Case study: Ben Robson, insolvency practitioner

Ben Robson is a licensed insolvency practitioner (IP) from Bridge Newland. He’s one of the youngest people to have passed the JIEB exams, the mandatory exams needed to practice in insolvency. And he’s a school leaver!

Why did you decide not to go to university?

I guess I would say that I was an average student when it came to exams and that passing exams to the highest standard was always a struggle for me. I seemed to always just get enough to achieve B and C grades and rarely the A’s I worked for. I am convinced to this day that this wasn’t solely down to my ability but was also down to the fact that my appetite to learn full-time was decreasing year on year.

I am sure that I am not alone when it comes to that feeling that friends who didn’t go to university seemed to be having all the fun by earning good money from their jobs they got straight out of school. It was this, together with my belief that I would not do myself justice if I went to university, that led me to decide to go into employment straight from college but continue my learning on day release.

I was never certain that my choice to avoid university was a good one. However, reflecting on it now, I could never be more sure that this was the right choice for me as I am now running my own successful business.

How did not going to university benefit you?

One clear benefit of avoiding university for me was the fact that when I started on my journey to become a licensed insolvency practitioner, my very first role was as an office junior, meaning that I worked my way up through the businesses I worked for, learning every role within the company and passing many exams along the way. This ability to understand each role and department certainly made it easier for me to set up my practice. I have had to do everything myself, which I would not have been confident in doing had I skipped the lower level support roles as a graduate on some form of trainee management scheme.

How did day-release training help you?

My day-release training involved studying for the AAT (The Association of Accounting Technicians), which is a basic level accountancy qualification. This gave me a great grounding in business generally and took a couple of years to complete.

Then I moved onto the ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) which I part qualified in over a further couple of years, giving me a greater understanding of accounts.

After this I moved onto two respected insolvency qualifications: the Certificate of Proficiency in Insolvency (CPI) and the Joint Insolvency Examination Board (JIEB). I spread study for these qualifications across three years, and managed to complete each exam on my first attempt.

Now this might seem like a long time to be studying, but to me it was well worth it. My experience gained over those years helped me tremendously to pass each exam. In turn, each exam passed earned me pay rises and, on occasion, promotions.

Would you recommend your career path to others?

When I compare my route to completion of my chosen qualifications to that of my colleagues, I would choose mine every time. This is due to the fact that each graduate I have worked with, while more academic, had not achieved what I did by the ages I did and also had student loans to pay.

I am in no doubt that there will be many an employer who will insist on only employing a graduate due to their perceived greater ability or due to a desire to maintain a certain reputation within their industry.  However, it should be known that there are still many employers who prefer non-graduates. They are just as able to be moulded into a firm’s culture and learn quickly.

It is also worth mentioning that—like a number of you, I’m sure—I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went to college and did A-levels in business studies and IT in order to get a good grounding for as wide a range of businesses as I could. I certainly never grew up thinking I wanted to be an insolvency practitioner! I fell into the job and found that I enjoyed it as I experienced it. Therefore, if you are uncertain on what to do (like I was), my advice to you would be not to discount day-release tuition. You can earn while you learn, and you do not risk being over-qualified and without a job.

Article written by Ben Robson, a licensed insolvency practitioner of Bridge Newland Limited. For more information on him or insolvency generally you can visit