Tag Archives: Bradenham

My Journey from Intern to Employee

Hi, I’m Toby

I loved university, my three years at the University of East Anglia were some of the best of my life. The friends I met and the memories I have will last a lifetime. Summer days sitting in the square or down by the lake, Saturday nights in the Student Union, spending time with mates and even lectures are remembered with fondness.

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Nick’s Diary – February 2013

If there is one thing that comes from working through a professional qualification like CTA, it’s that there is a greater appreciation of the time I’m allowed to spend without the stress of exams reigning over me. I hide nothing about exams from people reading these blogs and considering a role at Grant Thornton. The exams are the hardest part.

With this in mind, and after the manic rush of January, I have aimed to make the most of my social life in February, enjoying a few weekends away to spend time with friends before my life becomes swallowed by CTA once again. Most prominent in February, as this is the month for which I would complete my last six days of tuition.

Getting back to Bradenham with my CTA class was great, and being able to share the success stories from November 2012 with people face-to-face was rewarding. It was a pleasure to see and thank our in-house Kaplan tutor, who is well known by trainees at Bradenham, for sticking with me during the difficult times in October 2012.

February also held the strategy kick-off meeting for the Spilling the Beans team. With some members leaving and three new members joining. This was an opportunity to head over to London, meet the new faces in the flesh, and brainstorm how we can continue to improve this website.

I’m really excited about the developments we are going to be working on. Expect to see even more twitters (we’re now at 30 trainee twitters, are you following us all?), a more active Facebook account and the introduction of YouTube video blogs (as well as a number of other themed written blogs). Keep your eyes peeled.

With me sitting exams in May for the first time since joining Grant Thornton (they’ve usually been in November) I imagine I’m tying up my revision with that of many school, college and university students. With 10 years of annual exam sittings behind me, for those of you who are wading through this boat let this be your encouragement; the time you put in now opens doors tomorrow. I’ve got three months left and I can’t wait to see where I can go next.

Onto March and I’ve got four mocks spread across three weeks, it’s going to be a tough month. Good job I had fun and spent all my money in February…

Insightful Conversations

As I am still pretty new I am no expert on our Grant Thornton systems and intranet. One day before Christmas I found myself looking at the firm’s Learning Zone page (an online system which allows us to book internal training courses) of the intranet to check up on a Bradenham Course I am booked onto. I was exploring the Learning Zone, clicking odd buttons to see what would happen when suddenly I received an email to say I had booked myself onto a workshop named “Insightful Conversations”. I checked out the course description and decided it sounded pretty fun so asked the permission of my line manager to whether I could go, and as I had a free date in my diary I could.

There was some pre-course work that involved watching a couple of YouTube videos and jotting down comments and so I thought I was going to be in for a jolly day at the new Birmingham office. On arrival and the shiny, glass building in the heart of Birmingham, I was whisked up to the eleventh floor in a lift that would put Charlie’s Great Glass Elevator to shame and greeted with tea and biscuits – a fantastic start. The course was introduced by two facilitators, one who claimed to be a trained hypnotherapist (which had me spending a vast part of the day trying to avoid eye contact) and we were set to introduce ourselves to the group with one interesting fact; mine being that I have played on the courts at Wimbledon with Tim Henman. So far so good.

From this point on my day changed, I got into the activities with gusto, I had to think, and think really hard, so hard by brain ached, but the results really were fantastic. We learnt how to remove obstacles to progress through coaching people to solve problems for themselves, helping people through the process of coming to their own conclusion instead of simply giving them the answer. We also spoke about how many of our everyday conversations are shallow, unfulfilling and without risk, meaning we do not actually get all of the information that we actually require, or sometimes miss the point entirely. We covered the art of “active listening” whereby you do not listen only to the words that come out a someone’s mouth, but also pick up on the subtle signals such as tone, pace, body language and what they don’t say in order to conduct a more effective conversation. Yes, I understand it sounds like some sort of therapy session but you’d be amazed just how “insightful” it was! It was amazing how by practicing these techniques on each other how many of us realised new ways around barriers we thought we could not conquer, such as how to request better training, and how to ask for more responsibility. I certainly found myself thinking that I had so many more options than I had realised for my particular obstacle of meeting new people in a new city.

