Making the PQ shortlist is a major achievement for anyone in the accountancy industry and to be nominated let alone shortlisted, takes a very special individual. This year, the team at FI Chelmsford, nominated two amazing members of our alumni for NQ of the year. Both, Danny Sutton and Noah Davis made the PQ shortlist and although neither went on to win an award, we all agree that getting that far was a huge success for both. Something they should be really proud of. We took a look at what it takes to make the PQ shortlist.
On the PQ Shortlist – Danny Sutton
“Being nominated for the PQ awards is a delightful surprise that has left me feeling both humbled and grateful. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication that I have put into my accountancy career, and it motivates me to continue striving for excellence in all that I do.” Danny Sutton
On the face of it, Danny Sutton seemed like an unlikely future accountant. Danny, from Braintree in Essex, left school at 17 after deciding that he wasn’t enjoying his A ‘levels. He was generally deemed a joker and made online headlines in a national newspaper for his futile attempts to swim in a puddle in the middle of Chelmsford’s shopping area.
Kelley O’Donovan FCA and David Malthouse, Directors and owners of First Intuition Chelmsford saw something in the 17-year-old who managed to convince them that whilst he wasn’t sticking to his A ‘level studies, he would make a committed employee and apprentice. He joined the team in 2017 on a level 2 AAT apprenticeship and sailed through all of his exams and EPA. Moving onto level 3/4, he was just as successful in passing all his exams the first time. Emma Liddell (tutor) remembers him completing an entire folder by lesson 2 for one of his AAT modules, he was given extra work to do and passed this exam with 98%.
At the same time, Danny was taking on more and more responsibility at work and had set himself the challenge of making the company’s accounting more efficient. This included introducing new systems to reduce the amount of paperwork. Danny introduced and trained the team on how to use them on these systems. In a small company with some members of staff, favouring tried and tested methods, this was no mean feat.
Moving onto ACCA
Danny moved on to his ACCA qualification and at this point stumbled for the first time, failing his Audit & Assurance exam. This seemed at first to hit Danny quite hard, but it also had the effect of making him more determined than ever to study and pass this and his other remaining exams. He passed his ACCA qualification in 2022. Whilst studying for his ACCA exams, Danny continued to drive the finance function of FI Chelmsford forward, creating interactive dashboards for sales, marketing, and apprenticeships. He took on responsibility for this department and recruited his own apprentice who he is now training and mentoring.
Not content with now being ACCA qualified and running the finance department at FI, Danny decided to study for his Oxford Brookes/ACCA BSc. He sat this in early 2023 and can now call himself both qualified and a graduate.
Danny’s growth has not just come from studying and his qualifications. He is now a senior and trusted member of the FI team and regularly presents to the FI board, which is almost exclusively made up of very experienced Accountants. Whilst only 23 and still capable of making the entire office laugh, Danny has changed significantly from the boy who tried to swim in puddles. He takes his role very seriously and proves himself to be a determined, committed, and driven member of the team. During FI Chelmsford’s 2021 Ofsted visit, he was picked out as challenging the stereotype of a typical accountant. Danny’s ability to balance studying for his ACCA, his subsequent BSc, and not just managing but driving forward the finance function makes him worthy of being shortlisted for this year’s PQ awards.
“Danny was a breath of fresh air when he started working with us, he picked up ideas quickly and was immediately a champion of our business and wanted to see us succeed. Over the last 6 years, he has gone from wanting us to succeed to being one of the driving forces behind our success!”
David Malthouse – Managing director first intuition Chelmsford & Southend
On the PQ Shortlist – Noah Davis
“Seeing that I am shortlisted for NQ of the year is humbling and very much unexpected. I am extremely proud to have made the shortlist but also equally as proud of Chelmsford FI. I am one of three students shortlisted across the PQ & NQ of the year categories who have studied at the Chelmsford centre and I think it gives a true reflection of the time and effort by all the staff to help their students grow. So it’s great to see this being recognised.” Noah Davis
By his own admission, Noah Davis did not fare well at school and left as soon as the opportunity arose. He originally completed a 3-year diploma in vehicle accident repair and began working as a self-employed vehicle repairer. In 2013, he changed direction and began working for a bespoke cabinet maker in Essex. At this time, Noah realised that both the roles he’d undertaken after school included working with numbers. Working out paint ratios and cabinet dimensions were parts of the roles that felt natural to him and as he reflected, it dawned on him that he’s always had a flair for numbers. This talent had just not had the opportunity to shine whilst he was at school.
Noah decided it was time for a fresh start and bravely started to study AAT whilst still working as a cabinet maker. He made a 100-mile round trip to attend evening classes at First Intuition Chelmsford. He remembers feeling like an imposter at the time, as he’d enter each class still in his overalls and often covered in dust and paint. Although, the other students were mostly from locally based office jobs, Noah felt welcome and thrived in his studies. He secured an accountancy apprenticeship 6 months after starting his studies. Noah’s warm personality and eagerness to learn soon made him a firm favourite amongst tutors and operations staff at FI Chelmsford. Whenever he was in centre, he would always stop to catch up with the team and built a rapport with all.
Noah’s Study Buddy
For Noah, one important aspect of his studying was his relationship with Evie, his German Shepherd, who was his constant companion whilst revising and preparing to sit exams. Through the inevitable ups and downs of studying for his AAT qualification and then moving on to ACCA, Evie was by his side. He was understandably devastated when Evie passed away in 2021 just before he was due to sit his FM exam. Noah put his studying on hold for a couple of weeks but picked himself up two days before the exam and passed with 59%. He then went on to complete his ACCA without failing another exam.
Despite his run of passes after this setback, Noah was still faced with challenges as by this time the pandemic was in full swing, and exam sittings were heavily disrupted. Noah experienced two sitting in succession where he was subject to problems with examinations. At one of these, Noah spent a whole day waiting for an exam to be started and had to leave without sitting as the technology could not be made to work.
Noah achieved his ACCA qualification in June 2022 and one of his first actions was to email the whole team at FI Chelmsford with a very heartfelt thanks.
“As tutors, we meet a lot of wonderful students but Noah from day 1 always stood out to me and other tutors. Noah worked hard and had a passion and enthusiasm to learn and contribute in class like no other student I have met since. He was never afraid to give everything a go even if it wasn’t the right answer.”
Rebecca Emson – FI Chelmsford and Southend Level 7 Professional Qualifications Manager