Why did I choose accountancy?
I studied Chemistry as I felt it was a good core subject that provided me with plenty of career choices. I had originally considered a career in banking, but changed my mind after attending a careers fair.
I’d always enjoyed subjects that involved maths and after speaking with family and university careers advisers I felt that a career in accountancy and completing an ACA qualification would allow me to keep my career options broad.
Choosing the right firm
I think it’s really important that you understand the difference between firms when you are applying for graduate positions. Moore Stephens LLP was recommended to me as a good place to launch my career by a family member. I really like working in a mid-tier firm.
We have a little over 60 partners and almost 600 staff and I get on well with the graduates in my group as well as others based in other audit and tax groups. Although our roles may not require us to work together on a daily basis we all socialise regularly.
The public sector team at Moore Stephens is also very social and there is a friendly working environment. We know the partners and they know us which may not happen in a larger firm. Many of us attend an annual ski trip together and a lot of us recently went to Brighton for a weekend. As we are at client sites a lot of the time, I like that when you return to the office you know everyone.
Working in public sector audit
I find auditing public sector bodies really interesting. A lot of what we work on are topics that are in the news and it is interesting to see the point of view of the people working in the sector. It allows you to form your own opinion about what is taking place in the public sector, rather than relying on the media.
The nature of the work is very different to private sector audit as you are dealing with not-for-profit organisations so some aspects that you would find in a private organisation’s accounts do not exist. In addition, a lot of functions are outsourced to shared service centres so the information you seek may need to be requested specifically. In private organisations, most of the documentation we need is usually held by the finance team. Processes and controls can also change with a change of government.
Most of our work is completed at the client’s premises. Since all of the clients I work with are based outside of London, I spend a lot of time travelling. I’ve travelled a lot in the UK and I enjoy finding out what there is to see in different cities. It’s also helpful with my UK geography! Recently I’ve also visited Paris and Norway to assist with audit work on European Commission grants.
When you’re away you spend almost all of your time with your colleagues and you get to know each other quite well. The hours in the London office are usually 09.30-17.30, but when you’re at a client site you normally start earlier and finish later. But you don’t mind because you don’t need to worry about commuting and as you eat out a lot, your meals are made for you. However it does mean your weekends become very busy as you catch up with friends.
Essential skills for accountancy
We are involved with our clients throughout the year as we plan, conduct and finalise their audits. When you are conducting audits you are normally only at the client’s site for a week and you then move to a different client. You need to be very organised as clients or your managers may ask you something about an audit a few weeks later. I’ve become a lot more meticulous in my work and ensure I leave myself clear records of what I need to do.
You also need to have strong communication and interpersonal skills as you are always meeting different people. When you first begin you can feel that you don’t really know anything, however you get over your inhibitions quickly. Your tasks vary on each audit and the senior staff provide plenty of support to help you learn.
Studying for the ACA qualifications
The ACA qualification is as stressful as you make it and you need to find your own study and work/life balance methods to succeed. I was stressed before my first exams as I didn’t know what to expect or how much preparation to do. It all worked out fine though. For my second set of exams I changed my revision methods during the final revision weeks and was a lot more relaxed.
I have found that you do get back what you put in as I have achieved higher results in the exams I have worked harder for. I’m now approaching my final exams and am confident my approach will see me through.