Tag Archives: Trainee experiences

Molly’s Accelerate Diary – May 2013

First thing’s first, I got my Personal Tax results and passed! With this big weight off my mind I headed off for a week in Ibiza to relax and not be tempted to look at my emails.

On my return to the office for the first time in a month, I got stuck into some audit planning work. An audit consists of planning, fieldwork and concluding stages. When you begin life as an audit trainee at Grant Thornton you are thrown straight into the middle part, the fieldwork.

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Molly’s Accelerate Diary – April 2013

This month has been an agonising one, eagerly logging onto the AAT website daily in the hope that my Personal Tax results will have been posted. At Level 4, unlike Level 3 where you receive your results as you walk out of the exam, results take between four to six weeks to arrive. Alongside this, I have sat tuition for my Business Tax exam. The tuition phase was double the length of the Personal Tax tuition at four days long, meaning double the volume of information to absorb. As with Personal Tax, I found the module an extremely interesting and relevant one leading me to wonder about the possibilities of secondment at the end of my training contract (three years away!).

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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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Location Blog Special – London Euston

Over the past few months I’ve found it fascinating to read our series of Location Blogs from guest bloggers around the country. It’s certainly encouraged me to find a way of visiting a few more of the Grant Thornton offices and has made me realise how much I miss my university city of Bristol. Now, however, the baton has been passed to me. It’s the turn of the London Euston blog!

There are two offices based in London, London Euston and London Finsbury. Although they both have the obvious advantage of being based in the capital, the offices themselves are quite different, both in terms of services provided and the general vibe. We’ll be posting a blog on the London Finsbury office next week.

The London Euston office is located right next to Euston station which makes commuting really easy (Euston station is on the Northern and Victoria line and both Kings Cross St Pancras and Euston Square stations are just a couple of minutes walk away). Although Euston itself might not be the most attractive or exciting part of London, it’s only two tube stops from Oxford Street and ten minutes from central London. The proximity to the station means there are loads of places to go for lunch nearby, including Nandos. This is my team’s (and most of the office’s) favourite place to eat, so much so that Grant Thornton employees get a discount on Fridays! The office also has a subsidised canteen which does a good range of sandwiches, salads and hot meals.

We occupy all eight floors of Grant Thornton House (as you would expect!), and the departments based here are mostly Tax and Audit. The teams based in the London Finsbury office tend to be ones like Corporate Finance and Recovery & Reorganisation due to the office’s proximity to the City.

It’s difficult to describe the type of clients we have as there are such a variety of teams in London. Being based in the capital city our clients do tend to be large companies, a lot of them being related to financial services. In my team (Entrepreneur & Private Client) we work for High Net Worth Individuals and Entrepreneurs so we have some really interesting high profile clients.

Last year the Grant Thornton London offices took on 38 trainees in total, 26 in audit and 12 in tax. The large number of the trainees joining in the same intake means you’re in the same boat as a lot of people which makes the change from university or school to ‘real life’ that bit easier. There’s also plenty of scope for social events.

The social activities aren’t restricted to the trainees. Most teams will have social events during the year, for example, my team had a Chinese meal followed by karaoke two weeks ago and on Wednesday there’s a pub quiz. For the whole firm there is also the legendary London Christmas Party. Employees from Euston, Finsbury and Gatwick are invited to this event so there are normally around 1,000 people there. This year the theme was Gatsby Glamour and we took over Vinopolis in London Bridge.

As in all of our offices there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in volunteering. In the past I have taken part in the JP Morgan Challenge (a 5k run in Battersea Park) and I have taught Money Maths to 9 year olds in a local primary school for one hour a week. There are also a variety of sports clubs and other groups such as a below manager networking group.

I will leave it there before the rest of the team accuse me of rambling on about London again but feel free to ask me questions below or let me know if you would like to know something about a specific department.

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.

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.

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.

National Trainee Induction – Talent12

View from the Thames river cruise

View from the Thames river cruise

Last week Grant Thornton hosted their national trainee induction for the 2012 intake – Talent12 – at the Tower Hotel in London. One of our current first year trainees, Rajiv had the opportunity to act as a facilitator at the event. In his blog he tells us about his experiences and what you can expect when you join Grant Thornton as a trainee.

Hi, I’m Rajiv and I work in the Entrepreneur & Private Client tax department in London. After only a year at Grant Thornton as a graduate, I was asked to be a facilitator on the Grant Thornton national induction, ‘Talent12’.

The event consisted of inspirational talks from members of the National Leadership Board, break out sessions for the trainees to further their understanding of the business, a Thames river cruise in the evening for the trainees to put their networking skills to the test and also an opportunity to present back to their facilitators on what they learnt from the event.

At first I was a little nervous about being thrown into the deep end after only a year, however I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed facilitating a small class. This was made possible by the enthusiasm the trainees showed towards learning as much as possible about the business in a limited time. Within minutes the class was at ease after a short ice breaking event and as a unit everyone gelled together well. I was also very impressed by the quality and standard of presentations delivered by the new joiners in such a short space of time. The event was also beneficial for me as it was a great opportunity to enhance my leadership, communication and networking skills.

Talent 12 was a fantastic experience and an event which I will most certainly be back facilitating on again in the years to come.