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Showing posts from 2013

best time to leave before busy season

I'm curious, what is your take on cutoff date for leaving your firm? With busy season coming up, I'm sure this is a hot topic. 

Good question. It's obviously subjective. Feel like everyone will have a different answer for you. My personal view on it is that if you are a key resource on an engagement, you have to let them know a couple months before busy season so they can find an alternative resource. If you are not a key resource, end of November would seem to be appropriate.
There are always some individuals who leave in December too, but it's not the best time. Always look at who you'll be burning bridges with, and whether it's worth it. If you're looking to switch careers, then leave anytime prior to busy season if the opportunity is good, since leaving this job won't come back to haunt you. If you intend to stay in accounting, then think about it a little more, since you may need those contacts down the road. Curious as to what people think - let us …

internal audit to reporting

I have been in the audit of a Europe-based FPI for 5 years now and was just offered a position in their Internal Audit Department. I am interested in reporting, however, and I am worried that accepting this offer will put me in a radically different career path. Please share your view. 

I wouldn't call it radically different, but if you've already spent 5 years internal audit and want to go into reporting, you may have to keep searching for jobs. Alternatively, share your goals with the company, and ask if you can get into their reporting group over the next couple years. Make sure you share your thoughts with the reporting group so they can keep you in mind when they're looking. I've seen lots of people go from audit to reporting, so I wouldn't fret. Just keep looking for that reporting job even if you end up taking this internal audit job. Contact some recruiters - companies are always on the lookout for people to join their reporting group.

big 4 alternatives

I am undergrad senior for accounting. I am 27. I have been told many times that the best thing to do after college is to land a job in a big-4 company. I am not sure if I am willing to put in 60+ hours a week for this “dream job”. If I don’t want to take the “ideal” path, what other options I have? 

That's a tough age to start, but I've seen people do it, but you definitely have to be willing to put in the hours. If you don't want to go down the big 4 path, you can always take a job at a regional firm and work there for 2-3 years before going into a senior accountant job at any Company. That's really your best bet if you want to be in accounting. Now, if hours are a priority, and you're okay moving up slowly in the workforce, you could try going straight into industry. It's unfortunate that it's this way, but in the accounting world, the big 4 are essentially an ivy league type recruiting zone for various companies.

industry experience

I am CPA - equivalent in rather small regional audit practice in a country in Middle Europe. Locally, big four companies are considered top experts in audit, excelling in larger companies audits. But they also do smaller and mid size companies. They do it charging much more in fees than mid tier companies not to mention smaller regional auditing firms like the one I work for. Once or twice our paths crossed. Me a CPA doing a statutory audit and audit teams of 2-3 people at their 20s doing an audit of a consolidation package of the same client. I sometimes audited the same client the next year after it was audited by a Big four. Well, the clients' comments apart (young clueless people stressed to do the job they don't understand), I was not really impressed. One client had to go through major fundamental error adjustments. I can't believe the partner or manager at Big 4 was unaware of the omission or maybe he didn't care to understand. It could be this type of reckless …

dealing with ex auditors

I have a question - how do you deal with auditees (especially those who have prior audit experience and therefore think that they know everything) who question your audit methods? I could explain my audit methods, but I don't see why I should, and it seems like the client is just being difficult for no reason (or to stall for time). 

To be honest,  back when I was a staff associate, I liked it when clients challenged my audit methods - this made me understand why I'm doing what I'm doing so I could create an effective argument for it. Clients are inherently difficult just because they don't like doing additional work if it doesn't add value for them - unfortunately nature of the beast, and this is a majority of clients. Best way to overcome this is to explain why your methodology is necessary. Sometimes, if you don't agree with the methodology or think the requests are excessive, sympathize with your clients but explain to them that it's just the rules we ha…

Future of the Big 4

How do you see the future in this industry, say 5 years down the road? Hours are inevitably longer, and pay may never catch up to the hours worked since no one ever agree on the fee inflation. All of our work are statutorily based, and we are never really adding too much value that will generate revenue for the clients in my opinion. Is it better to switch out to other areas of the firm like non assurance services where it may be more meaningful?