The day ended around 5pm. It certainly wasn’t the easy day of chat that I had perhaps hoped for (although we were provided with a free lunch) but was far more valuable for both my work and personal life. I have come away a toolbox of how to have more effective conversations, a new way of thinking about ‘bumps’ in the road, as well as a few sweets from the bowl on reception. Luckily at Grant Thornton we are offered loads of personal development courses internally, because as a brand we realise that people and good relationships are our most important asset. Whatever your situation, I would encourage everyone to take all the opportunities that are offered to you, whether that be extra-curricular at university, optional training at work, or a workshop offered through a careers service, because you may also come away with amazing things that you never expected to learn, and if that fails at least you may be left with a few sweets from the bowl on reception…

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.

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.

Breaking Records at Bradenham

Hi, I’m Davina and I work in the corporate tax department of the Reading IQ office. Even though I only joined Grant Thornton three months ago, I have already had a lot of very different experiences which is great! These include the national induction in London for two days, two courses at Bradenham Manor (our internal training facility), college for my ACA exams as well as working in the office. I thought I’d write a bit about the first course I attended at Bradenham called ‘Breaking Records’.

For those of you who don’t already know, Bradenham Manor is near High Wycombe and is where Grant Thornton house all their internal training courses. The site has everything you could possibly need on your door step, including accommodation, a games room and bar. So along with the studying element, the social aspect of Bradenham is really good! I have met so many other trainees from different offices all over the country, who I am regularly in touch with, so it’s a great opportunity to network. On the rare occasion that we are blessed with some sunshine (likely I was!), the grounds look exceptionally beautiful.

‘Breaking Records’ is the first course that new trainees will attend at Bradenham, and is essentially an introduction to book-keeping. The week and a half long course introduces the basis of accountancy and book keeping and can be quite intense at times. But don’t panic, you don’t need to have any prior accountancy experience (most trainees don’t) and everything is taught from the ground-up. The course is taught by Grant Thornton staff from a variety of service lines, and because they have been through it all before they are really supportive and always willing to help. Initially, I struggled to grasp some of the basic concepts which can be frustrating, but my tutors were extremely patient and went the extra mile to explain things in different ways to assist my understanding.

There is plenty of practice questions so that you can really get to grips with it all and when you do, it feels very rewarding! The Breaking Records course provided me with a really strong foundation for my first ACA accounting exam, and was well prepared when I went to college for the tuition.

There are lots of opportunities to go to Bradenham for various courses depending on the department you work in. The relaxed teaching environment and strong social element make it a fantastic place to learn and network. The experience definitely lived up to the expectations I had after joining the firm.

Grant Thornton vs the Mid-Tier Firms

When applying for a role as a trainee for a professional services firm, I’m sure many will apply for more than just the one firm in the hope that they will secure a position with at least one. The obvious comparison that is often made about Grant Thornton and other firms is usually up against the Big Four. However, with graduate and school leaver positions available at mid-tier firms, maybe this is a comparison which is often overlooked.

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Internal Training and the Bradenham experience

Hi, I’m Dan and I’m just going into my second year as an audit trainee based in the Leicester office. Over the past year I’ve had a lot of different experiences with Grant Thornton, but one of my really salient memories is of Bradenham and my first of many courses. I thought I’d write a few paragraphs about the course and Bradenham as a training centre, which will hopefully help you to understand more about life at Grant Thornton.

Bradenham, if you don’t already know, is a large National Trust manor house near High Wycombe which Grant Thornton lease and use as a training centre. Bradenham runs all sorts of courses, from softer skills such as networking and presenting, to harder, technical skills, such as tax and double-entry accounting.

