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Audit Planning

We just had our “planning meeting” the other day, i.e. the meeting where the senior and above in an audit team get together and go through the big issues that need to be tackled for the upcoming audit. I must have zoned off at least 5-10 times during the meeting. It can go head-to-head with boredom at times, but it gives you an understanding of what the partner really cares about. The way I see it now (sure it might change down the road), Partners only care about the hot topics that either the client might be violating or needs to be in accordance with. These hot topics are always in the internal documents circulated to the higher ups to keep them abreast of the happenings. Their capital,i.e. their finances are on the line, so they have an extremely vested interest in making sure the firms don’t take a hit. This pressure then descends onto the senior managers/ managers, who want to make partner and so need to impress the current partners since the partners vote to approve new members of their hallowed brotherhood. So the senior managers / managers start talking about control risks, significant risks and all that other boring stuff, and what they need to do to CTA…i.e. cover their asses. “We need to document the company’s compliance with FAS 100, FIN 46, SOP 97-2…and it goes on and on.” By we, they mean the seniors.
Shit. So the seniors end up getting piled up with “shit” like one of the comments noted earlier. “Write a memo on this FIN, that FAS, this SOP...”, oh and the budget’s been set, so la-de-f’in-da, have fun with it. Now my line of thinking is that the staff can deal with the “significant accounts”- Cash, Revenues, Receivables, Fixed Assets, etc. But trust me, speaking from experience and being on both sides of the coin – senior and staff/associate, the staff can get away with things, and if they’re not doing a good job, then the senior has to step in at fix it, and this adds to the burgeoning list of responsibilities. Then it’s up to us to stay within the budget. Why can’t they tweak the system a little bit to say – “okay, so let’s have the planning meeting, see what additional issues we have to take care of, take into account the new personnel joining the team (lack of experience,etc.), and change the budget.” Don’t make the budget first and then plan it out.


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career progression

"What can you tell me about the different possible tracks a person would take at the Big 4 in regards to tax vs. audit? Is there a difference in career progression among the two specialties? How about career potential? Workload?"

Loaded question. In terms of career potential, they're both pretty potent. Audit leads you to controller/accounting manager/ VP - accounting positions at companies if you choose to quit. Tax can lead to tax manager positions at various companies/ help them minimize taxes and exploit tax loopholes. It's a pretty important position in many companies...I'm not an expert on tax careers though, so you might want to ask somebody in a tax related position.
In terms of career progression, it's the same as audit...start off as a staff associate...move to senior..manager..snr mgr..partner.
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As a big four employee, lately, I've been hearing a lot about "boomerang" employees. Those who, for some reason or another, decide that leaving work when the sun is still out is not for them and alas, return back to the firm. Yes, the grass is not always greener on the other side, however, is this trending upward or about the same as it always has been? I think, also, that the firms really do a good job in highlighting those that do choose to return to make it appear more common than reality. Can you please speak about how you've seen the trend of "boomerangs" amongst the big 4? 

Good question. A boomerang, as the commenter pointed, is one who quits a big 4 Firm and then decides to return (or boomerang) back to the Firm after getting a taste of work life in the non-public accounting world.
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I was wondering if you could break down the career opportunities in auditing and consulting (in a big 4). I know that consulting pays more in a big 4 and has more interesting work, but it seems that auditing has extremely good exit opportunities (Financial controller, CFO etc). Any thoughts on which is better in the long run?

Well there's different consulting services offered by public accounting companies - the most popular being IT consulting and risk consulting. There are also other consulting services offered, but these two hire the most. Do they pay more? Yes, but not by much. Not enough for you to say: Shoot, the $$ is a huge reason for me to move over. Is the work more interesting than audit? Yes. You're actually looking over a company's processes and telling them what to do instead of what not to do (audit). Everyone I know who's made the switch likes it waay better than audit.
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