Assurance services are all about providing confidence. In most organisations, managers and investors are usually separate, that is, those who invest in organisations don’t usually run them, and vice versa.
So how can an investor be sure that their money is being well spent?
This is where assurance services come in – they ‘assure’ investors, both potential and existing, that an organisation has been scrutinised by a third party by providing reliable information about its finances, performance and management. ‘Users’ of this information include not only investors but also stakeholders such as creditors, analysts, employees, governments and communities.
Assurance services refer to anything that provides investors with extra confidence that an organisation’s performance is sound or compliant. While this traditionally may refer to an audit of financial information, it can also include, for example, watching certain processes being performed or testing internal control procedures.
You will find most accounting firms offer graduate programs in assurance and audit. The Big Four accounting firms, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, have some of the largest intakes of graduates but you will also find placements in other accounting firms such as BDO and Grant Thornton.
As a graduate, you can expect to work in a team and be hands-on from the very beginning. One of your key tasks will be to examine an organisation’s financial reports and use your judgment to decide if the information presented is an accurate reflection of its financial position at a given date.
An audit is usually conducted ‘on-site’. You might be doing an audit for a supermarket and need to visit a number of its stores, or perhaps you need to visit the organisation’s headquarters to crunch through its financial reports. Either way, you will likely have regular travel throughout a project. We have heard of graduates driving to business parks, factories and even army bases to do their work.
Your work is fairly cyclical with the busy period always just before the end of the financial year… so if holidays in May or June are your thing, then this may not be the career for you! Remember, the financial year varies by an organisation so your busy period will depend on your clients’ needs.
While the hours can be long, particularly as you approach a deadline, most of the reputable firms are supportive of practices such as working remotely, flexible hours or taking days in lieu. Of course, this will vary from team to team and manager to manager but it appears to be an increasing trend.
Finally, your integrity as an auditor is critical. You must not only be but be ‘seen to be’ truly independent and free from any bias. Being mindful of how you behave on-site and with your clients is important to remember.
As a graduate in assurance and audit, you really get to understand what makes a business tick. If you’re working for one of the large accounting firms, you’ll have the opportunity to apply these skills across other divisions.
In the first two to three years as a graduate, it is very likely that you will be encouraged to undertake further study like completing a Chartered Accountants (CA) program. Many organisations will help you to undertake this qualification through financial support and study leave.
By working on-site, you can begin to hone your relationship skills by engaging with client management on a regular basis. The benefits are twofold – auditors that impress their clients are often ‘poached’ to join the other side or if you’re keen to become a partner, you can use your relationships to develop and bring in an ongoing business.
Choose this if you have…
Want to know more about other accounting specialisations? Find out about which accounting specialisation is right for you.