Are you “snookered” about what career to choose?

Choosing a career in accountancy doesn’t have to be “pot luck” according to Barry Hearn ACA and snooker impresario.

ICAEW Insights had an article about Barry Hearn and his initial training and qualification as a Chartered Accountant. Since those early days, Barry has become President of the global sports promotion business, Matchroom, which promotes not just snooker but also the PGA EuroPro Tour, ten-pin bowling, netball, table tennis, and basketball, as well as boxing.

However, he started from very humble beginnings on an Essex council estate as the son of a bus driver and a cleaner. He admits that his mother was responsible for his career choice. “I was 12 years old when my mum came home from her cleaning day job one day and said: “I know what you’re going to do when you leave school. You’re going to be a Chartered Accountant. The man whose house I clean said you never see a poor one.”

Barry joined Thomson McLintock in 1970 (7 years before I did!) and qualified to become one of the firm’s youngest audit managers, aged 23. In those days, the lack of a degree meant he couldn’t progress any further in the firm and so he moved into business and in 1978 started to manage Steve Davis, then an aspiring snooker professional, who went on to multiple wins of the World Snooker Championship.

Hearn says “I don’t believe in the class system. I believe in meritocracy. Whether you’re white or black, male or female, rich or poor, have a university degree or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the individual and if this person is going to be good for my business. If you see the drive, ambition, and dedication, and someone who is prepared to go that extra mile for you, where they come from doesn’t matter. The broad-based opinions that a diverse workforce gives you are essential for firms to thrive.”


For those looking to emulate Barry’s successful career as an entrepreneur, he says integrity is a key attribute. At the same time, technical knowledge combined with a bit of personality gives you the edge, he believes. “Accountants either make really bad entrepreneurs or really good ones – it involves flair, a bit of street understanding, and knowledge of what a balance sheet looks like.”

The current Apprenticeship Standards provide a real opportunity to develop some of these rounded skills. They are designed to meet the current Education and Inspection Framework (EIF). This includes not just the underpinning technical knowledge required of an accountant but also a wide range of skills and behaviours and a focus on personal development and engagement with their local community. It can be a challenge at times to get apprentices to realise that they DO have the time to complete their technical studies AND develop these skills – as it is these skills that will determine how successful they are in their future career. Qualification is not the end of learning; it is just the beginning. If they grasp the opportunities provided by the wider apprenticeship curriculum and the work experience opportunities offered by their employer, they can aspire to achieve the success enjoyed by Barry Hearn and others like him.

My colleague, Ros Aala was the 2021/22 President of the ICAEW South West District Society. Each President has a theme for their year and his was Social Mobility. The introduction of Apprenticeships has provided an alternative and more accessible route into the accountancy profession than was there before. It is no longer an exclusively graduate entry. The vast majority of our apprentices are not graduates. Although I am a graduate (a very old one), many of our apprentices have much better “A” level grades than me but have chosen to earn while they learn and follow the Apprenticeship route through AAT and then onto ACA, ACCA or CIMA. Our Talent Programme is designed to encourage those of any age, or background, to put their toe in the water to see if they have the aptitude and attitude to become an accountant and if so, let us help them find a position with one of our clients.

A number of our clients were once our students – it is great to see them progress all the way through. This is one of the really nice things about being a trainer. Your students are your legacy. I still remember the name of my teacher when I was at Primary School (and 50 years later bumped into her niece at a training provider event!). Steph Park, of Hodgsons in Launceston, was both an AAT and an ACA student of ours. She has recently completed her ACA qualification and was in fact the ICAEW South West Regional prize winner for the Advanced Stage Case Study. She was always bright! She also worked jolly hard. The real prize though, are the opportunities she now has to progress her career further and achieve her aspirations, both professional and personal.

I have always seen the accountancy profession as a meritocracy. There are demanding exams along the way but, as Barry Hearn says, they don’t distinguish white or black, male or female, rich or poor, a university graduate or not. The Apprenticeship programme has increased the accessibility of the profession further. Through our Talent Programme, we try further increase its accessibility. The Apprenticeship Curriculum provides the opportunity to develop skills beyond the purely technical.

I have referred a lot to the apprenticeship route into the profession. However, we have over a thousand learners following a distance learning course; some supported by their employer but the majority paying for it off their own back. Some already in the profession, wanting to progress further. Others in a different job or returning after a career break, wanting to start a career as an accountant or a bookkeeper. Some of those following this route are subsequently supported by their employer to progress under the apprenticeship scheme. There are lots of ways into the profession and lots of training options, distance learning, self-study or apprenticeships.

So – if you felt “snookered” about what career to choose, have a look at a career in accountancy. It won’t be “pot luck”!!


PS if you would like to discuss how to get started with your studies, do feel free to phone our team of course advisers for some impartial advice on 01392 435349 or email us on [email protected]