This week we focus on the advisory side at Grant Thornton in our #BusinessArea series. First we hear from Daniel, a TRS graduate trainee in the London office…….
Hi I’m Daniel Moore-Oats and I’m a graduate trainee within TRS. I’m back again two years since I completed my internship with Grant Thornton and wrote my last blog (see: http://traineeblog.grant-thornton.co.uk/2013/09/02/life-in-technology-risk-services-trs/ ). So what have I learnt and what is new? … big breath… a lot! This year has been one of my fastest to date and in this blog I will aim to give you a more detailed up to date insight into: the work we do ;the day-to-day role and skills required as a new graduate the team; and then more generally how we fit into the firm in terms of supporting other services lines and Vision 2020 I’ve included a lot of detail in this blog post which is why I’ve split it into two and you can skip to a certain part as required.
A detailed insight into TRS work
So let’s start at the beginning. In Technology Risk Services (TRS) we conduct a broad range of work covering most sectors. As an associate you will predominantly be working on large corporate and public sector clients with some opportunities to work with our financial services team. Our work generally splits into three categories: data analytics; external audit; and advisory.
Data analytics involves obtaining data from our clients and then turning that data through the use of our data analytics tool into something that can add value for our clients (either internally or externally). To give a flavour of what this is I will explain one of the types of data work we do, which is around payroll. For any business one of their greatest expenditures and risks is around paying their employees. These run off IT systems each month and can use large amounts of data from multiple sources which can vary significantly month to month. As a firm, utilising the skills we are taught and tools available to us, we are able to manipulate underlying data that we obtain from the clients systems. This creates valuable information such as which employees have been paid twice in a month, employees that have been paid after their leaving date, instances of duplicate bank accounts potentially signifying error or fraud and instances of where employees have had large increases in pay again potentially signifying error or fraud etc. These outputs we provide can be used for further investigation or management action potentially highlighting flaws in current systems, instances of fraud and, perhaps more commercially important, can provide our clients with huge cost savings.
External Audit is supported by TRS as nowadays data for company accounts are all held and processed using IT systems. Where IT systems and controls are used to create these accounts they need to be evaluated and tested in order to ensure that the figures entering the accounts are accurate. Where control design is considered effective (through an IT general controls review) TRS are able to provide IT system testing which can dramatically reduce the amount of work for the audit team. This makes the audit process more efficient and provides cost savings to the client which in turn makes us as a firm more competitive.
Finally we provide advisory services mainly in the form of internal audit reviews. This for me is the most interesting and challenging part of the job and effectively involves looking at the risks associated with the technology that our clients deploy and providing recommendations on how to reduce these risks. The type of review that is conducted is completely client dependant based on what their current issues, risks and areas of concern are. For example I recently conducted a review at a client where they had been frequently experiencing problems with their key system whereby it was crashing, experiencing glitches and operating slowly. As a result the firm wanted a review done to determine the causes of this and whether there were appropriate controls and processes in place to reduce these issues to an acceptable level. We identified numerous problems with the current system and processes allowing us to provide recommendations to the firm so that they could correct this going forward.
The day-to-day role of a trainee and the skills required
As a member of TRS you will play a very active role in the team from early on whilst at the same time studying for a qualification – the ACA. . You will be expected to:
– analyse client data and create outputs similar to those highlighted above
– work individually or in a team to review IT controls
– perform and document field work in line with the firm’s methodologies
– produce advice for clients based on IT best practice
– conduct research for input into proposals as needed
– help develop TRS services and internal operational processes (more on this in section 4)
Having been in this role for a full year I can tell you that I have done all of the above and reflecting on the last year I have picked up a broad range of skills from scripting in data analytics to having a good understanding of technology systems (hardware and software), risks, processes and controls thereby allowing me to identify gaps and enabling me to offer sound recommendations to our clients based on best practice. However these job specific skills were not there when I started as I had no technology background. As a guide what you will need as a candidate is a passion for technology and business, an ability to think strategically and see the bigger picture, as well as the ability to focus on technical elements and drill down into detail whilst thinking critically about the information you receive and process. I’d say a strong desire to learn, apply yourself and work to a high standard are the basic skills required so don’t write off this role immediately if you don’t have a technology background and for all you techies out there having one of course will help.
TRS is a national team which sits within Business Risk Services (BRS) which in turn sits within Operational Advisory. There are more than 300 BRS employees in GT working nationally with approximately 30 being TRS specific. BRS as a group is exceptionally welcoming with a focus on fostering good working relationships within the team and providing individual support where needed. For example in my first week we all went out for team dinner and drinks which has happened on a number of occasions since.
BRS as a whole gathers at intervals throughout the year to provide business updates, this also give an opportunity to bring all the teams together in London. The TRS team itself also has its own training events which happen annually and has a technology specific agenda. Both of these are accompanied by social events which are great fun and a chance to unwind with the team.
Another example of the many “team bonding” events includes the Grant Thornton annual football tournament which was held in Leeds, which was a great couple of days out. Where TRS fits in the firm and how we support Vision 2020
As mentioned above we sit within BRS, within Operational Advisory however as TRS provide a wide range of services we support a lot of different areas within the firm. Whether it be external audit through controls testing, forensic and investigation services through data analytics or tax through software implementation advice. We can and do support a lot of areas in the firm which allows for wide reaching participation and service line cross over which allows you as a trainee to experience and develop contacts in a lot of areas.
In terms of supporting Vision 2020 TRS are right up there with some of the best performing areas of the firm. It only takes a quick look at the headlines to see technology glitches with RBS, cyber-attacks on corporations and government, as well as technology implementation problems to establish that technology risk is a fast growing market. This increased demand of expert advice means that TRS will be a core area for the firm going forward.
As well as this the nature of the team means that everyone is expected to help grow and improve both our service offerings and operations. TRS has developed a new concept in the form of “squads ” which allow everyone to contribute to TRS’ growth and provide suggestions for improvement. For example I am in the Cloud Squad (service line) and graduate squad (operations). I take an active part in developing the cloud service offering and am helping the team to bring together the service offering going forward. As part of the graduate squad I have helped develop training roadmaps and standardised work analysis to ensure that all graduates are getting the experience they are after. These are just two ways where I have provided input and helped improve and drive the TRS team forward which will ultimately help the firm to achieve Vision 2020. This is also a demonstration of the way in which TRS is committed to the concept of shared enterprise and truly allows participation at all levels.
For anyone who has an interest in business and technology TRS is a truly exciting team to be a part of. It’s a fast paced environment, with interesting opportunities and great prospects for growth. Whether you’re interested in getting into the technology area or whether you already have that technology foundation this role has the potential to fit you as long as you demonstrate the skills that would be required in any professional services role. I have learnt so much over the last year and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else – other than maybe the Caribbean coast but that’s neither here nor there.
For all prospective candidates I wish you the best of luck applying and if you have any questions do not hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.