Tag Archives: Working at Grant Thornton

Burning the Midnight Oil…

Work-life balance is one of the key things we all look for when deciding on our chosen career path, but inevitably there are going to be times when you have to miss out on some social pursuits to put in a few extra hours at the office. It is therefore highly appropriate that I write this blog in the office at 9pm, having forgone my usual Thursday ritual of having a beer and watching the darts in order to complete a particularly stubborn section of an audit file.

From the audit side, I’ll give you a realistic perspective of our business cycle. Many of our clients prepare their accounts to a December year-end and require these to be audited before submission to Companies House, usually within 6-9 months of that year-end. With the number of staff in the department broadly remaining the same during the year, do the maths and you can see that the first six months of the year are going to be busy.

With deadlines to meet for clients, ‘busy season’ can mean that the time on the planner for a particular audit (i.e. 9-5.30 time) doesn’t actually reflect the amount of work that needs doing. From experience of a client in a previous year you might know you need to put in some overtime in the evening to get the job done within the allocated time. Or there could be a delay in a client sending you some information, putting you behind and leaving you needing to complete work when you are booked to another client. I’ve particularly found the latter a challenge over the last few weeks and it is a sharp lesson in managing your time well. It is important to prioritise deadlines to ensure you can still deliver to that client when you’re out on-site at another client and need to maximise the time you have.

Of course, as a trainee you also need to set time aside to study during the busy period. Now if you’ve put in over 50 hours at work Monday to Friday you might be wondering where you are going to find the time. Weekends is the obvious answer. There is no getting away from it that when things ramp up you might have to miss out on going to the pub on a Sunday afternoon to fire out some practice exam questions. That’s not to say you can’t make time to catch up with friends and family, again it’s just a case of good forward planning to make sure you can fit everything in. Being able to do this and having more than one focus at once is probably the most important thing I have learnt to do in my 18 months with the firm.

Those in our team who are already qualified often stress to me the importance of preparing thoroughly for your exams and are brilliant when the workload gets too heavy along with college. They’ve been in your shoes and want you to do well, thus the burden of overtime is shared throughout the team to allow you some evenings free to hit the books. It follows that as you take on more responsibility and have passed your exams, you will then do the same for the next group of trainees coming through. This comes back to being able to prioritise to ensure both professional and personal goals are achieved. The camaraderie and sense of everyone pulling together is what gets you through difficult times when it seems you will never get files finished. No footballer wants to score an own goal for their team do they?

The busy season makes you appreciate what a work-life balance actually is, and it isn’t about going home at a certain time every day! We roll our sleeves up when we need to but balance this out in the summer with time away from the laptop, enjoying some good weather and a sense of achievement that we gave it our best effort.

Any comments please post them below or tweet me @GT_Phil

Nick’s Diary – January 2013

In my December blog, I talked about how a career in tax often means you’re working to a deadline. Different service lines will often work towards different deadlines and working for Grant Thornton means I’m working for several service lines of our tax offerings. As a result, the deadlines of December in Corporate Tax were quickly followed up by more deadlines in January for my work in Personal Tax and Trust Tax.

January then was a month filled with long days in the office, getting through the rigor of self assessment tax returns. Whilst my time spent on this type of work has dropped recently, I still found myself in the thick of it towards the end of the month, getting my hands dirty.

A plus point of our firm in relation to the overtime I do during busy periods is that this extra time gets saved as time off in lieu. During December and January I’ve racked up some five days of extra holiday, which is vital when I’m taking around three weeks a year for my exams.

If you follow me on twitter (@GT_NickB), you’ll notice that I’ve been fairly absent throughout December and January. My commitment to the job has been partly to blame for this, but with CTA results out in January I’ve been feeling slightly muted.

If you’ve read any of my later blogs from 2012, you’ll probably get the impression that my CTA training was a difficult time for me. I have never before worked so hard for any exams, and sitting two CTA papers cast a shadow over the effort I put into my University finals (which at the time seemed like a lot).

This strong effort I placed on the exams allowed me to take a relaxed approach to the results day. I had accepted that if I couldn’t pass, it was simply that I wasn’t smart enough to pass and that my effort would never come into question. That said, five minutes before the results came out I was a shaking wreck as I leant over my laptop screen with a prematurely (or optimistically) purchased bottle of Champagne on my desk.

