By Anna Hinds, BA Accounting and Financial Management Student
Last week was a real eye-opener into the true world of finance for both the first and second-year students at the University of Suffolk. The true identity of finance was revealed in the form of two field trips for the second-year students, one of which we were accompanied by the enthusiastic first-years, who rekindled our excitement for the subject that we are studying.
The week started off with the second-year students paying a visit to the Ipswich Citizen’s Advice Bureau, a UK charity specialising in advice and support for people in all kinds of difficulty, from debt to bills to unemployment and benefit support. A detailed and informative workshop was delivered to us by Nelleke, who quite clearly explained to us the role of the CAB; their aims as a business; and what they help their clients to achieve. It was also made explicitly clear that they are non-judgemental and confidential, which is of particular importance to their clients, so that they feel confident and have no shame in asking for help when it is needed. The CAB is a free advice service (a charity), which is indirectly funded by taxpayers to provide a free service to the user. The two main aims of the organisation are to: give help to people advice for any problems that they face; and to seek change and influence decision makers. In a modern society where we are continually fighting for equality, should a charity organisation have to beg those in government etc. to change the laws to make things fairer for those who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy? I wonder.
PHOTOS: Left to right: students at a CAB workshop; students at the ICAEW listening to Martin’s presentation; on the City of London tour, taking in the scenery and architecture.
We were also given a task on debt to complete, which highlighted serious consequences to us that we were unaware of – including the fact that a £1,000 fine is incurred for not paying a TV licence. Leaflets and budgeting programmes were also received which is used for clients to help maintain their money; this was particularly useful for us as well.
The second field trip, despite starting out on a dull, cold, and wet journey into Liverpool Street Station, was soon turned around with the awe-inspiring buildings and architecture of the City of London as we embarked on our tour of the square mile, giving us a brief, but informative overview of the City’s history and quirky facts too. The guide was the talented historian Marilyn Greene, who used to work for the Victoria & Albert Museum and is a professional historian. The huge sky scrapers and modern yet historic feel of the city oozed out the feelings of wealth, power, and knowledge, making us students feel somewhat medicore in comparison. Our trip to the City was further extended by a visit to the ICAEW, where they kindly provided us with lunch and refreshments, before delivering presentations to us, one of which by Dominic Sheehy explained what it entails to embark on our journey to becoming a fully-fledged ICAEW Chartered Accountant. This was followed by another presentation by Martin Martinoff, which even though it may have been less formal, definitely left food for thought, and much room for discussion and debate about the culture and ethics of modern day finance, including: what is our goal? Why do we want to be accountants? Is there room for accountants in the future?
The day ended with a brief but relaxing meditation session with Professor Atul Shah, the organiser of the whole experience, which enabled us to reflect on our journeys in life, ranging from our school memories, up to the present day. This exercise helped us to think about our futures after graduation, and what it is that we are striving to aim for.
Overall these two field trips have given us invaluable experiences, and have undoubtedly taught us a lot. On a personal level, it has struck a huge reality check for me; the stark contrast between organisations such as the CAB and big central banks in the City, where it is extremely clear that more than ever before, the contrast and gap between the rich and the poor in this country is huge – and what can we do about it? Will we ever see the time when a bank opens its doors to teach the financially illiterate how to understand mortgages, APR rates, and even the basics of finance, or will we have to keep relying on small charity organisations such as the CAB to pick up the pieces that these larger organisations have created and dumped onto society?
For more information on our Accounting and Finance degrees, please see our website.