Alison Ashman

Alison trained with Sayer Vincent completing her ACA qualification in 2013. After 8 years with Sayer Vincent and working her way up to audit manager, Alison went on to Macmillan to pursue her interest in charity tax.

Training and working at Sayer Vincent

I didn’t ever consider applying to train at one of the big 4 accounting firms. The fact that all SV clients are charitable organisations was the main attraction to the role for me as I had previously volunteered for a charity and wanted to continue making an impact in the sector. At Sayer Vincent, everyone knows your name and you are treated as a person rather than a number within a huge organisation. The level of support received throughout my training, and continuing post qualification, was second to none. Right from the start, I was given the opportunity to work with and learn from partners and directors, as well as receiving great training and the opportunity to take on responsibility even as a first year trainee. Working full time while studying for the ACA was hard work, but SV is such a supportive, lovely environment which made a huge difference. There were always lots of opportunities to have fun with colleagues as well as receiving a helping hand from others in the firm if there was anything I found difficult.

“I embraced the opportunities given to take responsibility early on during my time at Sayer Vincent. I probably wouldn’t have had the same level of exposure had I trained at a very large firm.”

Being given responsibility early on was very rewarding. This has been key to building confidence to progress to management level at SV and moving on to my new role at Macmillan.

Making a difference and working in the sector

I had the opportunity to work with small and large charities, but I feel I made the biggest impact overall when working with the smaller clients. For charities that don’t have the financial expertise they require internally, being able to offer advice and guidance that’s genuinely needed and greatly appreciated was a great feeling. Working with new charities from their first audit, providing support and key insights, watching them grow and significantly increase their income was a highlight of my time at SV. Having the opportunity to work with management and board members of various charities allowed me to gain a lot of insight that I was able to pass on to similar organisations which was greatly beneficial to them and made a huge impact on their growth.

Lessons learned

SV is a firm that most definitely focuses on people. Developing good relationships with members of staff as well as the people we work with when delivering audits and advice is key to delivering a good service. A lesson learned during my time at SV was to focus on gaining an understanding of what the people I was working with actually required and what their capabilities were. I learned not to assume that people knew certain things and to always spend time listening and being mindful of their needs and capabilities. This is something I refer to frequently in my role as a tax advisor at Macmillan when working with various stakeholders within the organisation.

Key achievements at Sayer Vincent

Overall, I think most organisations don’t tend to particularly look forward to their audits. Over the years, through working with various clients, I’ve developed my ability to build relationships with key charity stakeholders such as finance directors, CEO’s and board members. Receiving great post audit feedback from clients who were initially apprehensive about the audit process was a key achievement during my time as an auditor and manager at SV.

From audit to tax

I’ve always had an interest in tax since my early years as a trainee. I took advantage of any opportunities to get involved and was given the opportunity to join the tax group at SV where I was able to gain more experience and a good knowledge of charity tax. I’ve been able to build on this knowledge more at Macmillan while advising on various tax issues and implications. I’m also happy to be able to continue training and knowledge building in my new tax role.