The accounts department is an important function for any business, but for small businesses where cash flow is the lifeblood, the accounting section can really make a big difference to understanding where the money is being made and where it's being spent, this is an area where Gilmour & Co can help client.
In general, no matter where an accounts assistant works, the role will require a strong minded and driven individual who's capable of working individually and as part of a team. Experience of balance sheets and practice with reconciliations is normally needed, but the skills required for a role depend on the tasks that need to be covered.
Accounts Assistant roles vary depending on the responsibilities that the company accountant takes on. In some smaller firms, the accountant will the one who downloads the bank statement and reviews the cheques received, but in most firms these are responsibilities undertaken by the accounts assistant.
Reporting is another responsibility of the role, so you can expect an accounts assistant to have the necessary Excel skills to produce a readable and accurate report of the company's weekly cash balance which highlights any significant changes. The company's reporting requirements change over time as the market changes and each area of the business is reprioritised, but the biggest reporting changes happen during year-end and in the month following the end of the firm's financial year. During this period, the business has to report its financial position to partners, and for some firms there are tax implications, so the accounts assistant will need to produce additional reports under difficult time constraints that aren't felt during the rest of the year.
Uploading payments from suppliers into the main system is a daily requirement for the accounts assistant. Storing this data for future use and maintaining the sales ledger can also be a part of the role, but that varies from firm to firm depending on the size of the accounts department and whether there is a dedicated Credit Controller within the team.
Monthly bank reconciliations are an important part of the accounts assistant's duties because if there are any inaccuracies with the monthly postings, then journals will need to be raised to correct the mistakes. At the end of the month a cash forecast report is another report that the assistant has to produce as it gives management an idea of where the next month's cash will come from.
The level at which the accounts assistant gets involved with budgeting depends on the firm itself, but when the quarterly budgets are being prepared by each department, the integrity of the information the accounts assistant and the rest of the accounting team has provided will have an impact on the budgets that are produced. This is another time at which the assistant will be called to produce reports, which is why a dynamic individual is normally favoured for this type of role.
An accounts assistant doesn't have to have AAT training but an accounting qualification can only help with the job as accounting best practices are a key feature of training with a professional organisation like AAT or CIMA. Some firms like to offer professional training as part of the role so they know they’re getting a dedicated individual as their accounts assistant. The only issue could be finding the assistant a more challenging role once they're trained up and ready for the next step in their career.