Out of this world exam success

We learn how our colleague in Finance, Stephen Evans, approached his studies to rank 8th in the world in the CIMA accountancy exams, supported through RSA’s apprenticeship scheme.

It’s always a proud moment when you pass an exam, recognition of all that hard work and dedication, often accompanied by a sense of relief that ‘I did it!’.

RSA's Stephen Evans, Reconciliations and Accounting Operations Analyst, not only passed his CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) exams, but ranked 8th in the world on his final case study exam. To give some context, only 59% of those that take it achieve even a pass rate.

We asked Stephen to tell us a little more about what kept him motivated through his CIMA studies and how he feels about his result.

Image of Stephen Evans, RSA's Reconciliations and Accounting Operations Analyst.

Over to Stephen…

"Before starting as a Reconciliation Preparer at RSA, I studied Business with Finance Management in Newcastle, so I always had an interest in the broader picture of accounting.

"Solving business problems and applying the knowledge I learned throughout my course into practical solutions was something that really interested me, and is probably why I was able to do well on this exam. The case study focused on a ‘logistic solutions company’ using AI and robotics, and the strategic challenges that it might incur, which I can’t say I’ve had too much experience with.

"However, by really getting to grips with the case study and relating it to real-life scenarios, it became much clearer. Despite this, the result still came as quite a shock, although I had put a lot of hard work in, I know how difficult these exams are!

"CIMA provides the skills needed to work in various business and finance roles, and having now finished my exams I’m motivated to keep going and develop further knowledge in other areas of the business. As well as this, the apprenticeship process has really opened my eyes to several different career paths that I would like to explore."

Naturally Stephen’s leaders are delighted. Here's what they had to say:

Stephen joined the balance sheet reconciliations team back in October 2017, and was supported through the Apprenticeship programme to complete his CIMA studies. He has always been keen to develop in both his work and his studies which is great to see. To successfully complete all of his CIMA studies, and also be ranked 8th in the world on his final case study is a massive achievement and one he should be really proud of. Well done Stephen!
Sam Beamish - Reconciliation Leader
It’s very difficult to juggle a day job with professional examinations. Well done on gaining your accountancy qualification Stephen, that is hard enough. To be ranked 8th in the world truly is “Outperformance”!
Elaine Sweeney - Finance Chief Operating Officer

So Stephen, how did you juggle work with your learning?

Stephen said:

"I think it can be difficult to juggle work and learning, and it’s probably different for everyone. However, I think the best way to approach it is to be as organised as possible. For me, I often found it useful to do my studying on a morning before work, as I would feel fresh and motivated. This allowed me to be flexible with my day in case anything that took priority came up, but also allowed me to unwind in the evening.

"I did find it difficult at the start to get this balance, but it’s something I've adjusted to and learned as I went. The pandemic in 2020 was a time where I was able to really focus (mainly because it was all I could do after work!) and it meant I was able to get through several exams in a short space of time.

"If I was unable to study in the morning, I would try and keep my evening study sessions light. I would then focus a lot of my learning on the weekends, where I could dedicate a bit more time to lectures and certain topics (unfortunately this might require a few Friday and Saturday night sacrifices along the way!)."

Do you have any advice to others on how to revise and aim high?

Stephen said:

"I believe the key to passing exams is to be organised and willing to put the hard work in. By setting myself achievable but challenging targets, I was always able to stay on track with my studying. That being said, it is important to have a good balance and ensure that you can enjoy some down time where possible!"

Huge congratulations to Stephen – an absolutely mind-blowing result! Stephen is a great example of what can be achieved through our apprenticeship and professional development programmes, and I know that Stephen’s CIMA qualification will be indispensable as he grows his career at RSA. Pursuing professional development alongside your role is something that I’m so proud that we wholeheartedly support at RSA – and anyone who undertakes this and comes out with a qualification is an inspiration to us all!
Sarah Mantle-Gray - Director of Total Talent