An interview with Janet Jack the CEO of The International Association of Bookkeepers.
Transcript from the interview
Welcome to the IAB, I suppose a video, we normally do a podcast. But Janet Jack the CEO of the IAB, welcome Janet. Nice to be here.
Yeah, it’s good. So really I just want to talk about where the IAB has come from and where you see it is now? Well, we’re nearly 50 years old. We started in 1973 as an offshoot of another organization where a need
for a book and a bookkeeping organization that was just solely aimed at bookkeepers and it’s grown from there. It started off with its qualifications and then became a membership body in its own right for bookkeepers, and has expanded into other countries as well. Ofqual regulations sometimes make that a little bit hard with qualifications, but there is always a way around it.
And technology, obviously bringing technology into bookkeeping has change things tremendously over the years and I think even more so especially in probably the last two years and COVID accelerated that change. That change was coming but it was a slower pace, but during the last 12 months, that’s grown exponentially.
It hasn’t it? Yeah, I mean what kind of things have you seen? I mean the landscape has changed, but what kind of things have you seen change within the IAB?
Well, it’s like a lot of Institutions, anything that’s been around a long time and was kind of in the professional industry.
You know, we found we kind of get lumped into the solicitors, the accountants and things like that and you know, they’ve got a lot of tradition and a lot good core old-fashioned values, but obviously, the world is changing and become very technical since these professions began.
So I think the main changes is that technology. And to take the IAB forward we had to change as an organisation, as everybody else’s organisation is having to do too, you know online qualifications, digitalising everything within the IAB to make us fit for the next 50 years, which I think is really important. We want to be around forever, but we also want to show that we’re a modern, forward-thinking organisation too.
But with the core values of what the profession stands for.
Absolutely, and because you are Ofqual regulated that brings huge credibility as well, and it’s a certain standard that you’re setting as well for all the IAB members isn’t it?
Absolutely. Yeah, and you know, we do AAT membership, we’ve got the supervision as well for anti-money laundering.
So we’re one of the professional bodies and that also is helping promote the professionalism of bookkeepers.
People think it’s an old-fashioned profession and I don’t know what, sometimes people sort of like get the wrong idea of what a bookkeeper and accountants are we’re not all boring!
We’re actually quite jolly people on the whole and quite good fun.
And I think it’s taking that myth away and making us a forward-thinking organisation, fit for 2021 and beyond. Yeah, absolutely.
I think that there is that sort of image isn’t there but, all the bookkeepers I’ve met since working with you guys, it’s phenomenal.
Certainly now with the downturn of the economy, bookkeepers are really winning in this because sadly a lot of people get rid of their accountants
and then start employing their bookkeepers, and actually, a bookkeeper can, certainly with the coffee mornings and what I’ve learnt, they can offer so much more. I mean what can the bookkeepers of today offer from the IAB that they’re supplying?
Well, bookkeeping obviously has changed where it was mainly a sort of like keeping records, data.
Bookkeepers have now become more advisory, they’re very hands-on so financial information is key, cash flow, how that all those things have helped.
And to be a member of the IAB, what we try to achieve is to give those tools to help our members.
So up-to-date information on any changes, obviously over the past 12 months that’s been quite a lot with furlough, loans, all these different things that have come in to help us.
So, you can’t expect, if you work on your own you can’t expect to know everything all the time, and you need to have one place to go, and we hope that is the IAB for all our members.
So with the coffee mornings, you know, not only do we have people who want to care about your health, but we also have a lot of technical issues, answer questions that members have.
Obviously, with the member benefits that we have, we try to because I’ve been in practice and obviously our COO Sarah is also in practice still, we look at people to partner with us who will help benefit not only our members but our members’ clients.
So, you know, we’ve got Go Simply tax, that helps you with that.
We have Croner-i which is huge help where you can phone up to get tax advice, or VAT, you know, if you’ve got a question about a client which is
a little bit unusual, Croner-i just to add to that, Croner-i if you go to them separately as a member that it’s something like three and a half thousand pounds a year, isn’t it?