The way I see it, audits aren't really a growth area for the Firms, but rather, just their bread & butter to chug along at a mature growth rate. And the Firms know that, they've known that for years, which is why they invested heavily in consulting, and then got completely sidetracked by the Arthur Anderson fiasco. Now the Firms are slowly building back their consulting business, albeit very careful to make sure that everything's straight from an independence standpoint. They know if that they want their profits to increase, gi…

New world

I've posted a few blogs earlier on this new world that we live in. This is a world where we're auditing for the regulators (PCAOB) instead of auditing for investors. We're auditing in fear of the PCAOB or our internal reviews finding something instead of auditing using a sense of reason. This is an era of upheaval that, from my understanding, harkens back to when 404 was first implemented. There is a sea change going on at the Firms because of the new PCAOB demands. It's certainly painful for the people implementing this now, but it'll be fascinating to see if this changes. Once the dust settles on this internal control rehaul, will the PCAOB choose a new battle to fight that will cause another upheaval in the near future. The PCAOB is turning into a dangerous animal, especially since it's backed by the government and is paid for by the private sector (mandatory PCAOB fees for all issuers). With that kind of funding, and with teams dedicated to different accoun…

salary change upon transfer

Quick question - If you're given the opportunity to stay within the firm and transition cross functions in a Big 4, say from Audit to Advisory/IT Risk, do they adjust your salary to match your peers in the destination function? Would a first year audit senior transitioning to a first year advisory senior make the same as if he started at the firm as an advisory staff? 

It depends on when you leave, and it depends on the Firm. If you transfer after the Firm's decided your salary for the upcoming year, then you will have the same salary that your previous group had agreed to until the next year. Also, some Firms claim that your pay is based on your previous year's work, which was in a different group, so they'll carry over that salary, and some Firms will adjust your pay. Timing is basically key. In terms of your second question about the audit senior going to an advisory senior, yes, you will be within a close range based on the level you are at. Keep in mind that while …

hobson's choice

I've been reading through the posts and I get the feeling that many people feel that they have no control over their actions; they are driven. What if you and they knew that it is up to the individual to determine their own response to e-mails, to stress, to unrealistic demands - to whatever they encounter? You and they have a choice. What makes people so readily give up the power over their own lives? 

Deep. You are right - most people have a choice. They can choose to leave at any time to pursue other opportunities. But they stay since they know they have to put a few years in in order to get a better opportunity elsewhere.  And so they've effectively reconciled themselves to staying for a few years.

Now, in terms of determining responses to emails, stress and unrealistic demands, individuals do have a choice, but they can't control the consequences. That's where the issues rise. Let's take email responses. You have a choice to do the following:
a) Ignore the email/…


Been a month or so since we found out about our compensation. People asked me how I thought the raises would be, and I honestly had no idea. The higher up you go, the less you hear the gossip since many of your colleagues who started with you have left. It is really funny how open some people are about compensation sometimes. The staff always seem excited because they've never been through this process before.
 Overall, compensation this year seemed to be within expectations. I've really become numb to it at this point, it's nice to have the number increase, but that's about it. For those of you interested in numbers, head to going concern.

book-keeping to audit

I have been working as a bookkeeper for 4.5 years in both public and private accounting. I'm young, ambitious and confident in my accounting (not just bookkeeping) knowledge. I have recently completed the CPA exam. I graduated 2.5 years ago.I would like to become an auditor, especially for a Big Four. I have had difficulty finding an entry level auditor/staff accountant job. I am living in the Bay Area, CA. What would be your advise for finding an auditor job? Should I go back to school for Masters just so that I can get an internship? How difficult is it to get audit experience when somebody is no longer in school?