These are moments I will never forget. From picking up my GCSE and A-Level results, to finding out my degree classification to passing my ATT exams. Each step seems that little more important to the next path in my life but all are incrementally as important as the last in the big picture.

The good news is I passed both and that I’m now just two weeks away from Bradenham again. The final sitting of CTA is just around the corner in May, and now more than ever I feel ready, not battered and bruised.

A Day in the Life of an Auditor

When I was looking to join Grant Thornton I found it very difficult to understand exactly what it was that an auditor does, and certainly when I tell people that I am an auditor, I receive many a blank face. So I thought I would write this blog to try and help those of you who are thinking of becoming an auditor, to understand what it actually is that we do.

In one sentence, the job of an auditor is to ensure that a company’s financial statements give a true and fair view of their financial position. This means that if a company says that it has 1,000,000GBP worth of fixed assets, or that is has made 20,000,000GBP worth of sales, we must find some way to test that this is valid.

As an auditor therefore, we spend the majority of our time out at clients, carrying out lots of different tests such as carrying out calculations to check that a company is depreciating it’s fixed assets correctly, checking a sample of a company’s sales to supporting documentation, and occasionally attending stock takes. Audits can range from one week to two months, and at Grant Thornton you will work within different teams from various offices, which means that you get great variety in your working day. Some of the tests have to be carried out directly with the client, which means that you get to work with a lot of different people, from different backgrounds, and with different experiences.

As you will work on so many different clients, you can find that you are juggling a lot of work. Each day will often start with making a to-do list to organise priorities, opening up your emails and responding to those which are most urgent, and putting the rest on your to-do list.

At Grant Thornton there are lots of other areas that you can get involved in; for example, I have got involved with the Spilling the Beans team who run this website. You can become a ‘champion’ of the different software’s we use at Grant Thornton, which means you will be the person people go to if they are having problems. There is the CLEARR system, which I have previously written about and which is unique to Grant Thornton and carries our core values of collaboration, leadership, excellence, agility, responsibility and respect – all of which make day to day life as an auditor at Grant Thornton an interesting one.

Unleashing Your Potential

Throughout my time at university, I found myself constantly looking forward to when I would have a career. The very nature of university is such that a student sacrifices several years of earning potential to better themselves academically in the long run. Whilst I had accepted this from the off, I couldn’t wait to get started on my career.

Over the last two years with Grant Thornton, I miss certain aspects of my student life, but the current focus, challenge and structure to my days are something I would struggle to live without now. Something I have learnt about myself recently is that this focus and structure may have had a detrimental effect on who I am.

Doing the job, the exams and the hours can make it easy to lose track of the big picture. With less time to think about where I’m going to be in a few years time I found that I had started to bury my head in the sand and just get on with the number crunching of being a tax adviser – I had lost my view of the future.

So a recent conference for me was well timed. Once trainees are nearing the end of their training contracts the firm welcomes them to a conference to see what is next in their careers. As a trainee who is some six months away from qualifying, I was invited to the conference – Unleashing Your Potential – which was held in a fancy hotel in Windsor.

The event itself was run by our national leadership board, who gave their insight into what they did and how they did it to get to where they are now. Some guest speakers and other rising stars gave us a few tricks of the trade on how to get on in the firm. Getting these kind of hints are invaluable and, if used wisely, I’m convinced can be the key to unlocking the potential we all have, but don’t necessarily always access.

Leading up to the event, my expectation was that I would be able to get all my questions on the future answered – three days later and I just have more questions and a lot of food for thought.

I took a number of key points away with me and have reaffirmed my eyes forward approach to my career. A significant lesson to learn was that at Grant Thornton we must all take responsibility for our own careers. Hearing the stories of the firm’s brightest and best showed clearly that nothing is given; it’s all earned through hard graft, desire and vision.

I guess this is an important lesson for anyone, whether they be in the firm, aspiring to join Grant Thornton or just aiming to get good grades in their A Levels or degree.

I often speak with people who are looking to join the firm and my best advice to them (that’s probably you) is to make the decision and throw everything and the kitchen sink at it. In the current economic climate, sitting on the fence just won’t do, and at every moment it’s imperative you can prove to the employer, examiner or interviewer that you want the next opportunity more than the next person.