But it’s with the benefit of being a member of the IAB you get that as part of your membership, don’t you? Yeah, I managed to get the package increased right at the beginning of furlough, which I could see was going to be a huge benefit to our members and a huge help, you know because they would have had lots of questions from all their clients, so absolutely invaluable member benefit.
So I think, carrying on from my initial question, so has being a member of the IAB, as well as their benefits, but before you know, bookkeepers were just seen as just taking people’s receipts, things like that but actually now with the backing of the IAB and business partners such as Croner-I,
you know, you have a huge tax and VAT helpline on hand, which as I said is worth three and a half thousand.
Am I right in thinking HMRC actually go to Croner-i for help? That’s right. Croner-i do some work for HMRC and they advise some of their advisors
because of the training, it takes so long to train like that, you know HMRC just don’t have the staff.
You know, if people leave who have been there they just don’t have the time to train them and with everything changing so fast, so obviously Croner-i staff are extremely helpful to them.
So a lot of the things HMRC say has come from Croner-i anyway.
As you said in the coffee mornings, we bring speakers on, rather the business partners or the member benefit partners, they come on and they’ll talk about that’s what they offer and as a member, they’ll get discounted or just you know, huge benefits from that and as keep saying Croner-i it’s huge.
I mean, we’ve had them on a number of times and the speakers to talk about, a recent one we had year-end payroll speaker, which was fantastic talking about that with loads and loads of good speakers.
So what’s the future for the IAB Janet? We want to grow obviously,
but it’s all about expanding out into our members.
We want that family feeling, you know, that help and support that you get from your close family.
We want to offer that as business support really, so we’re looking to expand. We’ve got new things coming on board that can help you.
We’re just about to launch IAB blue, which is our online learning platform.
And we’re starting off with the first module of an AML course, I don’t know the exact date yet, but it’s very very soon, within a few weeks.
So that’s very exciting. What about the Ambassador initiative?
Tell us something a bit more about that. That’s been great. Out of the coffee mornings, it was really realised that, you know,
not everyone can talk on the coffee mornings because there are so many people on it.
We had a hundred and five people recently didn’t we?
Yeah, we had to up the zoom package to fit everybody in.
But yeah, that’s great. But the ambassador’s it’s we’ve got these ambassador’s now and they’ve all got small groups.
So we’re trying to keep it to around six in each group.
This has been also a great source for the IAB and for members, in that they’ve been able to help each other.
They’ve been giving each other technical tips, supporting each other.
You know, we’ve had one group where somebody was feeling a little bit down in the dumps because they’re working on their own and they lived on the road.
So that support, and having somebody there every other week,
and then coming onto the coffee mornings and being a bit more engaged because some people are shy, not everybody’s outgoing.
So the amount of support has been fantastic and it’s great for the IAB too because we can get feedback from them to say what other support would they like, how we can help them, and then we can go and source it and hopefully provide it.
Beautiful. Yeah, it has been fantastic and just going back to the coffee mornings what I like, and I’ve seen this with lots of Institutions before. Any big corporate corporations where you never get to see the CEO or the COO or in fact any of the directors, you know, it seems like a faceless organisation and what the coffee mornings have done, twice a month on a Wednesday, you get to speak to Janet, and Sarah and some of the other Directors.
And certainly, through the furlough and the whole payroll issue during 2020, we had some fantastic speakers on there and the members were loving that and as you said, now the little Ambassador initiatives, and I think the aim is to have those throughout the whole of the UK.
There are little groups, little pockets. It’s growing to think we’ve got nine at the moment and that’s growing, we’ve had more interest and there’s more Ambassador’s coming on board.
It’s one of the best things that have come out, you know, it’s a silver lining that has come out of COVID of being able to get in touch with members its accelerated our thoughts on how we need to engage with members.
So I think you’ve got to take something positive out of the horrendous year that everybody’s had, something positive has come out of it.
Absolutely. So just there’s a few more questions.
What do you think being a member of the IAB means to the member?
