Don’t turn against audit

There was a recent article on economia highlighting the words of Professor Olaf Blik in the Netherlands who said that “auditors of failed companies are being blamed for everything when the question should be not only where was the auditor, but also where was the accounting department of the audited company, management, the internal auditor, the audit committee? “All parties need to play their role.””

One of my roles at William Scott Associates is to share relevant industry news and of late it feels there is anon stop “audit bashing”. Professor Bik’s words are the only supportive words I have read in a long time and I applaud them! Auditors often work unforgiving hours and as he points out they are only human so mistakes will be made. In my view auditors are not in place as a safety measure – the responsibility for honest and transparent financial reporting should lie with the company in question.

We also shouldn’t forget that auditors are not paid the same as those in other areas of finance so with the amount of negative press surrounding audit at the moment combined with the attractive salaries of corporate finance or consulting it’s no surprise that after 3 years of studying and qualifying the majority of ACA/ACCA students look to launch themselves out of audit as quickly as possible, thus draining the talent pool. And when you’re losing talent faster than you can attract it then there is the increased risk to quality.

I met with a firm recently who admitted they had previously accepted applications from candidates who required extra training support. The candidates may have had exam fails but the interviewers had identified talent which they felt they could nurture and build on. Now however, the same company cannot afford to hire those candidates in case it risks the quality of their audits due to the immense pressure from the FCA and politicians. It’s not only the candidates who are suffering the consequences but also companies who are considered ‘risky’ are struggling to attract companies to audit them for fear of bad press.

All the while, changes are being demanded by regulatory bodies (after a huge amount of investigative work) only for some politicians to disregard their recommendations as an electoral policy.

My hope is that industry leaders are listened to and improvements are made in support of the auditors who work hard to form and report an opinion on whether the financial statements prepared by directors do in fact give a ‘true and fair’ view, as required by company law, to shareholders. We all need to play our role in supporting an industry that deserves better.

Source: https://economia.icaew.com/news/november-2019/auditors-are-human-too

The passion behind “Millennials” who are voting with their feet.

We’re living in very bizarre times. Politically the world is a hugely unstable place, the Earth is losing animal species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate due to climate change and businesses are also facing their own threats. High street retail is in rapid decline, manufacturing and automotive industries are suffering and often the fingers that look for blame point directly at the auditors. They themselves have their own challenges as they try to adjust (or perhaps ‘correct’ is a better phrase) their diversity and inclusion policies as well as keep apace with new regulation. The media is full of negative stories regarding the Big4 especially but hopefully this will act as a springboard for positive change as it feels that as well as uncertainty and perhaps some fear in the air there is also hope for this positive change across Politics, the Environment and Business alike.

We should be excited for the generation currently in their teens and 20s who are driving this change and won’t stand for insufficient, inappropriate or unfair action. There are lots of articles about how Millennials are fickle and lack a strong work ethic but that is a gross generalisation and perhaps they are more fluid with their career choices because they won’t stick in a role for security if it disagrees with their own personal ethics. A jumpy CV doesn’t look great and is considered by the baby boomers as a big “no no” but the reasons behind such moves could perhaps be worth listening to before judgements are made. Times are changing and more and more people are moving and voting with their feet based on their own passions, ideals and aspirations not only for themselves but for the common good and those steps should be commended.

Thinking about working abroad?

We live in such a globalised society where you can work anywhere in the world but what does that entail and are you ready?

The pros of working abroad are plentiful but it’s a big change – you’d be living away from friends and family and would need to build up a new support network somewhere else. Sometimes, you may need to make a lateral or even a small backward move to prove yourself in a new market.

If this doesn’t faze you and you’re thinking about moving to a new country talk it through with friends and family and even a recruiter to make sure it’s the right choice for you.

Do your research and make this decision before you apply to roles. Some processes can move very quickly and if you are not committed to the move it can feel overwhelming. If visas are involved it can also take a longer time which you also need to be prepared for.

When is a good time to go personally and professionally?

• We recently helped a family move from the UK to Australia and it worked well for them but perhaps the best time to move would be independently with few commitments such as mortgages etc

• From a professional perspective there are a lot more opportunities for newly qualified CAs than Directors so opportunities will naturally diminish as time progresses.

• We also tend to become more risk averse as time goes on.

Where?

