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Pandemic has been life-changing chance to learn for Salford mum

NIcola Fallon

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A MANCHESTER mum of two has launched a new bookkeeping business in the city after gaining 12 qualifications in the last year through home study specialist Ideal Schools.

Nicola Fallon, from Salford, has worked for more than 30 years in corporate finance roles for big blue chip companies including NatWest, ITV and Jardine Lloyd Thompson, the former multinational insurance business.

She decided to branch out on her own after being given notice of redundancy, and now hopes to recruit and train more bookkeepers through her business, Virtual Accounts & Taxes, which opened this month. (August 2021).

“I don't want to be a sole practitioner, I want to grow the business and employ other people,” Nicola says. “I’ve managed big teams and I can do that again.”

Ideal Schools was set up in Scotland nearly 40 years ago by a Dutch entrepreneur and specialises in delivering home study bookkeeping, payroll and taxation courses for people who want to become a self-employed bookkeeper or work in a financial environment.

Nicola found out about the company through a neighbour in Worsley, Salford, who has her own accounts practice and is also a tutor for Ideal Schools.

“I couldn’t have done it without Ideal Schools,” Nicola says of her 12 professional qualifications from The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), which is the largest bookkeeping Institute in the world and promotes professionalism in the sector.

“The Ideal Schools tutors were absolutely fabulous, and so responsive. The study materials and assignments are also brilliant. I ended up getting a 97% average mark over all the assignments. And I really don't think I could have done that without the support of Ideal Schools.”

Nicola managed a team in Manchester for 10 years as payments manager at Jardine Lloyd Thompson, which employed more than 10,000 people in more than 40 territories. When the firm was taken over by US giant Marsh McLennan in 2019, redundancies followed.

During her 12 month notice period, Nicola continued to work full time while studying in the evenings with Ideal Schools for ICB Levels 2 and 3 in Bookkeeping and Accounting. She passed both with 99% and 98% distinction with honors respectively.

This year, Nicola has completed further Level 4 qualifications in self-assessment tax and corporation tax and a payroll services qualification.

She incorporated her new business in April 2021 and received her certificate to practice from the ICB in May.

“Lockdown has worked out well for me, because I couldn’t  go anywhere or do anything other than work or study!” Nicola says. “It feels great to be my own boss – I've never been happier. I would never have had the guts to do it myself before now – so I’m really glad I've had the opportunity.”

Nicola’s first clients at Virtual Accounts & Taxes clients include her husband, Mark, who runs a local bathroom fitting company.

Her youngest son Ben, 21, also works in payroll and is keen to join his mum’s new firm.

“He's got ambitions to run the payroll department,” Nicola says.

Her previous qualifications include a payroll diploma from professional body, the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, and an English literature degree from the University of Bolton.

Nicola, who was born in Swinton, Salford says, "I left school at 16 with 9 GCSEs and couldn't afford to go to college and gain further qualifications - but have made up for it since!”

Ideal Schools was opened in Glasgow in 1983 by Elias Vanden Akker and is now run by his son, Scot Van Der Akker. The business is 100% dedicated to bookkeeping training and helps students gain professional qualifications with the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and the Association of Accounting Technicians, the UK’s leading qualification and membership body for accounting staff, with around 125,000 members in more than 90 countries.

Brian McVean, a director at Ideal Schools and one of its tutors, says: “We love hearing our student’s success stories and we’re thrilled that Nicola has done so well.

“The pandemic has not dented demand across all sectors for qualified finance professionals. About 99% of the UK’s private sector businesses are micro, small and medium sized enterprises. All of these are legally required to file accounts every year and record all payments to staff – so there’s never been a better time to work in this sector.”