On location

Ernst & Young's regional offices across the UK are critical to the firm's success. Hannah Langworth speaks to graduate recruits in four different locations across the country to find out why they like living and working in their area

Ernst & Young is one of the world's largest global professional services firms. What is a professional services firm? Broadly speaking, it helps its clients to run their businesses efficiently, to manage risks, to improve the way they operate, and to take advantage of opportunities. One of the most important ways in which these firms do so is by conducting audits for their clients. All companies are required to conduct regular audits, which means having their financial position assessed to ensure that their accounts accurately reflect the true status of their business. This type of work may also involve assessing other areas of a client's business, such as whether or not they're in compliance with environmental or corporate social responsibility requirements, or advising them on how to run their financial processes efficiently. Another significant part of the work of a professional services firm like Ernst & Young is tax advice. Tax advisors help their clients to ensure that they fulfil their tax obligations and to resolve any issues with tax authorities, and also assist them with tax planning. In addition, Ernst & Young advises its clients in a number of other areas, including managing business risks and on the process of buying and selling other companies.

Ernst & Young has 19 UK offices spread across every region of the country. This wide geographical reach means that the firm's clients, wherever they're based or have business interests, can rely on having an Ernst & Young office near to them. What's more, the Ernst & Young employees at each office are very familiar with the local economy, so can bring knowledge and contacts to their clients. And if one office needs to call in some external assistance, the good links between Ernst & Young's UK offices means that support is readily available to ensure the client gets the service they need.

But what's in it for the firm's employees? What are the professional benefits of being in a smaller office in a regional location, and what do those who work here enjoy about living in their part of the country?

These offices typically have a variety of different clients, spanning many industries and including businesses of a number of different types. Teams here tend to be smaller, and employees get involved in a broad range of types of work, which is great experience for those just starting out in their careers. Many regional offices also have particular expertise in working for clients in industries that are important to the local area, so there's also the chance to specialise. You'll get plenty of opportunities to take on responsibility and progress quickly. And regional offices typically have a close-knit and friendly culture, which makes for a great working environment.

If you're keen to stay in the city where you went to university, or to be near family and friends, there's a good chance that there's an Ernst & Young office close to where you'd like to be based. Or you could always take advantage of the wide range of opportunities for graduates at Ernst & Young to experience life somewhere new - all of their locations across the country have a lot to offer you, both professionally and personally.

To find out more about life in Ernst & Young's offices across the country, we spoke to four recent graduate recruits based in four different locations.

SOUTHAMPTON

We spoke to: Will Pope

Area of work: Audit

My eldest brother and my dad are both accountants, and I always wanted to get into business in some form, so I decided to study economics at the University of Southampton. I have a huge interest in sport, and after university I got a job in India for six months working in sports management at the Indian Premier League cricket competition. Because of my dad's job, I always knew how valuable an accounting qualification is, so while I was there I applied to Ernst & Young and was successful in securing a job. I came back, had a couple of months' holiday, and started in September.

I work in audit, which means working closely with companies to examine their finances and help them improve as businesses. We have clients in industries including construction, defence, chemicals, entertainment, and food and drink. Thanks to our location, we also have a few shipping clients. I like the fact that I'm gaining experience in a number of areas, and seeing how different companies work in different ways. Also, it's easy to try new areas of work here. It would be no problem for me to go up to a director and ask if I could shadow them for an afternoon to see what their type of work was like. So if I want to specialise in a particular area in the future, I'll be sure I want to do so because I'll have been able to compare that area of work to others. I also like the fact that I've been involved in a wide range of tasks for clients, not just one aspect of our work for them.

Ernst & Young is a huge company, but I feel I've been able to get to know most of the people in the Southampton office and really get involved in office life. We share quite a few of our clients with the Reading office, so we have a good relationship with the people working there. I've had training courses with people at my level in Reading which has helped me to start building a network within the organisation.

I chose to stay in Southampton because I like the city, especially all the good places to eat - there are some very smart restaurants and cheaper options too. I also like being near the New Forest and Winchester. Quite a few of my friends from university are still here, and I socialise with my colleagues as well - here you get to know everyone, so it's easy to arrange to do things. If I want to play football I can get a team together just by asking around the office.

INVERNESS

We spoke to: Catherine MacLeod

Area of work: Audit

I went to university not too far from Inverness, at the University of Strathclyde. In the summer before my final year, I did an internship in the Inverness office and at the end of it got offered my job, which was great because it made my last year at university a lot less stressful.