Several of the courses are mandatory depending on the line of service and level the employee is at. However, a lot of the courses are not, and we’re encouraged to book onto courses which are relevant to us. Whilst on a course, we are accommodated on-site and can spend the evenings enjoying the grounds, having a drink in the bar, playing in the games room or relaxing in the manor’s living room.

The first course I attended as an audit trainee was the book-keeping course, TM1 (now called breaking records). This is a week-and-a-bit long primer in the basis of accountancy and double-entry book-keeping. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t panic. I did Anthropology at university and consequently knew very little about the workings of accountancy when I first headed up to Bradenham – my knowledge of debits and credits extended as far as using debit and credit cards!

The tutors at Bradenham are Grant Thornton staff, and they’ve all had experience in front facing service lines like audit previously. As a result, the understand how each and every new trainee feels at their first Bradenham course. To aid us, the courses have a variety of learning tools, such as exercises, interactive questions, examples and even role play. The work can be exhausting, but sooner or later that ‘lightbulb’ moment happens and it suddenly all makes sense.

As the tutors have all been there before, they are very accepting when you struggle to understand something. They have amazing patience with trainees to help us along the way. The key is to have faith in the process, because some accountancy processes, such as double-entry, can seem counterintuitive. But from my experience, it’s just a matter of perseverance.

The courses are only one part of the Bradenham experience, and trainees are never there in isolation. At a recent course, there were roughly 80 trainees at Bradenham. The result of this is that there are plenty of new people to meet who are all in the same boat. I have had a lot of laughs with trainees in the evening, and have made many good friends at Bradenham as we all continue along our Grant Thornton career path.

In addition, there are loads of social things to do at Bradenham ? we play football on the lawns, we eat together, we watch TV in the bar together, and on my last visit around 60 trainees descended on High Wycombe for a night on the town. I have become surprisingly proficient at croquet and the games room has provided us with several table-tennis, pool and snooker tournaments.

Bradenham is a fantastic way to meet your peers in the firm, and it is an absolutely essential feature of the Grant Thornton experience.

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 – May 2012

As I entered into May, I was still high from the buzz of passing the CTA Hurdle exam, knowing that I was only a few days away from getting back to Bradenham. My chop-and-change lifestyle in April was swapped during May, as I focused solely on my corporate tax compliance work.

Getting back and focusing on my corporate tax work was ideal, as I have been increasingly taking on larger tax compliance jobs to continue with my tax development and understanding. Subsequently, it’s been a challenging month for me technically, but I’ve enjoyed taking the next step up the ladder in my abilities whilst making two more client visits.

Ever since I accepted my job in November 2009, I have been all too aware that CTA is a tough qualification. On day one at Bradenham, where I started my tutoring for CTA, the Kaplan tutor assured me that CTA is one of the hardest professional qualifications around. Over the next four days he did everything he could to prove himself right, and my head is still spinning from the sheer breadth and complexity of knowledge needed to sit just one CTA exam. I’m now looking forward to November, where I will sit my first two of four CTA exams, and I think it’s going to be a tough few months.

Study books aside though and Bradenham didn’t disappoint. The weather was fantastic (making concentrating an even tougher task) and the company always generated laughter. I managed to eat enough food for a month in the four days I was there so am adequately cutting back in the aftermath.

One of the modules I studied at Bradenham was Inheritance Tax (IHT) and since returning back to work, I have taken on responsibility for around 50 trusts. This perfect timing will help me to develop me IHT knowledge both practically and academically, a winning combo!

As the month draws to a close, I am looking to June for some time off to enjoy this fantastic British summer we are currently having. As for the extended public holidays in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee – I’m not exactly a royalist, but the idea of a BBQ and some sunshine at Pimms o’clock sounds too good to miss. No doubt by the time I blog again I will be burnt head to toe!