Tag Archives: Career

Alex’s Corporate Finance Blog – Part 2

In my previous blog I gave you a brief background to our Corporate Finance team, as well as touching on some of my experiences within Lead Advisory and Public Company Advisory.  As recruitment season is well and truly upon us, I will share some of my experiences hunting for a placement, what I think made me successful and how I have been making the most of the opportunity.

The first point worth mentioning is that your university will probably be pushing for you to apply to as many placements as possible. Whilst this scatter gun approach has some benefits, I would offer a word of caution. In my experience there is often an inverse relationship between quantity and quality of applications.  Applying for fifty placements sounds impressive… Read this post

#WWYAB – Seizing Opportunities

One of the most important things for me of working at a large firm such as Grant Thornton is the opportunities that are presented to you. From my induction at Talent 12, I remember our CEO, Scott Barnes, telling us that we are all responsible for shaping our own future. I feel the way each of us can best do this is to work extremely hard along the way and continue to look to challenge ourselves.

My advice for all trainees is…

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Molly’s Accelerate Diary – October 2013

October has been a month that has seen me really start to pick up the pace of revision. With my first two ACCA exams taking place on the 3 and 9 December this might sound like a lifetime away, but what with working full time and trying to squeeze in a little bit of a social life, the revision has to start now. This has caused me to feel somewhat like a working, revising robot so, at the end of a hard days revision, for which I had taken a day’s holiday,  I treated myself to…

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Filling the Gap

If you take anything from reading the blogs on this site, one message should seep through everything we write, that is: proactivity pays. For users of this site, my advice in terms of applications is always to be proactive and get in there early. I applied for my role at Grant Thornton on the day that the applications opened in August 2009. I started in January 2011, nearly two and a half years later.

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What to Expect from a Job in Audit

Hi, I’m Lauren from our Ipswich office. I remember when I first started my application with Grant Thornton wondering exactly what it was that the job entailed, and despite searching extensively for an idea of the work an ‘auditor’ does, I didn’t really know exactly what to expect.

Now that I’ve been with the firm for six months (time flies!), I thought this would be a good chance to share with you my experience and give you some idea of the type of thing you should expect to be doing as a new trainee in the audit department.

I was surprised at how involved you get pretty much straightaway, and in my first week I was out at a clients, experiencing the work we do first hand. This may sound a bit frightening but it’s a great way to learn, and my own personal experience at the Ipswich office has been that everybody is really welcoming and happy to help. You never have to worry about a question being too obvious or obscure, most people have been in your place at some point and remember being the new starter, even if it was a few years ago! I found that the trainees who had been in my place a year or two ago were especially keen to help out and explain anything I didn’t understand.

So what actually is it that we do? The dictionary definition of an auditor tells us that “An auditor is an accountant who officially examines the accounts of organisations”, and in principal that is one way of describing what we do, however this fails to capture the wide variety of day to day work we encounter and the dynamic range of clients that we work with.

Essentially, the main part of our work is examining our clients’ financial performance on a yearly basis, gaining comfort over the accuracy of the figures they give us. As an example this could involve transaction testing i.e. tracing a sale through the internal bookkeeping systems but sighting and checking key documents, such as the order request, invoice, despatch note and bank statements. Another example would include analytical reviewing, which is where we compare the client’s figures to our own expectations, and investigate unusual variances.

In the office we can get involved in organising events, and help out with finalising the accounts ready for signing by the client. Overall, there’s lots for you to experience and plenty of opportunities to get to know everyone at social events too!

Hopefully this has helped give you an idea of what it is that we do, but if you’ve got any further questions then fire away!

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!

The Evolving ACA

I wrote a blog on 19 September 2012 which explained the ACA as I have experienced it. I ended the blog by briefly mentioning that the ACA qualification is constantly evolving and adapting to the changing needs of businesses and the needs of its members. I have written this blog specifically for those applying to do the ACA qualification post July 2013 as there have been a few changes announced to the course structure.

As before there are still three stages to the qualification, however the names given to the first two stages have changed from Professional Stage Knowledge and Professional Stage Application to Certificate Level and Professional Level respectively.

On the Certificate level the only noticeable change is that the accounting paper style of questions is more similar to that found in the second stage. This is just one of many changes, which have been made to the exam structure so that the move from one stage to another is smoother and free from sudden changes in style and difficulty.

