Tag Archives: Nick’s Diary

Nick’s Diary – July 2012

As I headed up to Bradenham in July for the second phase of tutoring for November’s CTA exams, it came to my attention that this blog is not only read by potential applicants but also current Grant Thornton staff. With that in mind, for those of you who are reading this and know me, hello!

Bradenham is a great place to catch up with the like-minded people within the firm though, and as around 20 trainees descended on the outskirts of High Wycombe for some capital gains tax and VAT tutoring, this Bradenham visit was like every other; a tough day followed by a chilled out evening.

Whilst we were at Bradenham doing our CTA training, we were also joined at ‘the manor’ by this summer’s intake of interns. The interns were completing a two day course on presentation and communication skills before heading up to Birmingham for a corporate responsibility day at a local school. Whilst my first experience of Grant Thornton on the inside was after graduation, it’s clear to see that the few weeks these interns will be spending with the firm are a pretty cool experience and some brilliant CV building. I’d certainly encourage people to focus on this experience as they take a break from their second year studies.

But enough about what I should have done three years ago and more about what I’ve done this month.

July always sits well with me, usually because the weather is good and whilst it hasn’t exactly been a British summer the last few weeks, it’s still given me the chance to get sunburnt – seems I’ll never accept that the sun can burn my pasty skin. The sunshine does make people more sociable though, and for three Fridays on the trot I was heading into Southampton with other trainees to sample the nightlife.

Other than the above, I’ve been keeping to my rhetoric and getting head stuck into the CTA manuals, this stuff is pretty bulky and it’s amazing to think I’m already cramming with three months until my exams.

I’ll wrap this blog up with two rare pieces of Nick-advice. Firstly, apply to do an internship, it looks like a great experience and also quite a bit of fun. Secondly, always wear sun cream, no matter how stubborn you are!

Nick’s Diary – April 2012

I was once asked at a careers event at Loughborough University how I had coped with the transformation from student to employee. Where the 11am roll out of bed became a 7am rush and a week’s worth of lecturing hours can sometimes fit themselves into one day at the office. I guess this will be a concern for a lot of people at University and, as I’m not exactly a ‘morning person’, it was probably a concern to me. As my student days are now two years behind me, I can honestly say a 7am start no longer fills me with dread, even if I still don’t like the noise of my alarm clock. Typically, and this really isn’t as bad as it sounds, the Grant Thornton Southampton office can feel a bit like my second home.

April though was quite the contrary to this rule, as I spent plenty of time hopping around my skillset in what was a three tier month.

I kicked the month off by heading back to Corporation Tax, where there was plenty of work to be catching up with after the end of my audit secondment. This also saw me heading out to a client early in the month to complete their tax return on site – an increasingly regular feature in my training contract as my experience and client relationships grow.

Mid-month came another shift in my day job, as I headed back over to the audit department for one final week to complete the audit of a games manufacturer. This provided yet another opportunity to broaden my horizons and get an insight into another truly interesting company.

As April drew to a close I started to experience one thing I’m sure all students can relate to. It’s that constant and nagging reminder of exams, badgering away in the back of your mind. This is one student habit I’ve not yet managed to shake and so the last week of the month was spent sitting at home with a textbook just inches away from my face.

As part of the CTA training contract, part way through we must complete a ‘hurdle’ exam which is designed to see if we’re up to the mental challenge of this qualification. I’d had plenty of practice but was still surprised to see how high the bar has been raised from ATT to CTA. Fortunately, a 67% pass is enough to see me heading off to Bradenham next month as I start my CTA qualification.

It’s been ages since I’ve been to Bradenham and I can’t wait to get up there to see my fellow tax trainees again. Of course, Bradenham being Bradenham means fantastic food and zero commute. I’ll probably weigh in at a couple of stone heavier at the end of May but here’s to hoping I’ll be smarter for it too.

Nick’s Diary – March 2012

During the month of March I completed the main bulk of my audit secondment with it coming to a close at the end of the month. It seems that regardless of the department during March, it’s a busy time for any area of financial services. The rush of audits for December year ends and the large number of March tax return submissions meant I was kept on my toes with both audit and tax throughout the month.

Now that my audit secondment has officially come to an end, I have made two key observations about working as an auditor at Grant Thornton.