• Research possible markets that you would like to work in and are able to? Does your firm do international transfers/secondments?

• Are you restricted by visas? If so can you seek sponsorship?

• Think about time zones, can you skype family and friends outside of working hours?

The opportunity to work abroad should never be taken for granted – it’s opening a door to a whole new set of experiences you might otherwise not get the opportunity to explore. You only get one life. Live it. Love it.

Women in Finance

The gender pay gap and the lack of women in boardrooms are topics currently dominating the headlines. Back in October last year not only was the #metoo campaign born but the UK government also launched an inquiry into the number of women working in finance.

 

Working in accountancy practice recruitment I can see there are definitely fewer women at these higher levels but why? Here are a couple of ideas why.

 

Firstly, women are less attracted to financial services as it is still viewed as a male dominated industry, so in terms of competition, there are fewer women competing for these top spots in the first place. I’d argue that in order to increase the talent pool more women need to be encouraged into financial services while still at school and choosing their AS level subjects and university courses to direct them towards completing their ACA or ACCA. Both sexes need to be educated about the different opportunities available to them and ignore any gender stereotyping.  While at school I certainly was unaware of the different types of roles available within finance. It’s not all number crunching, for example strategy, cyber security, and origination are all areas which require totally different skills sets. From a recruitment perspective it’s hard to deliver a 50% female representation for the higher grades when the pool is not split 50-50 in the first place so positive discrimination comes into play.

 

Secondly, by the time women are reaching senior manager level it coincides with the best biological window to start a family and some women decide to not return to work or to change their job to accommodate their new family. Some women are able to return to full time work again and continue to progress with only a short delay but more often than not some kind of balance is required.

 

On this point I do think the larger consultancies are working very hard to make the workplace more flexible for mothers to return to with flexi working hours, the opportunity to work from home and the ability to share maternity leave with a partner.  They appreciate that in order to retain their female staff, and in turn create a more diverse and profitable business, these benefits need to be offered. Hopefully with changes such as these and with support from the government we can expect to see more senior female leadership in financial services and beyond. Currently 205 Firms in the UK have signed up to the Women in Finance charter which pledges to have at least 30% women in senior roles by 2021 and of those, 40 firms have committed to a 50/50 gender split in senior roles by 2021 so watch this space!

Internal Audit Manager, Birmingham (Big4)

Our client is seeking an Internal Audit Manager in their Birmingham office. Whilst the role will be based in Birmingham, it will include travel across the Midlands.

 

Their Internal Audit practice is an area of the firm with tremendous growth potential.  As a multi-disciplinary practice they deliver a comprehensive range of consulting services that their clients demand. Clients are based in the private sector, in businesses from FTSE 50 to private equity backed and Owner Managed businesses. Their services deliver added value to clients through the use of modern risk management and audit techniques focusing on strategic, management and operational issues as well as financial. They also work closely with other consulting teams, for example cyber security specialists, digital experts, or other SMEs.

 

The Role:

As a Manager there will be opportunities to work on a variety of engagements covering the spectrum of services that they provide including:

  • Reviewing and establishing internal audit functions
  • Assurance mapping
  • Creating annual internal audit plans for clients
  • Providing internal audit services on both outsourced and co-sourced contractual basis
  • Managing and directly delivering individual and /or a programme of internal audit projects which includes planning, review, quality assurance and reporting
  • Working with client’s in house internal audit function to supply specialist or additional resources were needed
  • Sarbanes Oxley advisory services and delivery, including implementation projects and ongoing SOX testing
  • Process improvement projects
  • Risk management, governance and internal audit advisory services
  • Risk identification workshops and control reviews
  • Delivering control and risk training
  • Managing and reviewing internal control questionnaires
  • Corporate governance reviews
  • Contract compliance internal audits
  • Assessing effectiveness of internal audit functions, audit committees and boards
  • Working with members of other advisory teams
  • Secondments to clients to assist with specific projects

 

 

Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Retaining management responsibility for a portfolio of clients, maintaining relationships with senior internal and client staff and is responsible for the financial performance and delivery of these accounts
  • Demonstrating a detailed understanding of how current and emerging legal, regulatory, governance, risk management, auditing, accounting and financial reporting standards affect their clients
  • Undertaking the firm’s internal risk management and client engagement management procedures including client acceptance, continuance and engagement procedures
  • Keeping up to date with all industry specific issues and circumstances which affect their clients
  • Developing audit strategies which address all audit, client service and project management issues, in accordance with the internal audit methodology
  • Recognising where specialists are required and involving other staff, managing their input to the client
  • Reviewing the audit evidence obtained ensuring it is sufficient in line with IIA Standards and their client’s methodology
  • Conducting meetings with clients to explain internal audit findings and drafting and reviewing reports
  • Reporting to Partners / Directors all salient points arising from assignments
  • Producing quarterly Audit Committee papers
  • Setting budgets for engagement and monitoring delivery against the budget
  • Ensuring work in progress is monitored and controlled with fees being raised promptly
  • Identifying and exploiting additional fee billing possibilities
  • Planning and allocating staff resources to fulfil business requirements
  • Setting objectives with the team, and providing support and feeding back on performance
  • Providing coaching and training to staff on risk management and internal audit methodology
  • Identifying and developing new opportunities for the company to work with clients and targets
  • Writing tender documents and presenting at proposals
  • Assisting partners in general business development
  • Counselling/appraisals of junior staff
  • Forecasting and reporting on client engagements

 

Experience required:

– Managing Internal Audit and/or risk management engagements, preferably including experience of managing Global teams.

– SOX testing experience is preferable and experience of SOX implementation projects is beneficial.

 

Project management:

– Experience of being the main client contact for engagements and dealing with day to day interactions at FC / FD level.

 

Skills/Qualifications

– Qualified (IIA, CCAB, ICAEW or equivalent).

– 2.1 degree

 

For more information please email Elizabeth Tabor at elizabeth@williamscottassociates.com

Celebrating diversity in the workplace

In an age of multiculturalism and globalisation it is fantastic to see the diversity within organisations and the evermore interconnected world and economy. The nature of the workplace is changing and evolving and therefore it is important that organisations adapt to a multicultural work environment. Diversity has great potential and benefits in the global economy which means companies must look for ways to be inclusive and embrace different cultures. Within a multicultural workplace it is important to understand these differences, respect them and look at the opportunities they bring!

A diverse work culture is great because it opens up a larger pool of resources, learning styles, skills and opinions. With diversity comes different perspective on situations and different ways of solving problems, which increases the potential and scope of a company. Among employees it encourages sharing new languages, ideas and interests as well as cultural traditions or festivals. Workplace diversity can create better cultural understandings, facilitating a more worldly perspective, which is of course very valuable in the global economy. The more multicultural an organization is the more opportunities for learning and growth it has as well as having benefits of adaptability an increased respect in the workplace. Overall, by becoming more inclusive and embracing diversity we increase our capabilities not only in business but as individuals.

Here at William Scott Associates we enjoy interacting and working with people from all backgrounds from across the world. It is clear that we should celebrate diversity and difference to learn more about the amazing world around us and become more interconnected.

Ever wondered if it’s worth taking a pay cut to work for the Big4?

So you work for a mid-tier practice firm but are keen to join a Big4 but they pay less – What’s that about? And why should I take a cut??

In an ideal world you never want to take a pay cut but why should you perhaps think about it?

 

Long term gain – playing the long game both within practice and in industry.

Within practice, candidates are often seen as more valuable if they have the Big4 background. It’s a fact that the experience you gain puts you in good stead for practice roles at smaller firms. If you can handle what the top tier throw at you then you can be confident to lead the way and make positive change if you then decide to work at a mid or lower tier firm.

If industry is your end goal then we regularly place ex-practice candidates into industry roles and typically the first demand our clients make is “they should be ex-Big4”. We’re not saying that if you don’t work for a Big4 it’s impossible to secure your ideal role in industry but what we are saying is that your chances will be higher if you do and you’ll have access to a larger pool of international companies.

 

Is it really a cut?

They may initially require you to take a small cut but salaries do increase substantially as you change grade plus you have the additional bonuses, car allowance, medical, etc that come hand in hand with the infrastructure that a larger company can offer so when you add it all up the cut may actually be a gain.

You need to make the decisions that are right for you at any particular time in your career – take the time to weigh up the options, list the pros and cons and see what the long term ramifications could be – you might be surprised.

“I want to get out of audit!” If I had a £1……..