For me, I still need to digest the information I have received and firm up my ideas for what I will do post-qualification. It’s easy to put it off until I have actually finished the exams, but anything that’s easy isn’t worth writing home about…

Watch this space!

Do I Need an Accounting Degree?

A question I have been asked a lot by friends and student at careers fairs is whether you need an accounting degree to obtain a graduate job at Grant Thornton. The simple answer is no, you don’t. There are obviously advantages to having the experience and knowledge behind you but the help and support from Grant Thornton means that within the first six months of work you will definitely have the same level of knowledge as those who did join with a relevant degree.

Having graduated with an accounting and finance degree from Cardiff from the start I was confident looking at client accounts and understanding double entry concepts. However the other graduate who joined the office with me has a Maths degree and by Christmas I can be sure to say he felt just as confident in his ability, having no prior accounting experience. Within our first few weeks we both attended the Breaking Records course at Bradenham where you learn a lot of the underlying accounting concepts and double entry bookkeeping. This course is unique to Grant Thornton and is a great starting block for college, whichever qualification you are going to pursue in the future. The course gives you a head start at college during the first round of exams. It can be an intense learning curve but tutors aim to mix those graduates with accounting degrees with those without to provide additional support in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Having a non-accounting degree means you can still draw on skills you have learnt from university such as time management which is key to completing client work efficiently and also developing relationships which is a key daily aspect of our client work. Within the Cardiff and Bristol office in recent years there have been more graduates employed without accounting degrees than those with which reiterates that this is not a key point that Grant Thornton are looking for in their staff. Enthusiasm and willingness to learn these new skills is key in new graduates and so it’s essential to have this attitude throughout the application process. This willingness could be shown through arranging some short term relevant work experience or attending careers fairs and spending time speaking to Grant Thornton staff members learning more about the different job roles available.

As always if you have any questions about degree relevance or any other aspect of the application process please don’t hesitate to post a comment on this blog. All the best with your applications!

Nick’s Diary – December 2012

It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that a career in tax means that you’re often working to a deadline. In the case of a corporate tax adviser, the end of December is a particularly busy time. Added to the pressure is a Christmas office closure in Southampton which meant it was all hands on deck to get all our work done a week before the actual month-end.

I aim to keep these entries as honest and transparent as possible and, if you’ve read any of my previous entries, you’ll notice I’m a person who thrives on being busy. A quiet day in the office is a bad day for me, but thankfully they’ve been non-existent in December.

The month kicked off with a trip up to London for the 2012 Autumn Statement which was a career highlight for me. A day later and I’m out at a clients working with the audit team to file accounts and returns by the year end. This moving around isn’t something I’m used to but getting your hands dirty and in the mix is exactly what I enjoy.

Halfway through the month there was a brief break as our office celebrated its Christmas Party which saw some 70 members of Southampton staff head out for a curry and a few drinks – a great combo which made for a great night – and a promise of more to come!

The final week in the office was understandably manic and I’ll apologise for the lack of twitter activity! Breaking up on 21 December gave me the chance to have a good chill out and finally use my annual holiday for some non-CTA study time.

As ever Christmas is a great way to clear your head and fill your belly before coming back in the new year. Whilst I still don’t feel like I’ve completely recovered from all the turkey, mulled wine and late nights, I’m looking forward optimistically to 2013.

January is results month for CTA and ATT trainees. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for two exam passes on 22 January – time to see if that hard work paid off!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Nick’s Diary – November 2012

With thanks for Will who stepped in for my October diary entry, it has now been two months since I last posted a diary entry for this blog. Will’s input was well needed as for six weeks running up to my exams I breathed, slept, ate and lived CTA. Reading back over my blog entries during the summer it’s clear to see that the exam pressure of CTA was starting to get on top of me.

A lot of this pressure was compounded when I began to struggle with the CTA law e-assessment. This one hour multiple choice test, with its unusually high 67% pass mark requirement, had defeated me on two occasions. As a man who always puts 110% into his work, my continued struggle with this exam was beginning to damage my confidence in the run up to the written papers.

