I was born in Cuba and grew up in the US. I would never have imagined that 20 years down the line I was going to be working in the UK with people from around the world. When I was recruited by Grant Thornton doing a secondment in another country was the topic of choice but a rarity in occurrence. So the moment I heard my colleague had landed a secondment in the UK I immediately started my search.
Now that applications are open for 2014 positions (did you see our Instagram and Facebook countdown by the way?) I thought I would address one of the age old dilemmas which we all will face at some time in our lives; whether to stay at home or to move away. Some of us will have already made this choice when choosing a University to attend, whilst others will have only witnessed this tough choice on travel TV programmes, where the participants face a choice of staying in the UK or moving to wherever it is that they want to sit in the sun/ bathe in fresh springs/ open a zoo. The decision is really up to you, and there is no one size fits all advice that I can give however I will offer you the experiences of my friends and I to help you along the way. Read this post
The nature of the life of a trainee is that, for a couple of months a year, we leave the office and head over to college for study and revision for exams. As mentioned in my last blog, April was a month spent in front of books as I completed my final CTA stage. For May, it’s the ACA trainees turn to be out of the office as they prepare for June and July exams.
Where have the last few months gone? They say that time flies when yoy’re having fun and my secondment is no exception. I have now been in Australia for seven months and am beginning to feel settled.
Hi, I’m Chris and I work out of the Southampton office as an Accounts Executive. It is now four months since I landed at Sydney airport ready to embark on the biggest and most exciting challenge of my career, a long term secondment to Grant Thornton Australia.
So how did I get to Sydney? I joined Southampton in July 2007 on the Accelerate Programme and was immediately attracted to the possibility of an international secondment upon completion of my ACA qualification. Seeing another part of the world, with the security of income and a job to return to – the opportunity sounded almost too good to be true! Four years on, I had completed my AAT qualification, had just sat my last ACA exam and I set about taking the next step in my career.
In addition to an international secondment, I considered a national secondment, a transfer to another department and even seeking a role outside of Grant Thornton. However, after researching each option and discussing at length with my Line Manager, I concluded that an international secondment would offer me the greatest opportunity to accelerate my personal and professional development.
For some time now, I had been monitoring the Grant Thornton Global Opportunities site and had made several enquires. This included contacting a friend and colleague on secondment in Perth. He offered to pass my details on to a Partner in his office, and I later received notification of a position available in Sydney. I hadn’t necessarily been looking to go to Australia but the role on offer in the PHB (Privately Held Business) department was a perfect fit for my accounting and tax background. With the support of various senior staff and the Talent Mobility Team in London, I submitted a successful application, packed up my life into a three bags and left for Sydney. Okay, so it wasn’t quite that straight forward but you get the idea.
Four months in and I have been involved in a variety of work, from preparing business structure advice for international organisations, to the preparation and lodgement of consolidated tax returns. Adapting to new working practices and learning the Australian tax legislation have been significant challenges – all of which have kept me motived and focused on getting the most out of this experience.
Not only have I enjoyed the work that I have been involved in so far, but the social scene in Sydney is fantastic. After work drinks are held on a regular basis, sporting events seem to crop up every few weeks and departmental functions are common place. Of course, Sydney has plenty to offer outside of work too including a number of beaches on its doorstep.
Reflecting on my experience so far, the past four months have been the most challenging but also the most enjoyable of my time at Grant Thornton. Working with new clients, new colleagues and in a new environment has been inspiring and working in Australia in particular has really opened up my eyes to international business.
As many trainees at Grant Thornton approach their third year with the firm, our exams are nearly over and that elusive qualification creeps even closer. With so many options available to newly qualified trainees at Grant Thornton, good planning can give a plenty of trainees an insight into the international network and potential prospects of working all over the world.
As an audit executive in from our Cambridge office, I was in this situation in late 2010 when I became aware of a three-month secondment opportunity in Sydney, Australia.
Having qualified with an ACA, I wanted to further my career but also found myself with the desire to travel. This secondment presented me with the opportunity to do both. I travelled to the Sydney office to work in the Australia member firm’s audit team over their busy season where I worked alongside six other secondees from the UK, USA and France.
The hours were long but there was plenty going on within the firm from a social point of view, so we definitely experienced all that the great city had to offer. Both the Rugby World Cup sweepstake (taken incredibly seriously) and month-end drinks were particular highlights.