The changes found in the professional stage are much more significant. The qualification appears to be evolving to include more tax, this is partly so that the qualification continues to appeal to tax trainees like myself and not just auditors, management accounts or business analysts etc. That said, they have not added an extra exam, instead they have merged Financial Accounting and Reporting into one longer exam and have split the old tax exam into once Tax Compliance paper and a Business Tax Planning paper.

This change appears to be part of a wider movement which could see the ACA and Chartered Institute of Taxation (CTA – what many see as the gold standard of tax qualifications) creating a qualification which once passed allows students to apply for membership of both the ICAEW (ACA) and CIOT (CTA). Reasons behind this joint programme are that it would reduce the cost of studying for both, reduce the time spent out of the office and removes any study overlap. In addition, employers can still remain confident that their students have gained all the relevant skills. As and when more details are released I will update you.

Finally there have also been some changes to the advanced stage. The two technical integration papers have been refined so that they allow students to become well practised in the skills necessary to pass the case study.

As such two major trends appear clear. One there is definitely a push for the ACA to continue to be an all rounded business qualification as such there is a clear move to include more taxation into the syllabus. Secondly, changes have been made to make the movement from one stage to the next smoother, so allowing the student to gradually develop and learn the necessary skills to become qualified.

Jump into Diversity

Hi, my name is Jessica and I work in the Assurance department in the swanky new Cambridge office!

I was keen to write a blog for the award winning ‘Spilling the Beans’ site, firstly because I think the site is innovative and breaks the mould within the industry – I used it myself when I was applying. Secondly because I think it is important to emphasise to candidates applying that no degree, background, age or experience is conventional when you start out at Grant Thornton. I didn’t join through what you might expect to be the ‘normal’ route straight from university. I completed a history degree and then was a marketer of events in Central London for two and a half years before gaining my training contract at Grant Thornton at the ripe age of 25 (26 in a few months, aaah!). I made the career jump because I wanted to broaden my experience and learn about all aspects of business, not just marketing. I was convinced that my age and prior experience would make me ‘the odd one out’….

?but having recently attended Talent 12 (The National Induction for all new starters) in London, I realised I couldn’t have been more wrong if I’d tried! I was quickly refreshed and inspired by the huge array of graduates amongst the 250+ intake this year. There are trainees of all ages and backgrounds. There are people who have come straight from university having never worked before but there are also people who have had successful careers before embarking on a new career within accountancy. Francesca Lagerberg, Head of Tax in the UK, summed up the diversity within the conference room at the induction when she listed professional athletes, actors and sailors amongst the mix. So, what did I learn from Talent 12? That it is never too late to change direction in order to learn more and broaden your experience!

It was the range of experiences of the speakers and partners at Talent 12 rather than their conventionality which also struck me. Amongst the diversity they had to bring to Grant Thornton was 18 months travelling round the world, a stint as a professional artist in New Zealand, time living in Paris, time as a housewife, time running their own business, time within industry and time on secondments around all aspects of the firm, including Bradenham Manor, our training centre. At Grant Thornton there is no need to ‘fit the mould’ because there really isn’t one and I saw this first hand at Talent 12. The employee body is comprised of a mixture of very diverse people who all have something different to offer. The importance of this diversity and individuality was emphasised at Talent 12, time and time again, because ultimately it is individuals who colleagues and clients want to liaise with. Just as ‘Spilling the Beans’ breaks the mould and presents individual experiences like mine, so too does the graduate intake at Grant Thornton each year.

Making a career jump is by no means easy, in fact it is probably the toughest decision I have ever had to make, but I know that it is the right decision! Through my training I can now build upon the experiences I have already gained within an environment where I can and am encouraged to continually gain new experiences. So, if you are thinking about a career jump and feel wary of doing so, please don’t, as everyone’s doing it!

The Big Four – the obvious choice?

When I first decided that I wanted to work within professional services, I trawled the internet for all the national firms which offered the opportunity to start on a pre-determined graduate support role with a training contract. Having worked in a small firm of accountants in my hometown during my placement year from University, it had become clear to me that I wanted to work for a large, national firm, with international scope. The next step was deciding which one I wanted to work for.

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