I work in audit, which means I spend a lot of time with clients at their offices. We have many local clients, and if they're more than 30 miles or so away we have overnight accommodation arranged for us. Our managers take our personal preferences and circumstances into account when allocating work. If you want to do a specific audit, then you can put in a request to do so. We also collaborate with other Ernst & Young offices - over the next few weeks I'll be working with both the Glasgow and Edinburgh offices. This is great, because you get to know people there too.

We work for a diverse range of companies, which is interesting because you get to see how different types of businesses work, and it's great experience as every client is so different. The office is growing fast. We only moved in about six years ago and we've already almost outgrown it - we're having to get new desks in order to fit everyone in! It's a very close-knit office. I've got to know pretty much everyone, as in audit you work in a different team almost every week because of the range of clients you work for. At Ernst & Young, graduate recruits have a more senior person as a "counsellor" who mentors you as you progress, and I've worked with mine on quite a few jobs so it's easy for me to approach her if I want to discuss something.

I like living in Inverness because I grew up nearby and have family and friends here. Also, I like the outdoor activities you can do in the area - after a 10-minute drive you can be walking or cycling in the countryside. But Glasgow's not too far away if you feel like some big city life, so we've got the best of both worlds. My favourite thing about Inverness is the people, because they're all so friendly - if you were in the pub, you could start chatting to someone you haven't met before and end up getting on like a house on fire! One of the graduates who started with me had no personal links to Inverness, but people at the office have been particularly supportive and he's really enjoying life here now.

LUTON

We spoke to: Laura Smith

Area of work: Tax

I started last September in the graduate intake here, and I work in the corporate tax department. Our clients are predominantly large businesses from the surrounding area including St Albans and Milton Keynes and span many industries, including hospitality, cosmetics, catering and technology. I like working with this wide range of clients because they all have different needs; for example, in the tax department, we give some assistance with liaising with tax authorities while others come to us for tax planning advice.

I like the fact that here I've been able to get involved in every part of the service we provide to clients, which keeps the job interesting. Today I've worked on about eight little things for various clients, rather than just working on one big job for one client all day. In a regional office, you tend to get a lot of responsibility which gives you opportunities to develop. I was working directly with clients as soon as I started and have been to lots of client meetings, which means I've got to know my clients well.

I know everyone in the team, which helps me ensure I get the experience I need to progress, and I like the fact that I'm not just a number. I was even asked to organise my department's Christmas party! I've also been able to meet people from other offices, for example, when I did three weeks of training in Birmingham. I think getting to know people elsewhere in the network is important because we all have different ways of approaching things and bringing all our knowledge and skills together produces the best outcomes for our clients.

I live in Bedford and commute in to the Luton office. I chose to work in Luton so that I could live nearby with my parents while, alongside my job, studying for the exams that I need to pass to qualify as an accountant. I thought I'd like to have the support of my family during this time, rather than the worries of moving somewhere new. I also have a lot of friends here, as I grew up in this area.

CAMBRIDGE

We spoke to: Alex Matthew

Area of work: Audit

I studied at the University of Cambridge and did an internship at the Cambridge office between my second and third years, which led to a job offer. I now work in the audit department, where our job is to check the truth and fairness of financial statements. I'm not in the office very much because the majority of the work we do is client-facing and we can do our jobs more effectively if we're on the client's premises and can speak to them face-to-face. Working in this way would be very difficult if we didn't have people based around the UK. We also work closely with nearby offices, particularly Luton.

We have a wide variety of clients based throughout East Anglia covering a range of industries including agriculture, retail, and food and drink. Many of our clients in Cambridge itself are biotech and pharmaceutical companies because of the scientific and technological expertise that the university generates and attracts to the city.

I probably work with ten or 12 clients each year, and I like being able to get an insight into a range of industries and types of businesses. With some of the smaller clients, there's scope for junior team members to get significant responsibility because we're given the chance to take on whole sections of work that someone more senior would be in charge of on a bigger project.

Everyone in the office knows everyone else and because we work in quite small groups, you get to know the people that you work with very well. The office culture is one of the best things about working here - everyone is very approachable and it feels like we're one big team.

I wanted to stay in the Cambridge area as a graduate. I really like Cambridge - it's a beautiful city with lots to do. Also, I still have friends in the city, and from Cambridge it only takes me an hour to get to where my parents live. My favourite thing about Cambridge is punting on the river in the summer.

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