Also for, let’s say I’m a businessman looking for a bookkeeper, and there’s a difference between just a standard bookkeeper, and then bookkeeper that’s also working with the IAB, has the letters after their name.
What does it mean you think? I think, well one, having the designated letters after your name also helps prove, you’re a professional in your field and I think somebody out looking for bookkeeping if you’ve got those letters and know you supported by an organisation,
I think it also means that you’re kept up-to-date and I think that’s reassuring to clients to know that you’ve got technical assistance at hand, you know, if there is government legislation changes what that actually, because all the businesses want to know what that means for them, you know, not just a general, just in general, what they need to know, it’s all about them, isn’t it?
And I think that’s where bookkeepers come into their own because they’re so involved with their clients because they talk to them weekly, daily, some,
You know, depending on how much work you do for a client and I think that’s really important.
It’s being part of an organisation and being a member.
It’s supportive. Shows to the world that you’re a professional and that you care about your profession because you want to stay up to date
and be recognised for your skill sets that you have. I think it’s about a standard as well isn’t it because the IAB have to meet a standard.
Yeah. Absolutely which is what we want.
I mean our vision is to raise the bar of bookkeeping, that’s our statement and that’s what we want to do, want to bring that up into the 21st century
and make all bookkeepers really recognised and great, because they are. They do a fantastic job and they help their millions of small businesses,
you know, and because they’re part of their team, It is, it’s just when people say I’m just a bookkeeper no, no, no, you’re not just a bookkeeper. You’re
almost as you said before you’re almost like a business advisor. There’s so much more to it.
And now and again being a member of the IAB. You have all that backing, you have support every single week if you want one
because for the weeks, we’re not doing the coffee mornings, you have a support group as part of the Ambassador initiative, it’s phenomenal.
It really is. So tell me about the team. The team behind the IAB their kind of expanding as well.
I mean, we’ve got new people starting on it.
It’s phenomenal. Yeah, it is. We’ve got a great team now.
We’re in a really good place. We have our rewarding side when we’ve got Andrew Carlsson who’s our Head of Awarding he’s also a Director.
He’s been involved with the IAB for many many years, before me even, I’ve been around since about 2007 sitting on the board and Andrew
was there a little bit before me I think. Then we have Sarah who’s our COO.
She’s been on the board of the IAB since 2017, been a member for a long time too.
And then in the membership team, we’ve got Suzanne and we’ve got Ariana, we have Ruth who does some membership, but she also does a lot of our marketing and everything. Then we have our anti-money laundering team,
which is run by Jody, and Jody has a team of two with Gareth and Colin, three, Colin and Grant who’s just started with us.
They check everybody’s applications and they also do, you know, what happens with the report that they send out after the AML inspections,
they send out your action lists etc.
So it’s growing and on the side of that, we have our outsourced team,
which is a company called CAPS who actually go and see our members through an inspection.
And the reason why we outsource that is to keep us independent
so that we can prove to our governing body, because we’re supervised too, to show that we are independent and we’re not just letting things go so that we don’t lose a member.
Yeah, brilliant. You know, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? To keeping the professionalism up. Absolutely and the team just have been phenomenal.
What I think is brilliant, is the fact that you’ve been in the industry
for a long time, and Sarah still runs her own practice as well.
So they know what the issues are.
They know what’s going on.
And what the members will need because they’ve needed as well.
So it’s been fantastic, really is. I think it’s been it’s been an advantage that I’ve you know, I’ve been in the profession and you know had my own business for 20 odd years.
Up until we start in the CEO and then it was like I just couldn’t carry it on, with the best will in the world.
So yeah, and it’s been a huge advantage.
Yeah. Fantastic. It’s allowed me to change the IAB into the modern organisation that it is now, it is incredibly forward-thinking
and new things are coming out and just, yeah watch this space. Janet,
thank you so much for your time today it’s been brilliant. Thank you very much.
And that’s it. Thank you very much. Then for more information.
Just go to IAB.org.uk all the information is there. Take care.