Firstly, at Grant Thornton audits are short. During the last six weeks I have completed three week long audits. Having such brief audits allows a trainee to experience a wide breadth of clients’ industries and provides the experience of almost all the audit. I imagine bigger audits could have the potential to drag and, if each part of the audit is lengthy, there is less variation to experience. During my three weeks out at clients, I managed to sample almost all audit tests, so there was little I didn’t experience. The client variation was great too, I audited an advertising agency, a toy distributor and an investment company, clearly the spice of life.

Secondly, at Grant Thornton auditors are not just auditors. Our firm produces financial statements for clients in addition to auditing them. Subsequently, I was able to revisit my accounting background and get on with some accounts preparation jobs. This is a skill which I think every ACA qualified person should experience, and I’m pleased to say I’m continuing with some small jobs in the future following my training of the accounts production software, even more spice!

March also proved to be a good month socially. We had our annual office quiz which is held in the meeting rooms where our team showed that it’s the taking part that counts (we came last, this is my excuse). I also joined around 20 other trainees at the end of the month to attend the Southern Counties Accountants Ball which was held at Southampton’s football ground. A great meal and a great laugh had by all and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Now April is upon us I’ve moved back into Corporate Tax where I am catching up with my backlog once again. Time is of the essence as I’ve been asked if I would do one more week in audit during the month before I get back into the exam routine; it’s the CTA hurdle exam at the end of the month which is an internal exam to see if I’m mentally up for the CTA challenge. I guess if we’re using athletic terms, April is a sprint, the exam is the hurdles and CTA seems like the marathon. I’d better start getting fit!

Nick’s Diary – January 2012

With Christmas well and truly enjoyed, there wasn’t much time to continue with the lethargic and lazy lifestyle I had, yet again, developed over the festive period. January was the tax advisers experience of “jumping in the deep end” which was a sobering thought for someone who had kept warm on turkey and mulled wine for the previous fortnight.

The start of January was a great time for me to reflect, as I completed the first milestone of my anniversary with Grant Thornton. As the firm continues to bring in new and enthusiastic talent, I had the chance to meet Southampton’s new starters and welcome them to the firm. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and meeting our new trainees reminded me of the excitement I had when I first joined – I’m pleased to say I look at year two with the same level of ambition and hunger.

A reflection on 2011 allowed me to dive into some good memories with the firm such as my first week at Bradenham, the numerous balls and parties arranged in conjunction with our office and my successes at work, including working on this award winning website. Of course, a rollercoaster doesn’t work without dips, and I won’t be drawing too much on the memories of my month long revision stint, but I guess if there’s no pain, there’s no gain.

That leads me onto a welcome event of January; the ATT results day. It seems all that hard work paid off and I was ecstatic to see that I’d kept a clean sheet and swooped up all exams in one go. On success of my exams, the congratulations literally couldn’t stop coming and I’m still overwhelmed by the thought of having a few more letters to my name.

The relentless drive of deadline-January had my celebrations waiting until the weekend. It was all hands on deck in the Personal Tax Compliance Unit where I was building up to the end of my secondment. It’s great to see yet more good results coming out of our efforts and I’ll certainly head back to Corporate Tax with a better understanding of tax, as well as a greater appreciation of the hard work our personal tax staff do during January. As ever, hard work is rewarded and an afternoon out with the team was a great way to say send off the month with a bang!

February seems like a month where I’ll get to relax a bit and start to build up reserves for what 2012 has to offer. That said, I get my revision texts for CTA half-way through the month so I guess there’s no rest for the wicked – just the way I like it.

Nick’s Diary – December 2011

As I moved into the second month of my Personal Tax secondment I began splitting my time in half between two departments. The variety helps to spice things up and December was a great month to pick out. I managed to get an invite to both the Personal Tax and Corporate Tax department Christmas lunches. To top it off, I and another 80 employees took to the Christmas party which was held over a three course meal and more wine than is necessary.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games, the end of the year is a hectic time for any company, and in terms of tax this is especially true for those with March or December year-ends. As a vast majority of my clients are March and December year ends and I was at full pace for the two weeks running up to Christmas, aiming to beat deadlines and avoid unnecessary penalties.

When 23 December came around, my final day in the office, the action of submitting the last tax return to HM Revenue & Customs was a feeling worth working for. We beat the rush.

Our office closes over the Christmas period which makes for a great chance to recover from the hectic rush. I’ve enjoyed being able to leave the laptop alone, catch up with friends and family as well as keep Mr Kipling in business. It’s been a good ten days.

