Accounting across the country

Lucy Mair finds out about the exciting work on offer in Deloitte's regional audit practices

Deloitte is one of the UK's top professional services firms, but you don't have to move to London to enjoy a challenging, varied and rewarding role in the business. The firm has 21 recruiting offices throughout the UK, each with work experience schemes and graduate opportunities.

We caught up with an Audit Partner in Manchester and two industrial placement students - one in Birmingham and one in Edinburgh - to find out more about what the regions have to offer.

Jane Boardman

Audit Partner, Manchester

Jane graduated from the University of Manchester in 1996 with a degree in Maths. She then joined the graduate scheme at a firm later acquired by Deloitte, and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1999. She developed her career in audit at Deloitte's Manchester office and, in 2007, she became the firm's then youngest partner. Jane's also responsible for the firm's audit talent sourcing in the north west, including vacation schemes and graduate recruitment.

Can you explain what audit is?

In simple terms, an audit is the process of validating a client's financial statements and ensuring they give a true and fair view of the financial performance of the business. We do that by building relationships with our clients and their personnel, learning about their business processes and circumstances, understanding the common issues in their industry, evaluating where errors could arise in the financial statements, and then planning and executing audit procedures to address those risks.

Delivering a complex, multinational audit can involve a lot of hard work, but the long-term relationships we have with our clients make it a really interesting and enjoyable part of the business to work in.

What kinds of clients do you work with in Manchester?

We've got a huge variety of clients, from multinational corporations to start-up businesses. The north west audit practice is divided into four teams: financial services, public sector, entrepreneurial business and core audit; the latter two look after a wide range of industries.

My clients include large companies such as household name Warburtons, and Japan Tobacco, a global business with a multi-billion dollar turnover. I also have a number of small and medium sized clients in the service, retail, real estate, manufacturing and energy and resources sectors.

How big is the Manchester office?

We have almost 800 people in Manchester across all of the service lines, and 130 people in audit. We also work closely with the Liverpool office, which has around 80 people, and together we form the North West practice. A regional office isn't necessarily a small office!

Why is it important for Deloitte to have offices across the country?

Our clients are based all across the UK and we need to be physically close to them to understand their businesses and respond effectively to their needs.

Having a network of offices also gives Deloitte a greater pool of talent to hire from. We sell services that are delivered by people, so it's important that we find the right people and give them the best personal and professional experiences - wherever they choose to live.

What are the advantages of working in a regional office?

I think there are a number of advantages. Firstly, you'll gain a really varied experience across different industries and you won't have to pigeon-hole yourself into a sector team from day one. Secondly, you'll have the opportunity to work in smaller teams and take on a greater level of responsibility sooner than you would only working on very large audits. Finally, having the option to be closer to friends and family can be important for some people, and it also tends to be cheaper to live and work in the regions.

Do Deloitte's regional offices have the same opportunities for career progression?

Deloitte is a fantastic organisation and, if you work hard and excel at what you do, you'll get rewarded - whichever office you join. In sixteen years, I've never felt the need to go anywhere else for my personal or professional development and my promotion to partner after ten years is testament to how quickly I was able to develop in Manchester. I now have a two-year-old son, and flexible working allows me to balance the demands of being a senior person at Deloitte with my personal responsibilities.

What are the benefits of work experience schemes at Deloitte?

Work experience gives students the chance to try before they buy and find out more about Deloitte, and which service line they're best suited to. The majority of students who do vacation schemes are offered graduate positions, so it's a great way to secure employment, too.

It also gives Deloitte a chance to find the most capable, motivated and enthusiastic students, and begin to train them so they already have some experience if they join us when they finish university.

What advice would you give to students who are considering applying for work experience in a regional office?

You'll get a fantastic experience, whichever office of Deloitte you join. But if it were me, I'd make the decision based on where I thought I'd be happiest from a personal and financial perspective. There's plenty of opportunity to relocate in the UK or beyond at a later date if your circumstances change.

It's also important to remember that our work experience schemes are very competitive, so if you apply and don't succeed, don't let that put you off applying for a graduate position in the future.

Becky Haughton

Audit associate, Birmingham

Becky studies International Business at Loughborough University. She's currently on a year-long industrial placement at Deloitte's Birmingham office, where she's joined the core audit team.

Can you tell us about your job?

In core audit we work with clients in a range of different sectors - I've worked with businesses in the travel, media and manufacturing industries in the past few months. As an associate, I'm usually responsible for checking the accuracy of the client's balance sheet as part of the audit process. This involves working at the client's site and getting the necessary information from them to perform tests on their financial statements.

What interested you about audit?

Accounting appealed to me because I enjoy maths, but I didn't want to get stuck in an office-based job, doing the same thing every day. In audit there's lots of variety because I get to go out to different businesses to apply my maths skills.

Can you tell us about the Birmingham office, and what attracted you to the city?

There are about 600 people based in Birmingham and it's one of Deloitte's biggest regional offices. Even though I'm often working on client sites, networking is encouraged and we have an office-wide drinks and nibbles event every month.

I applied to work in Birmingham because I wanted to work in an exciting city, but thought London would be too expensive. The Birmingham office is big enough that there's lots going on, but small enough that you can work in small teams and get to know your colleagues.

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced?

There's been so much to take in during the first few months - from learning the technical skills I need to do the job, to building professional relationships. But it's an invaluable experience and I think I'll be in a better position than most of my peers when I graduate.

Has anything surprised you?

I didn't expect to be working on client sites so quickly. As soon as I'd completed my training, I was travelling around the country and working directly with clients. It was overwhelming at first, but you're always working in a team so you can ask for help.

What are you enjoying most about your placement?

I like the culture at Deloitte - there's such a wide network of students and graduates within the firm, which means you're never on your own and there's plenty to do outside of work, too.

Jamie Fox

Audit associate, Edinburgh

Jamie studies Economics, Finance and International Business at Oxford Brookes University. He's currently on a year-long industrial placement at Deloitte's Edinburgh office, where he's joined the financial services audit team.

Can you tell us about your job?

In the financial services team we work with banks, investment trusts and other financial institutions. I recently audited an Edinburgh-based investment trust with just one assistant manager, which was fantastic because I got to see the whole process from start to finish and take on complete responsibility for four sections of the balance sheet. I've also travelled to Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London to work on the audit of one of our larger clients.

What interested you about audit?

I thought working in audit would give me the best insight into how businesses work, because you get to see the inner workings of companies and gain a broad understanding of how they set objectives and achieve their goals.

Can you tell us about the Edinburgh office, and what attracted you to the city?

There are around 250 people in the Edinburgh office, and the audit practice is split into two teams: the financial services sector team and the core audit team, which looks after all other sectors. The office is very sociable - it's open-plan and everyone can easily go and talk to each other. There are about 30 people on the graduate scheme and two other industrial placement students, so there's a great sense of community because we're all in a similar situation.

I've always been told by friends and family that Edinburgh is a great city. My cousin trained as a chartered accountant here and enjoyed the experience, so I thought I'd expand my horizons by living and working in a new place.

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced?

The first month was the toughest because I was thrown into an unknown environment where I didn't know anybody at the firm or what I was doing. I had three weeks of training with the first year graduates, which boosted my confidence and helped me settle in.

Has anything surprised you?

Everyone has been friendlier than I expected. The learning curve is steep, but everyone's been in this starting position at some stage, so they're very supportive and willing to answer questions.

What are you enjoying most about your placement?

I'm really enjoying the work but also the social side of the company, including the squash ladder, Sunday football and the corporate decathlon. I'd love to train as a chartered accountant when I finish university, and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to return to Deloitte to do so.