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Leadership Voices: Zara Duffy, Chartered Accountants NI - Institute of Chartered Accountants

  • Publish Date: Posted over 3 years ago
  • Author:by Barbara McKiernan

Q1.  When you become a member of the Institute you join a profession and a community of business leaders with a strong sense of belonging. What does this network mean to your members?  

The Chartered Accountant qualification is the best possible training for a career in business or finance. Research shows that it is also the most respected accountancy qualification among business leaders.

That respect extends between our member network because each member knows the ability, expertise and experience that other members will have picked up throughout their training and their career.They are part of an important membership community.

Our Institute exists to support our membership, and a vital part of that is helping them to leverage that network of 29,000 members. We help chartered accountants to connect and engage with each other, and that helps to drive not just their own careers, but the businesses and organisations that they work for.

We are helping our members to be dynamic leaders with the highest standards of ethical, professional and technical expertise… And we’re proud of our role in their success.


Q2. There are a number of member services that you provide - Do you think that all your members are aware of all the support and services you offer? 

Our members have access to a huge range of services, support and information. At the moment our Institute is running about 3 webinars a day, interpreting guidance and providing personal and professional supports to help members deal with issues such as COVID-19, technical updates and Brexit readiness.

Our membership covers a wide range – from practice to just about every business sector to the public and voluntary sectors. It means that we have to offer a lot to be able to cover the variety of needs within the membership.

In the last year, the Institute has put tremendous effort into a ‘Digital First’ programme to make our services more easily accessible, so members should be able to find support and assistance for just about any query at .


Q3. You run a number of events every year - How have you kept engaged with members this year and are there any diary dates you would recommend keeping free in 2021?

In Northern Ireland, Chartered Accountants Ulster Society provides professional, educational and social services and events for its members and is a strong voice for Northern Ireland’s business sector. Our events typically include conferences both at home and overseas, webinars, technical and career advice, social and networking events, as well as events specifically for younger members.

This year, the public health crisis has meant that we have had to move more towards online events, webinars and virtual conferences. Actually, the levels of engagement with members have been very strong. We were able to provide reliable, timely advice on business supports like the Job Retention Scheme and the CBILS Scheme at the start of the pandemic which I think our members really appreciated. We are continuing to run important information sessions on issues such as Brexit and the Trader Support Service, as well as more general virtual networking events.

Looking ahead to 2021 – who knows when things will get back to normal? No matter what, we will continue to offer a range of relevant professional, technical, networking and social events either virtually, in-person when restrictions allow, or maybe more likely a hybrid of both.


Q4. Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant is a great accomplishment. What advice would you give to new members /students who are aiming to qualify this year?

You are right - qualifying as a CA is a great achievement. It sets you up remarkably well for a career in business or finance.

The first thing I would say is that our Institute has pivoted remarkably quickly to offer both online tuition and examination, so anyone training and studying at the moment should not be worried about having to put those studies on hold.

Secondly, it is only natural for those qualifying during a health crisis to be worried about their job prospects, but we are still seeing a high demand for newly qualified CAs – those skills that you have acquired might be more important in the years ahead than ever before.

Finally, I would advise those qualifying not to rest on their laurels. Getting the qualification is one thing but then they need to build their network, build upon their people skills and soft skills to make the most of their opportunities. By getting involved with the Institute and the Ulster Society, we can help their career take off and help them to grow into a business leader.


Q5. The road to recovery from Covid 19 - what challenges will your members face in 2021?   

2020 has been a challenging time for all, and no doubt there are more testing times ahead.

Professionally, many of our members have been giving everything to keep their businesses going, or to help their clients to keep going throughout the health crisis. It has been tough, but they are making a real difference. The end of the Brexit transition period will no doubt bring further challenges.

We will be there to help members not just with technical updates and resources, but with a vital professional network and with an eye on providing some initiatives to help them maintain their own health and wellbeing.

We hope for a quick return to more ‘normal’ times, and we know many members will be looking forward to when we can host ‘in-person’ events once again. We are looking forward to that too, but in the meantime, we’ll continue to provide a great virtual programme that meets the needs of our members and students.


Want to read more articles like this? Be sure to visit VANRATH News which features all kinds of industry insights and career advice. We post regularly on our LinkedIn page too, so don’t hesitate to check that out as well. If you’re seeking immediate career advice then visit our website or call 028 9033 0250.