I ready myself to go back to the office tomorrow morning for my final month in Personal Tax. The end of the month is yet another deadline and it’s all hands on deck to get through it. I feel refreshed and ready for the challenge, so bring it on!

January will also mark my first complete year at Grant Thornton and our office will be taking in another bunch of enthusiastic graduates and school leavers to Tax and Audit. It is farewell to 2011, a great year, but here is to 2012, a year which will hopefully be as memorable as the last.

Nick’s Diary – November 2011

As part of my training contract, I have the opportunity to sit the ATT and CTA exams. As November came round, seemingly all too quickly, I spent the first two days being examined on my knowledge of ATT and technical taxation. Whilst I never want to tempt fate, I think the exams went well, and I wait with anticipation until 17 January when the results will be posted online.

The five weeks I spent out of the office made for a fairly nasty shock to the system in terms of early mornings, but getting back to a full in-tray of work was great and I quickly got back into the swing of things. In addition, getting back to my colleagues and clients was a clear reminder as to why I put the revision hours in.

Before I left for my revision stint, I suggested to my manager that I’d like to spend some time in the office’s Personal Tax Compliance Unit (PTCU). I saw this as a good opportunity to get a wider experience and to be able to know what January is really like for the guys in this department (apparently it’s tough, watch this space).

So along came 17 November and I was seconded to the PTCU until 31 January 2012. Getting to the department and starting commencing my training reminded me of what it was like when I first started at Grant Thornton back in January. The learning curve is always steep and I was straight in the deep end of generating personal tax returns.

I’ve kept some of the more long term work I do in Corporate Tax so I’m not fully disappearing from the department, but on the plus side I’ve got invitations to more Christmas meals. Added to the Christmas Party, I’ve got three Grant Thornton meals to attend in December. Let the mince pie diet commence!

Nick’s Diary – October 2011

Seeing as the entire month of October was filled with Kaplan revision courses, study leave and mock exams I have wondered whether my life has been interesting enough this month to warrant a diary entry. However, as consistency is key, I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to just leave a two month block empty, so I’ve decided to blog about the ATT and CTA entry route.

I joined in January 2011 and by February I was at Bradenham focusing on my first phase of ATT tuition. Ever since, I’ve been attending courses at Kaplan and Bradenham aimed at preparing me for the exams I have just sat. Throughout this period I have continually sat internal ‘link’ exams which are designed to test my progress and help prepare me for the real thing. Overall this year, I think I’ve spent around 7-8 weeks at Kaplan studying for the ATT along with several more weeks at internal Grant Thornton Bradenham courses.

The ATT consists (or at least it will do in 2012) of three exams and two online e-assessments. The three hour written exam papers are Personal Tax, Business Tax and Accounting Principles and a specialist paper. The specialist papers are Business Tax Higher Skills, Business Compliance, Inheritance Tax and VAT. I sat Business Tax Higher Skills as this best reflected my work in the office. These exams are mainly computation based but do not require a genius’ understanding of mathematics, luckily. The e-assessments, one in Law and one in Professional Responsibilities & Ethics are new to 2012 so sadly I’ve not any experience of what they will be like for the new trainees.

I did manage to get a couple of breaks in between revision and headed over to my old stomping ground of Loughborough University for their Pizza Night and Careers Fair. It was great to go back and speak with up-and-coming applicants about my job, yet another thing I never thought I’d be doing when I joined Grant Thornton as a Tax Associate.

I sat all exams in one sitting which means if my results are favourable in January I’ll have an extra three letters after my name and will be a qualified Taxation Technician ? fingers crossed. Needless to say getting through the five solid weeks of revision and 12 hours of exams in two days was one major relief and it’s great to have my social life back. Although, looking back that investment of time and effort was well worth it and I look forward with muted confidence to results day. My five weeks out of the office made the ‘normal’ 7am start quite a shock to the system but with plenty of work to come back to I’ve quickly been lifted out of revision mode.

November’s calendar looks good so I’ll have plenty of interesting things to blab about next month, I promise.

