Audit. I think it might even be more love-hate than marmite! The audit market is suffering from a candidate shortage, which is due to two reasons. First of all, the lack of senior auditors can be put down to the economic downturn and the lack of firms paying for training. Secondly, the desire of many auditors to change the direction of their career after qualifying, perhaps to corporate finance or to industry, means that the number of professional auditors is continuing to decline.
This desire to want to move on from audit is influenced by several factors, which arguably could change from firm to firm. Where you’re working impacts the types of clients in your portfolio, the Partners you’re reporting to, and even the time you spend away from home. I’d like to suggest looking at other firms to address your complaints rather than leaving the industry completely. The world of audit is bigger than the one firm you currently work for.
There are many reasons to enjoy audit, see if you can identify with any of the below as your key drivers…
Learning & development - Auditors spend time meeting with company directors, attending regular site visits, and learning about the company’s background and sector. This diverse knowledge of how the business carries out their day-to-day activities helps auditors get to grips with the company they’re auditing, furthering their all-round business acumen. The chance to meet with ‘leaders’ of almost every sector is also helpful if you see yourself moving into industry one day.
Predictability - Many of the audits that firms are instructed on are annual audits that are timetabled into the diary. You know ahead of time that, in April, you’ll be visiting so&so in Bristol and in May, so&so in Central London. This predictability means that your life can have routine, you can plan your family holidays around these and you are prepared for the busy seasons.
Colleagues - Audit is a very team based role. With daily interactions with senior colleagues, there’s the opportunity to learn a lot on the job, there’s also the chance to teach and mentor junior colleagues. In order to hit the deadlines necessary to complete a timely audit, working together as a team in a collaborative way is crucial. Therefore, strong bonds & friendships are often formed amongst auditors.
Progression - As you progress within audit, you become less and less of a ‘do-er’. This opportunity to become less hands-on (when it comes to audit) and become more of a technical adviser following the audit findings, means that your role naturally changes; becoming more commercially focused - an outlook that many feel audit is lacking. Being a candidate short market means that it’s often faster to progress than in other service lines and reaching Partner can occur a lot sooner.
Every day is different - Moving from client to client each week and often auditing a completely different industry to the previous one, in what could be a wildly different environment, means you’re applying your knowledge in a completely new way each time. This is using your skill set and applying your experience to a new set of circumstances and different mindsets. Every day is different as an auditor.
Client Interaction - Requesting the information you need from busy employees can be a challenge, you need to be adaptable, polite, friendly, and have a knack for building relationships with various clients. The idea of an auditor tucked away out of sight is rapidly becoming an outdated way of working. To be successful, ensure client satisfaction and be as minimally disruptive as possible - client skills are a must.
Salary - Being able to demand a premium is a sign that you’re in the right line of work and audit is absolutely one of those! The need for auditors is so significant that, to an extent, a strong auditor with decent practice experience can command their salary - pushing market rates up higher and higher.
Job Security - Of all the areas of accounting, audit is probably the most stable and secure service line. With audits being a legal requirement for most and that not looking to change soon,, you can be safe in the knowledge that you and your family will be secure for life. If you’re looking to expand your family, buy a second home or simply want to be safe from the effects of Brexit - audit is the specialism for you.
When considering which firm to embark on your audit career with, there are some key factors to consider...
Work-life balance - Generally speaking, auditors are out of the office and on site with clients. This means that you can generally manage your day - arriving 15 minutes later and leaving 45 minutes earlier to avoid the traffic become options that you don’t have in a role where you’re chained to your desk. When you’re not at a client’s site, much of the work auditors do can be done remotely, so working from home can be a reality.
Travel Time - Travelling away from home is not for everyone. The bigger firms will even expect some travel abroad; overnight stay aways are common in all types of firms. The amount of this depends on the size of your firm and the spread of their clients across the country. If you like travelling across the world - the bigger firms are for you.
Overtime - We live in a day and age where overtime is a reality, you can’t get away from this in too many industries and audit is no different. The key thing is that, if you’re doing overtime, it’s important to be valued for it. Are you being paid for the extra hours? Or getting time off in lieu? I only know one top 10 firm that offers unrestricted paid overtime - it’s a rarity.
Salary - As discussed above, salaries within audit are extremely competitive. It might be worth speaking to a recruiter to make sure you’re being paid market rate. We speak to many candidates that claim to be ‘paid very well’ and in actuality, they’re under the expected average.
Timings - A lot of the bugbears with audit are very dependent on your level. As you progress up the ranks, audit becomes less transactional and more focused on being a technical advisor and reviewer. You won’t actually be doing the audit for the entirety of your career.
If you decide to move on from audit, here are some potential avenues to go down…
Speak with Alice Cahill for more information on:
Speaking with a recruitment consultant can ensure that all of the above are addressed. Instead of simply asking for a role that’s ‘anything except audit’, perhaps think about what it is about audit you don’t enjoy. Could that simply be solved by changing firms? Alternatively, if you enjoy audit, knowing how competitive it is, are you getting the most out of your career?
Alice Hardy is a Principal Consultant in the Accountancy Division at Harvey John.
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