Takeover 2016: PSA Fact File

Personally, I never used Spilling the Beans more than when I was preparing for my final round assessment centre at the Birmingham office. So, rather than creating a day-in-the-life blog as many of my colleagues have already finely done in far better style than I am capable of, I thought it best, on a rainy train journey back from Shrewsbury to Brum, to explain what it is that makes Public Sector Audit (PSA) at Grant Thornton a bit unique, and let you know everything I wished I had known when I was preparing for my interview to get here…

So, a word on what it is that we do:

In PSA our fundamental aims are 2 fold, we give a professional opinion on whether we believe that the financial statements give a true and fair representation of the financial position of the entity, for the benefit of a number of stakeholders; one of which is the UK tax payer. If the accounts aren’t accurate, we report that they’re not accurate back to the client. Secondly, we ensure that public money is being spent in a way that is to the benefit of the public good. In doing so we create trust in public sector bodies. Everything else is supplementary to that goal. (Feel free to crib this explanation when your friends ask you what you are applying for).

That said, Grant Thornton also prides itself on being able to assist public sector organisations with their significant financial issues in these particularly challenging times. An affinity with and understanding of public sector organisations is therefore something which the firm is undoubtedly looking for from potential PSA interns. If you have those things, you are already halfway to an internship!

Our clients in PSA:

Providing excellent audit is particularly apt right now because public sector bodies in the UK are currently under huge amounts of stress due to our last government’s austerity agenda. We all know that the NHS is currently creaking at the seams, it is maybe less well known that the vast majority of local councils in the UK are also under huge financial strain. Some are in real danger of simply running out of funds to support the allocation of any of their basic services; they are running out of money to support any services beyond the absolute basics. Again, this is exactly the sort of thing I wish I had known to talk about at interview.

The nature of the work:

. The major benefit of working in public sector audit is that you know that what you are doing is in the interest of the public good, and you are therefore good for mankind. On top of that there is also the added bonus of variety. When working in PSA your day to day job changes quite a lot depending on the client you are working on – auditing a fire authority for instance is very different to auditing a pension fund.

The thing I most enjoy about audit on a day-to-day level is working with clients to understand how it is their accounts work and what they have done to reach the numbers they have arrived at, but there is also an awful lot of satisfaction to be gained from the moment of clarity when you simply manage to make the numbers add up. If you are the sort of person who gains a lot of satisfaction from resolving issues like this you will almost definitely enjoy this job. For me, it is a really great feeling when everything makes sense and it all adds up.

That said, it is also not necessary to be some kind of maths genius to enjoy the work, I studied International Relations for my degree and had rarely looked at any figures for the past three years before starting my internship, and this hasn’t hampered my work at all.

The firm’s approach:

The firm fosters a very strong sense of collaboration and places a huge amount of importance on being open and accessible. It also invests heavily in its employees, and strongly emphasises training for its people. Everyone at the firm is, in my experience, approachable and willing to help others; from the interns up to the directors and partners who I have met during my time here, everyone has been willing to answer the questions I have had about the firm, its clients and the work we do.

The firm’s approach is particularly emphasised by its movement towards Shared Enterprise, and its goal of creating a Vibrant Economy, which sounds nebulous but to me fundamentally means that, as the great Bruce Springsteen once said: Nobody Wins Unless Everybody Wins. An awareness of the firm’s approach to its role in the nation’s future is, also, something I wish I had had more of in the run up to my interview.

Other things it’s good to know:

  • The CLEARR values are really important to know backwards and forwards,
  • Brexit is likely going to change a lot of the rules for accounting in the UK, as we readjust to life outside the EU. But tax will likely be more significantly affected than accounting will be,
  • AccountingAge.com is a really good news source to utilise to keep up to date with what is going on in the profession.

I hope this post is useful for people thinking about joining in PSA in particular, but also in joining the firm generally. If there is any more information which you require, feel free to contact me here: dominic.timmons-draude@uk.gt.com

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