How did you get your job at Saffery Champness?
I left university in 2010 and needed some time afterwards to decide what career path I wanted to follow, so I took a gap year. My degree gave me the option of going into a huge range of jobs, but it was always the financial modules that I enjoyed and could relate to the most.
After a period of travelling, I applied for a trainee position at Saffery Champness. I applied late and benefited from a position becoming available to start in September at reasonably short notice. The positions fill quickly though, and if you are able to apply early you should!
What is it that drew you to the firm?
Once I had decided what career I wanted to pursue, I knew that joining a large firm wasn’t for me. I was keen to work somewhere I could forge genuine working relationships with both my colleagues and clients. After much research Saffery Champness seemed to be the most appealing – a firm where I would get a variety of work and assignments with a diverse range of clients. I was keen not to get stuck in one industry or area of practice.
What was your application process like?
The application process consisted of the following:
- An online application
- Numerical and verbal reasoning tests
- A telephone interview
- Attendance at an assessment day
Of all the elements, the assessment day was probably the most challenging as you are required to demonstrate a range of skills and show your potential in a variety of situations. I’d recommend practising delivering presentations, as this formed a large part of the day and I was a little rusty, having not presented for a year or so.
What skills are useful in the profession?
As a member of the Business Advisory Group, we spend around 80% of our time at clients’ offices conducting fieldwork. We’re usually in a team of between two and four people, spending most of the day working with various computer programmes and in discussion with finance department staff.
Aside from a reasonable understanding of numbers, I think it’s pretty essential that you are both personable and interested in financial and business matters. You spend a lot of time getting an understanding of a particular business and the concerns of its managers and directors. Being able to relate to the matters discussed, consider problems and make rational and sensible suggestions is really beneficial for clients.
A good understanding of basic computer software is also beneficial. All of the technical knowledge is learned at college for the ACA exams, and it’s common for trainees to turn up on their first day with very little financial knowledge.
Is it a 9-5 job?
At Saffery Champness, the work-life balance is really prioritised. There will be occasions where you will need to meet deadlines and will have to work a few evenings or weekends, but usually you don’t tend to see too many people in the office past 6.30pm!
For most people this is one of the major draws of the firm. There’s no presenteeism culture and no pressure to be at your desk until midnight.
What are the most stressful parts of the job?
The most stressful aspect of the job is doing exams and working at the same time. Particularly as you become more senior, you can be responsible for a number of jobs at once with tight deadlines and also be studying for your exams in the evenings and weekends. In these situations, there is a considerable strain on your time and it can be pretty stressful.
However, it really helps you to learn to prioritise the most important work or study and manage your time effectively. The exams are pretty tough as a result, but it definitely prepares you well for the future.