Done 3 years or more in audit and want to transition into the advisory world but don’t have the experience? I hear this a lot and genuinely am keen to help candidates make this step however it’s not easy. My best advice is to gain any experience you can within the firm you are in. Put your hand up to do an internal rotation or secondment to another team in the advisory space. One of the Big4 won’t look at vanilla audit seniors with zero TS/CF exposure for a role in those teams because they can source those people internally. So make yourself accessible within the firm you are in and network with the right people. Then once you have the experience you can look to navigate your way into a new permanent role at another firm.

If you’re looking to move countries and move from audit to advisory then I’m afraid that’s even tougher. Come over in audit then transition once you’re here otherwise your options will be incredibly slim OR transition where you are then make the geographical move with the experience you need.

This probably isn’t what you want to hear and I’m sure some will beg to differ with me but from my experience within the Big4 the above rings true. Opportunities within the mid-tier/smaller practice firms may well differ. As always if I can help you make your desired move then I will do my very best to do so. If I can’t I’ll be honest with you and try and point you in the right direction : )

Recruitment Consultant, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire

Competitive Salary + Commission

We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated Recruitment Consultant to join our specialist executive recruitment company, based in Wheathampstead.

The opportunity would suit an individual who wishes to work in a motivated and mature working environment. It is a great opportunity to add value to a growing niche company.

  • It would be highly advantageous if you possessed experience of working in any of the following areas; recruitment, client relations, finance, sales & marketing.
  • Individuals need to be highly driven, tenacious, passionate and have an ambition to succeed within a growing business.
  • You must also have excellent presentation skills together with a focus on customer satisfaction.
  • You will be responsible for further developing the existing client base and market presence within your specialist area.

The company values a healthy work/life balance and provides a flexible but professional working environment. This combined with a competitive remuneration scheme make it an attractive opportunity. This is an exciting and challenging stage in the development of the company and we are looking for an individual with drive and charisma who will add great value to the business.

Origination Manager (National Markets, Deals), London, UK (Big4)

£65,000 + car

Our client’s National Markets, Deals group is focused on continually enhancing value for clients across the deal and economic cycle. Our client’s teams comprise of specialists capable of helping clients right through from conceptual thinking of buying a business to turning their business around in times of difficulty.

Working with the National Market Deals origination team, the successful candidate will take responsibility for supporting the wider origination team on origination, gathering intel on assets/clients and project managing the junior team member networking initiative (The 250 Club).

Responsibilities:

Roles and responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:

Origination

  • Prospect for potential new clients and turn this into increased business.
  • Drive growth development on the targeted accounts, demonstrating understanding insights and actively provide/suggests solutions (linked to our client’s offerings and their clients’ needs)
  • Development of strong internal and external network of relationships, generating business opportunities for our client either directly or indirectly and be recognised as the key point of contact for our client
  • Meet potential clients by growing, maintaining, and leveraging the network.
  • Identify potential clients, and the decision makers within the client organization.
  • Support the team on specific origination projects
  • Promote the team and gather intelligence from other of our client’s departments/areas

Client Retention

  • Present new products and services and enhance existing relationships.
  • Work with technical staff and other internal colleagues to meet customer needs.
  • Arrange and participate in internal and external client debriefs.
  • Research and build relationships with new clients within the market or geographic area to ensure a robust pipeline of opportunities.

Coverage Planning

  • Attend industry functions, such as association events and conferences, and provide information on market and creative trends.
  • Support the preparation of pitches within both sell side and buy side for a broad range of National Markets clients.
  • Ability to get involved with other related tasks to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration within different teams
  • Identify opportunities for campaigns, services, and distribution channels that will lead to an increase in sales.
  • Using knowledge of the market and competitors, identify and develop the company’s unique selling propositions and differentiators.
  • Project management of the a number of internal initiatives: 250Club, PE Activity tracker, Alumni, Women, Sector specific events.

Management and Research

  • Line management of junior team members
  • Manage the relationship with Pitchbook and get specific training to be able to run ad hoc reports
  • Gather intelligence and maintain information related to the assets available on the market (liaising directly with other departments of our client)
  • Ensure that data is accurately entered and managed within the company’s CRM or other sales management system.
  • Work with marketing staff to ensure that prerequisites (like prequalification or getting on a vendor list) are fulfilled within a timely manner.
  • Understand the company’s goal and purpose so that will continual to enhance the company’s performance.

Requirements:

  • Previous origination experience