Though, through perseverance and many many long hours with my law textbook I eventually nailed the test in early October. This, along with our internal CTA exams, was proving to me that CTA really is a massive step up from ATT. I had reason to be concerned. But with the revision course at Bradenham and some fantastic trainees and tutors, the CTA revision was almost enjoyable!November then started with me sitting comfortably the two hardest exams I have ever done. I am proud to say that I gave it everything I had and my future now lies with the examining Gods. Fingers are firmly crossed.

Getting back to the office after six weeks away was a welcome change. Being able to get stuck straight into the job again was refreshing and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making the most of my weekends without the revision guilt hanging over me!

With Christmas seemingly just round the corner my feet have barely touched the ground. The Southampton office closes over the Christmas period so I now have three weeks to finish off and submit a long list of tax returns. I think it will be a well deserved break after a hectic few months!

In this I’m looking to fit in some memorable moments! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on our twitter accounts for live updates of the 2012 Autumn Statement.

Location Blog Special – Bristol

In previous blogs I have mentioned travelling around the Southwest and Wales as part of my client work but as my home base is the firm’s Bristol Office I’m writing the profile for both the office and the magnificent city of Bristol itself.

The office is located in the City Quarter, not far from Temple Meads railway station, on two floors of a modern office building. It’s home to around 200 staff mainly split across audit, tax, corporate finance and recovery and reorganisation. We also have other disciplines including Government Infrastructure & Advisory, Forensic accounting services and Risk Assurance. This year the office took on eight new trainees, with the majority in audit and tax.

The audit team, which is made up of our commercial and public sector audit departments (of which I’m a member), is the largest by head count and this will grow once we are joined by over 50 audit commission colleagues in November 2012. The office will then be the dominant public sector audit provider in the Southwest, which is a great reason to apply for our public sector training scheme roles in Bristol.

The office has good facilities, two kitchens, one with a large plasma screen which major sporting events or for colleagues in tax the budget are screened on. We also have showers and secure cycle storage for our cycling colleagues. There’s a good deal of socialising and Bristol has plenty to offer in this regard.

Like Nick said about Southampton, the city has two large universities so night life isn’t a problem. There’s also tonnes of cultural and historic attractions, from the SS Great Britain, street art galore (as the home to Banksy) and the floating harbour with its waterside bars and restaurants. My favourite is the grain barge which is a floating pub with live music venue on the lower decks. We don’t do badly for culture either, and last Saturday I went to see the Lion King musical at the Hippodrome which was AWESOME! We’ve also got lots of sporting opportunities, I have taken part in the Bristol 10k and Bath 100 cycle sportive and a number of my colleagues compete in the Bristol Downs football league.

Many trainees live in Clifton which is a lively place to live. It’s also home to Bristol Zoo which is awesome in itself, but there’s also tonnes of cafes, bars and shops. I’m told rents are reasonable but I opted to live further out in Downend which is to the north east of the city centre where my rent is definitely great value. Being a bit further out is also ideal for me as it gives me easy access to the countryside around Bristol for cycling and walking, including the national arboretum at Westonbirt. I’m only a short bike ride along the cycle way to Bath with all that city has to offer. Even though I’m now an accountant now, I’m an ecologist by trade and can’t stay away from getting my hands dirty on a weekend, so it also made sense to live further out of town as there was a much shorter allotment waiting list where I now live.

If I had to summarise the three main reasons Bristol is a great city live and work in they’d be, in no particular order:

1) The office is growing and full of opportunities with major clients ranging from motor, retail and manufacturing companies to high net worth individuals and owner managed businesses, and we are about to become the primary supplier of audit services to public sector bodies in the Southwest.

2) The city is full of things to do in terms of nightlife, history, culture and sport. There’s always something going on.

3) The city is a gateway to the South Coast and Wales with stunning countryside all around. Oh and Glastonbury is pretty much on our doorstep!

Georgina’s first year at Grant Thornton

It seems like a very long time ago that I joined Grant Thornton, even though it was only 11 months ago when I was sailing down the River Thames with the rest of the new trainees from across the country during our National Induction. Just one of the highlights of my year so far.

I have had lots of good experiences since starting work within the Public Sector Assurance team in Cardiff. The team works closely with the Public Sector Assurance team in Bristol, which means I work across the south west of England and Wales – from Aberystwyth to Plymouth. We work in small teams on each of our clients therefore from day one you are an important member of the team and are given responsibilities which helped to build my confidence. I have worked with a range of clients – Local Authorities, NHS bodies and central government. I have enjoyed gaining this varied experience.