If you’re interested in reading further about the Association of Taxation Technicians or the Chartered Tax Advisor qualifications the websites can be found here:

ATT: http://www.att.org.uk/students/attprospectivestudents

CTA: http://www.tax.org.uk/students_qualifications/newctastudents

Nick’s Diary – September 2011


As September commenced, it marked a year since I took the trip over to London Bridge for Talent 10. Sipping champagne on the boat and admiring the London skyline from the Thames is certainly something I’ll never forget and, judging by the photos, Talent 11 went down with equal success and sunshine.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to ‘live the dream’ on the boat this year and instead, a year on, I was knuckling down for my last ATT course; Practice, Administration & Ethics – not quite the same as champagne on a boat but I guess you can’t win them all.

As if the Kaplan course didn’t excite me enough, the following weekend was spent walking some 25 miles up and down three mountains in Scotland, England and Wales for the Three Peaks Challenge. Our team of five from Southampton were battered with high winds and relentless rain on our way to completing the walk where we raised a sweet £2,000 for Cancer Research UK.

Are we there yet?

Of course, the sense of achievement at Snowdonia’s summit was unparalleled, although I required the week off to recover and bring my legs back into working order. As I relaxed and recovered, it gave me a good chance to catch-up on revision ahead of the mock exams I sat on my return. The exams are certainly getting harder, and I’ve been given a kick from the rear to get my head down, in what will be the final run of revision, before the exams.

At last, I had some well overdue fun, ending the month on a high at the London Euston office. The Spilling the Beans team met with other recruitment teams from across the country and we presented the website to our colleagues, had some photos taken for the site and got down to a good spot of brainstorming. I spent a good few hours admiring the new recruitment website and brochure, maybe because yours truly features in it – is this my 15 minutes of fame?

So it’s goodbye Southampton office as I ready myself for three weeks of revision courses at Bristol ahead of my final ATT exams in November. My fingers are firmly crossed for the exams and hopefully there will be good reason to crack open that champagne when they are over – wish me luck!

Nick’s Diary – August 2011

Although the Grant Thornton football tournament isn’t strictly speaking August’s news, I guess it’s due a mention. Congratulations went out to Manchester as they beat Liverpool in the final of what was a scorching hot summer’s day. My football skills didn’t exactly come to fruition but at least I can say I had a good weekend nonetheless.

One of my Grant Thornton employee highlights came about this month as I took the train up to London for a photo shoot for this year’s graduate recruitment brochure. I’ve always insisted that tax is a varied role, although I certainly didn’t expect to be posing in a busy London street as part of my job. Embarrassing? Yes – but quite a laugh all the same. Luckily, I timed my visit well and was able to tag along to the London interns leaving bash for a few laughs and a late train home.

It is the nature of the tax-beast that the workload fluctuates throughout the year. Here in the Southampton office, we’re going through our quiet time. A perfect opportunity to take a holiday then – a quiet break in the West Country was just what I needed.

My week off couldn’t have been better timed either. With August sandwiched by ATT courses, the exam season is heating up. A small rest bite was ideal to regenerate that determination and I’m feeling prepared to tackle the final six mock exams head on next month.

Maybe September’s diary entry won’t be quite as memorable…

Nick’s Diary – July 2011

The inaugural day, the inaugural tweet and now for the inaugural diary post. I’ve been tweeting for Grant Thornton for a few months now and find it near impossible to convey an image of my life here in the Southampton office with just 140 characters. I guess cramming a month’s worth of information into one blog will be much the same but it’s a start at least.

July started well, with loads of work flying my way. At one stage I had several corporate tax returns and was enjoying juggling the workload between myself and my seniors. In addition, July is the month of appraisals and I sat down with my line manager for two hours to discuss my previous seven months with the firm and, of course, the next 12.

This  made the first week heavy on deadlines as I headed off to Bristol to attend the second stint of the Business Tax and Accounting Principles part of the ATT at Kaplan. This is the first course I’ve attended at college that really reflects the corporate work I do in the office and, needless to say, has been a huge boost for my technical understanding of business tax.

Since coming back into the office it seems the rush was off-balance in the month and things have quietened down now. This has given me the chance to calmly attend several meetings. These include my involvement organising the Christmas & Summer Parties as well as the more commercially focused business development projects which involves researching potential clients in particular sectors.

As the rush has quietened down, I ready my amateur football skills for the Grant Thornton National Football Tournament. This year it’s being held in the holding champion’s city of Leeds. It’s quite the drive up from Southampton but two nights in such a city with every Grant Thornton office from the country (and some from Europe too) is too good to turn down.

I get the feeling this is the calm before the storm.