You'd want to seriously reconsider trying to jump into audit in your mid to late 20s. The audit culture, especially at the staff associate level, is usually not conducive to people at that age. Not trying to age discriminate here, but do you really want to be taking orders from 24-25 year olds? The relaxed environment that you worked at in the past will be…

phone addiction

I admit that I am addicted. It must stop. And I know I'm not the only one. I am addicted to my phone, and my immediate reflex when I get work emails is to check it, regardless of time of day. I could be working from 7:30 am - 11 pm,  but when I'm back home and it's midnight, I feel that familiar buzz in my pocket, and I instantly pick up the phone and check my email. This could end up in three different ways - a) delete the email, not important, b) save it so I can respond tomorrow c) frustrates me enough that it affects my sleep d) makes me relieved since it was the resolution of a certain issue. This could have waited until the next morning, but it's almost out of instinct that I have to check that email. Knowing that there's an unread email out there is annoying  since in my mind it could be a big  issue that needs to be tackled asap, even though it can realistically wait. People say that this smartphone age makes work efficient, but it also takes a stranglehold…


I am starting my career in audit in September at a European office. I know that the companies have very good training programmes, yet I still feel like preparing myself in any way possible. Do you have any tips for me and other new hires?

To be honest, there's no need to prepare. Even the training programs are insufficient. The majority of your training will be on-the-job, i.e. when you're in the field and your senior associates are teaching you how to audit. In fact, I'd venture to say that the people who participate a lot in training are not the best in your training class a majority of the time. Just focus on your senior's training the first few weeks at the client, and you should be golden. Of course, your senior should have the necessary competencies to  teach well.

My first senior was horrendous. My first day on the job, he comes up to me and asks me to audit receivables, and then leaves. A fellow staff associate who started client work a week before I did hel…

Compensation season has begun!

That time of year, when the gossiping and speculation begins, when some directly ask how much others' raises were (which I think is ridiculous, what a kind of a question is that? Learn some manners), and some try and get a sense from the demeanor of others to see if the raises are good. Every year there's rumors - raises are going to  be great, raises going to be at market, raises are going to be bad. You usually cover the whole spectrum. When the raises are final, some go on rants about how pathetic the raises are. Some think the raises are really good. To those folks - listen, we are constantly underpaid - that is the model and I don't see that changing - so the raises are not good. Yes, the %s might be good, but the total salary for the amount you work - come on! Keep in mind you don't get equity. Especially the people who started in 2008-2009, when we didn't have raises -to you, any raise is a good raise.

People - don't compare your salary to the outside wo…

Start date

Most of my peers / class and I signed the full-time offer that's supposed to be starting in September of this year. However, HR has now provided us an option to defer our start dates. I'm considering deferring to the next start date - January. Do you think this puts me at a disadvantage? Would missing planning and interim work in the fall affect my intermediate (2nd year staff associate) year performance? Would Seniors be so busy during busy season that they wouldn't have time to teach me / properly give instructions? Is it more difficult work in busy season? Thanks!!

It depends. So if you start in January and are a good performer, you will probably get promoted the same year along with the September class, so if you graduate early, and want to get a head start on your professional life, go for it. Busy season will be a heck of a training ground for you.

If you want to ease into busy season hell, start in September. You are right about seniors not having time to t…


On a side note, did you stop blogging? As far as I can see there are quite a while since your last post  

I just didn't feel like booting up my computer when I came home to be honest. On a side note, I've always thought about writing a book down the road about my experience at a big 4 firm. Doesn't seem like anyone's done this, and seems like something that people would read/buy. Thoughts? Should I just stick to blog posts.

public accounting

Hi. Is Big 4 considered as public sector? I thought they are under private sector? 

It's considered to be public accounting - and the audit is done on both public and private companies. Agree though - seems strange if you dig deep to figure out why.


