Case study

Assurance associate — Ben Ogden

Ben studied BA History with Accounting and Finance at the University of Liverpool before moving to the Isle of Man to join PwC's graduate scheme as an assurance associate

How did you get your job?

I applied for a place on the PwC Isle of Man 2018 Graduate Training Programme. This involves studying towards the ICAEW Chartered Accountant (ACA) qualification, as well as gaining on-the-job experience.

The application process involved two interviews and numerical tests. I'm originally from Newcastle and so moved to the Isle of Man to take up this opportunity.

What's a typical day like as an auditor?

An assurance associate or external auditor is someone who reviews the financial records of companies, and this is what I do on a day-to-day basis. We mainly work at client offices in different locations. The good thing about the Isle of Man is that many large companies are based here, and most are within walking distance from the office - so I don't have to spend too much time travelling each day.

Communication and people skills are essential as an auditor, with the majority of my time spent meeting with key client contacts, such as financial controllers and finance directors, or discussing work with team members. PwC organises plenty of events, so most weeks I will either attend lunches or go to after work functions.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The role gives an insight into various industries, and as finance is at the centre of every organisation, you learn how businesses operate.

A finance graduate scheme in industry - for example, with a FTSE100 company - would give you a detailed understanding of that business. As an auditor, I get to see how each operates differently.

What are the challenges?

An auditor's work is client-focused and involves tight deadlines, which can require working longer hours, especially during busy periods of the year. At PwC we deliver a high-quality audit working to a very high standard. I take the view that with every challenge there's a learning opportunity, so although it can be hard work, it's highly rewarding.

Also, as part of the graduate training programme, I'm required to sit 15 exams over three years for my ACA qualification, so I've got to strike a balance between work and study. It can be hard studying in the evenings after a long day at work, but PwC is very flexible and provides support and time off for study.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree was 75% history and 25% accounting and finance, and with both parts I've developed skills crucial to my role. For example, many of my history essays gave me the freedom to conduct independent research and analysis and audit work is often completed on your own. My accounting and finance units have helped me develop a core understanding of the subject, and informed my studies. However, I wouldn't say that you need to have a specific degree to work in assurance - soft skills such as communication and analytical ability are much more important than technical skills. PwC accepts all degree disciplines and the interviews are more about you as a person than the degree you're doing.

How has your role developed, and what are your career ambitions?

Auditing can be quite technical, and so I started out with lots of coaching from fellow team members. As the year has progressed, I've come to understand audit techniques and how my work contributes to the overall impact of the team. I've been assigned increasingly challenging tasks and look forward to coaching the new assurance associates joining the next intake for the graduate training programme. I do have longer-term ambitions, but my main focus right now it to complete my ACA qualification.

How do I get into auditing as a career?

  • Make sure that you fully prepare for your interview and numerical tests. Research the company, know who the key members of staff are and show you are aware of the company's core values.
  • Go through different scenarios and provide real examples to demonstrate key competencies and how they fit in with the company.
  • Develop your soft skills and keep up with your hobbies and sports. By maintaining your interests, you'll naturally develop communication skills and working in a team and so can showcase your talent more effectively during the interview.

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