and availability.
My training provider, Kaplan, was also one of the best with their handling of the challenges the pandemic has brought. I don't feel like I was disadvantaged in any way with remote learning. If anything, it almost opened up the opportunity of having more flexible study options.
Has your employer Rolls Royce been supportive throughout your CIMA studies?
Very supportive. Rolls Royce has been running apprenticeship schemes for over 100 years, so they’ve got lots of experience with apprentices. We get given one paid study leave day for each module we study on top of all the college tuition/revision days with Kaplan. Although, there isn't a formal guarantee of a permanent job once my apprenticeship ends, Rolls-Royce has never been unable to secure past apprentices roles within the company so it’s sort of implied.
What would you say to someone thinking about doing an apprenticeship once they left school?
Trust your gut and ignore what people around you are doing. It doesn't matter if everyone else is going to university. There’s no archetype for an apprentice. This route isn’t just for those who have lower grades in school and not secluded to those who look a particular way or come from a certain background. If it's what you want to do, go for it.
How relevant to your role is what you’re learning in your CIMA studies?
It’s all really relevant on a day-to-day basis. The Finance pillar of the Professional Qualification, for example, has been very useful in my current placement. What I'm learning, I'm physically seeing happen at work. And things that you do at work which I might not understand are then explained as part of my studies. I'm keen to touch on the Performance pillar in my next placement so I've got the full breadth of experience.
What’s your biggest achievement so far in your career?
Earlier this year I was a finalist at the GTA England awards 2019 which took place at the House of Commons, and I won runner-up in my category, which was for Business Services. It was a really surreal moment, being in the Houses of Parliament and taking in the opportunity being an apprentice provided me with. More recently, I won the BAME Apprenticeship Awards 2020 for Accounting & Finance, an award specifically focused on raising the profiles of apprentices from ethnic minorities which was a huge honour.
Tell us a bit more about the work you’re doing to encourage more students from BAME backgrounds to do apprenticeships.
Prior to applying for an apprenticeship myself, I'd never come across a Black, Asian or minority ethnic apprentice. So naturally, I didn't align myself to that route. And if you look at the stats, you'll find that the vast majority of apprentices are white. There are a lot of social stigmas and barriers for those from underrepresented backgrounds which is why I do a lot of ambassadorial work to breakdown those barriers so that more people have access to apprenticeships.
What’s next for you when you finish your apprenticeship?
I'd like to stay with Rolls Royce to make the most of my experience as an apprentice. It'd be a bit short-sighted to jump ship to another company when I’ve got all this valuable experience which I’ve built from such a young age. It makes sense to stay with the company in the medium term to capitalise on the unique position I’ve had being able to rotate in so many different teams and also get all these amazing qualifications alongside it.
I’ll carry on being open-minded and trying out different areas within finance, and not worry too much about the career ladder. I think if you pace yourself and focus on getting that breadth of experience and that solid base, it's a lot easier to build skills and ultimately get further within your career.
Finally, what is the biggest opportunity that CIMA has given you?
CIMA has opened my mind to the business world. I’m learning such a wide range of relevant skills that will tie into any organisation. And because it's a globally-focussed qualification, it's really eye-opening. It’s equipped me really well to tackle working in any company's finance function.
If, in 10 years' time, I want to work at another company, I know that my CIMA studies will help. Because we're in such a dynamic environment, I think the CPD will become really relevant. So being a CIMA member and having that continual support and access to knowledge throughout my entire career is going to be a hugely impactful thing. I've probably not even realised the full benefits of studying CIMA yet but I definitely will as I progress in the future.