Also have you ever had a really good auditor leave w/o warning? Like you found out the day they were leaving. 

For the most part, you find out a week before - via the grapevine, almost everyone gives a 2 week notice in the US. Depending on the Firm, you may get "escorted out" on the same day if you go to a competitor, even if it's a different practice. It's pretty crazy when that happens. Also, when you're laid off, you have to fill out your paperwork and leave that same day.

Most good auditors are kind enough to give their two week notice though, it helps transition a lot of work to others.

move from europe to the US

I work for a Big 4 in Europe and I want to continue my carreer in USA (in audit if possible). My firm encourages the international carreers but I think it's not that easy. Do you know anyone that has moved from Europe to USA? How it worked? Hard to fit in? Is it hard to adapt yourshelf to the local GAAP? 

There are a lot of people on exchange from Europe. It is a difficult transition since audit is much more intense and detailed than it is in most of Europe. It's funny seeing individuals from other countries audit - might as well audit by inquiry sometimes. As far as adaptation to local GAAP goes, it'll take you time, but you'll get there. Just have to spend some time using the research tools to familiarize yourself depending on the issue.

big 4 tax

I'm currently a first year senior in the tax practice for a big 4 firm. The experience so far is nice but I've been thinking a lot about switching to audit. The reasons being, I feel like audit has so much more exit opportunities (Controller, CFO, Partner etc), you get to learn how company operate, and you can basically find a job anywhere in the world not just limited to US. As for tax, I feel like once you are a tax guy, you will always labeled as a tax guy so your exit opportunities will only be limited to jobs related to US tax. Is my understanding correct?

Also, do you think it is a good idea for me to switch given I've invested 3 years in the tax field already? And would I be starting over as a first year audit staff and would I need to take a pay cut? please advise! 

I see your point but almost every Company needs a tax expert, and you likely provide more value than accounting experts since it helps the Company implement tax strategies that result in less …

big 4 experience

keep hearing that having experience from any of the big 4 on your CV is a major advantage in looking for other jobs. But what kind of jobs specifically? Is it limited to just accounting/controller jobs, or are there other types of jobs where a "big 4 background" is held in high regard. 

Think I've blogged about this before, but it is a huge advantage to have the big 4 name on your resume, believe me. I've seen this on plenty of recruiter emails - many of which say it's a requirement, the others say that it's preferred. It's limited to accounting/controller positions unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, by no means am I saying that big 4 firms are better than the smaller firms, it's just how the recruiters and companies work, especially since there are likely big 4 alums there.

moving office locations

Is it difficult to move to a different office location within the same Big 4 Firm? How do you approach this and how important is the timing?

It is difficult the first couple years since there are a plethora of first years and second years at every office - so there is likely no business case for you. It is pretty easy senior associate year and above since there's a business case to be made at every office, especially these days given the lack of resources.

Your best bet would be to go to a partner who likes you and explain where and why you transfer. That partner likely has a contact in the office you want to transfer to, and will put you in touch with them. After this contact likes you and wants you on board, the HR in their office will initiate the process with HR in your office. In terms of timing, start a few months before you want to transfer, and definitely avoid late fall since it  goes into busy season. Ideally April-September.

workspace environment

First post since the beginning of busy season. In fact, first post of 2013 and we're more than halfway through 2013. This new audit world we're entering is tiring. Anyways, on to some of the questions I've received since my last post. Please note that I've skipped questions that I touched on before.

One thing that I found interesting was how he told me about the way work stations and cubicles are set up. Left, top, and right sides are all covered with steep sidings resulting in a very anti-social work environment.  I also asked him if he's had a chance to befriend co-workers, and he said no - people don't talk to each other unless they have to and people dread working in teams (i.e. it's just a requirement of the job, not actually very team-oriented). Are Audit jobs this depressing of an environment? At least in some finance and consulting jobs you have bullpens and chance to be collegial with people in your level. I guess not so at all in the accou…