Following my time in Sydney, I was given a further three-month sabbatical during which I travelled across south-east Asia to finish off my secondment in style!
Having had this experience, I can’t recommend the secondment programme highly enough. As trainees in the firm, you are able to learn how to apply and link to a listing of global opportunities on the intranet. Alternatively, you can raise your interest to work abroad and our dedicated team in London will find a bespoke role fitting to your desires.
Hi, I’m Matthew and I work in the Employer Solutions team at the Oxford office.
The Oxford office is part of the Thames Valley region, which also includes the two Reading offices. There are around 115 people in Oxford and 100 in Reading, with around 17 graduates joining the two offices each year.
The Oxford office is situated in Oxford Business Park, which is south of the city and is on a good bus route. There is a Tesco’s and M&S within a few minutes’ walk, which is handy!
We have many technology companies as clients in Oxford and there are a lot of Oxford university spin-out companies. As well as this, we have AIM listed, land and property, not for profit and investment companies as clients.
We offer a range of services in the Oxford office. As I am in the Employer Solutions team, my work involves offering clients share schemes, employment tax advice and advice for expatriates who have either come to the UK or work abroad. There are seven people in my team in Oxford with a further two in Reading. Other teams in the office are Research & Development, Corporate Tax, Personal Tax, Financial Planning, Audit and VAT to name a few.
The Oxford office has a number of events during the year, including Summer and Christmas parties. Last year’s Christmas party was in the Randolph ? probably the top hotel in Oxford for a three-course dinner with burlesque entertainers. There are also a few away days spread throughout the year where we will have meetings in various locations, for example, in an Oxford college. A few years ago, the office went to Brussels for the day! There are also social events after work that are subsidised by the office. A month ago we went punting followed by dinner. Fortunately, it was on one of the few days it didn’t rain!
The cost of living in Oxford is quite high, but it does depend on the area. Cowley is a very popular choice since many students live there, which makes it livelier than others, and is a little cheaper. Whereas, Summertown is often regarded as the top place to live! However, wherever you live, there are generally good bus routes in to the centre which makes it very easy to meet up with friends and there is a plethora of pubs to try!
Once qualified there are many opportunities within Grant Thornton to try something different. People go on secondments to other offices such as London or to different teams. There have also been many international secondments to places such as America, Australia and Brazil! I have visited offices in Qatar and Dubai and am hoping to organise a secondment to Dubai next year.
The Oxford office is a successful office and is helpful and friendly. Oxford is a great place to live and I am proud to be part of it.
Hi, I’m Lucy and I’ve recently qualified with CTA from the Liverpool office where I work in the tax department.
As part of qualifying with CTA, all newly qualified trainees get the chance to have a day in London where the national leadership board fling the doors open and we get to see the various opportunities which are available to us now we’ve passed our exams.
I managed to get talking to Ian Smart, a member of our national leadership board and London Office Managing Partner (OMP). This was ideal, because I was really interested in his role and our London services. A few days later I bit the bullet and email Ian to see if he could put up with me for a few days…. I wanted to work shadow him!
Ian was really receptive and enthusiastic and thought it was a great idea and agreed with no reservation. So we set the wheels in motion, agreed an appropriate time scale for us both and before I knew it I was at the doors of the London Finsbury Square office ready for my first day of work shadowing.
Of course I was a little nervous, but Ian showed a great interest from the beginning which set my mind at ease. Ian helped me to feel like an equal and show how my development was really important.
Throughout the week I got to take part in some really interesting meetings and got an incomparable insight into the senior levels of our firm. I couldn’t believe what I was able to be involved in; me a newly qualified tax adviser from Liverpool in a London office management meeting! Who would have thought it!?
It truly was an amazing learning experience and also a great opportunity to meet lots of new people in varying positions within the firm, all of whom went out of their way to answer any questions I had and help me meet my objectives.
Having been with other firms I honestly believe this kind of ‘open door’ policy within a professional practice is so rare and its something I am really excited about.
Grant Thornton truly is a place that encourages a curious mind to flourish. The level of transparency across the board contributes to a great learning and working environment giving us all the vital ingredients to help us grow in our careers. All we need to do is ask!
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.
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!