The most surprising experience I have had so far was when I was working at a client’s site and the Chief Executive offered me a morning cup of tea! Further to my surprise, later on in the afternoon, she returned later to offer me a slice of pizza as the staff were having takeaway pizza for their lunch.

Along with working, every couple of months I go to college in London to study towards the CIPFA qualification. I enjoy training at college and then being able to relate, and apply this knowledge within my every day work.

This year Grant Thornton has won the largest percentage of Audit Commission work making Grant Thornton the largest provider of Public Sector Assurance in the UK. In November, we look forward to welcoming Audit Commission staff to our team. Over the past year we have been very busy and it is an extremely exciting place to work. I have had experiences that have been completely unexpected. So who knows what the next 12 months will bring? all I know is that I am looking forward to the forthcoming challenges!

Q: What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received?

A: I was told this quote: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim to low, and achieving our mark.” (Michelangelo Buonarroti).

Q: What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received while working at Grant Thornton?

A: Always take a notepad and pen with you when you go to speak to a client and write down everything they tell you.

Q: What is the best bit of advice you have given a client while working at Grant Thornton?

A: Croatia is a good holiday destination!

Q: What is the best bit of advice you would give someone looking to join Grant Thornton?

A: Work hard, have fun and take time to relax sometimes.

Joining Grant Thornton – before and after

I joined Grant Thornton last Tuesday as a graduate trainee in the Actuarial department, based in our London Finsbury Square office. Last week was a busy week with a local orientation in my department followed by Talent12. However, my journey with Grant Thornton began long before Talent12.

Back in October 2010 I attended a careers fair at Manchester University, where I was studying Maths. After endlessly traipsing around careers fairs, a familiar feeling for soon-to-be graduates, I reflected upon the companies that I had met and for me, Grant Thornton stood head and shoulders above the rest. The people I met seemed so enthusiastic and excited about their job, and that’s exactly how I wanted to feel when talking about my own job in the future. I decided Grant Thornton was the perfect firm for me, if only they would have me!

I managed to secure myself a place on the summer internship programme in 2011 and subsequently a graduate role. I felt so lucky to have a graduate job already secured for after my final year of university. Having this weight off my shoulders I decided to take on the campus ambassador role. This involved promoting campus events around the University of Manchester (incidentally, putting posters up around the whole university was probably the most exercise I’d done all year) as well as organising a Christmas careers evening, which was basically an excuse for us all to get in the festive mood with an abundant supply of mulled wine and mince pies!

So after a fantastic final year of university, and an exciting summer spent living well beyond my means (trying to make the most of my last ever three month long summer break), here I am, just over a week into my career with Grant Thornton.

The last week or so has been a whirlwind of meeting new people, taking office inductions and trying to get used to waking up at 6.30am every morning, a time of day I haven’t seen in an extremely long time. But what has stood out the most was the Talent12 national induction. Around 230 new starters at Grant Thornton descended upon London for the two day event, which involved giving us trainees a clear understanding of the firm’s brand promise and the direction the firm is heading. There were inspiring talks from members of the firm’s National Leadership Board and workshops to help us understand our part to play in the firm’s strategy. Having said this, Talent12 certainly wasn’t all work. In the evening, we got on board a huge boat and cruised along the River Thames, sipping champagne, enjoying a delicious three course meal and making use of the free bar and time to meet other new starters from different offices and departments. The key thing that I took away from Talent12 is a strong understanding of the brand promise. What struck me most was how much the firm must value its employees, considering the amount of time, effort and money that must have gone into organising such a brilliant event. I will certainly look back on those two days with fond memories.

And what’s next? In the coming months I am looking forward to learning more about my new job as an Actuarial Analyst and continuing my involvement with the Manchester alumni team. The role of the Manchester campus ambassador has been passed on to an intern from this summer’s intake, but I will continue to be involved in the organising, promoting and attendance of careers events at the university. I am excited at the prospect of meeting bright new talent and encouraging them to join the firm as I believe this will be a major driving force if Grant Thornton is to continue to grow and flourish.

So, although I have only just begun my career here at Grant Thornton, I feel that my part to play within the firm began long before, and has already presented me with a fantastic array of opportunities and unique experiences. I already feel as though I belong here.