How to Audit (Part 9): Audit is Like High School Because…

Work at a Big-4 auditor is a lot different from my perceptions before I joined. It’s not a boring 9-to-5 tie-wearing job. Every week has been different from the last. In fact, audit is a lot more like high school than anything else.

1. Exams

Never before has a generation been examined so much: Key Stage exams, GCSEs, A Levels, university and now the ICAEW exams. If I stack my accumulated textbooks and notes, it would reach one 232,830,406th of the way to the moon, i.e. 5’5”.

The exams are horrific but going to college is a refreshing change from work. It harks back to a simpler time in our lives: classrooms of 30; a teacher at the front; registers; morning, lunch and afternoon breaks; homework; and (best of all) finishing early. Also, we get paid for attending, and I get bullied less.

2.  Pencil Case

Despite being adults, we still need to carry a pencil and calculator. You don’t notice that it is odd until you produce a calculator when the dinner bill arrives.

Not at the dinner table. Photo by Nick J. Adams


3. Bully the 1st Years

New trainees start not knowing which way to hold a pen and thinking that “casting” is a way to listen to a briefly popular 90s indie band from Liverpool. Although, they are impeccably dressed.

In order to teach them the ways of accounting for a part disposal of a foreign subsidiary using the fair value method of non-controlling interest under International Financial Reporting Standards as adopted by South Sudan**, they must endure endless hours of photocopy and confusion.

Please note that this blog does not condone bullying. The 1st years are valuable, but the first year is always a hard learning experience.

Audit combines a genuinely open work atmosphere (reference to the last blog post about partners serving tea) with a clear hierarchy. Mistaking someone’s grade is a mild faux pas. A while ago I was mistaken for an intern and got asked to do some printing! The distinction is important because each year’s experience is worth a lot. Knowing someone’s grade gives an easy guide to the level of work that he/she can do.

4. Day Trips

Auditors lead a very active social life and the firm subsidises social events throughout the year. Except, your legal guardians won’t be phoned if you get lost on a night out. The post-social drop in productivity is balanced by department bonding.

5. Cliques

The value of professional firms is in its employees. How else can a audit report, which is just a some paragraphs stating that the financial statements are true an fair, be worth so much? Good relationships are vital for working effectively. Some interesting cliques do develop:

  • Infernos – a club in London for the young professional who wants to relive their university partying days. Unfortunately it costs a lot more and you will run into other auditors.
  • Geeks – these previous social outcasts become sought after for their intimate knowledge of auditing standards and Excel.
  • Asian Kids – Recently, audit firms have recruited from Mainland China. The group is large enough for me to apply a meaningless label to them.
  • Wantaways – Those who decided that audit was not for them and are just waiting to pass their exams and leave. Every auditor will go through this phase after a few hard weekends of work.
  • Audit Lovers – A rare breed indeed.
  • Jocks – A good deal of auditors play sports and go to the gym. Intra-department matches are popular, except the opposition may wear pink tutus.

Real-life auditors don’t necessarily fit into these categories. The audit lovers do still go to Infernos and the Asian kids aren’t always geeks.


Audit is like high school, except for the work, which means the high school analogy isn’t appropriate. I have responsibilities and deadlines. If I stop working then I won’t be able to live in London. However, that is true of any job. Audit has its faults but you cannot say that it is not varied.

**For those who are interested, the answer to the problem in part three is a combination of IAS 27 and IAS 21. The South Sudanese accounting standards have not been written yet.

Website Overhaul

The blog has been overhauled and the changes are not merely aesthetic. I’m going in a new direction, because I’m no longer “far far away from Scouseland”. I’ve been in London for over a year. I no longer feel the culture shock that I wrote about while I was in China, because I do feel at home here. And Liverpool is actually just a two hour train journey away.

new websiteGone are the greens and pinks of the old site. They were from a different era. The new colour scheme of grey-on-grey reflects the recessionary days that we live in. A lot of the content has been updated:

  • Articles – The longer writings
  • Photos – I have a new camera, so expect some better photos in the future
  • Activities – What I do with my time
  • About – Who I am and where my background

What will I write about? I want to tap the under-represented market of London accountants.

Travels Around the UK

A Ferris wheel has been erected in Liverpool. Comparisons with the London Eye are inevitable. It’s not as large or prestigious but it is lit with a whiter and purer light. Even unskilled photographers with inferior equipment (me with my mobile phone) can’t fail to take a good picture:

Liverpool One Wheel

Liverpool One Wheel

Liverpool was the end of a frantic week’s holiday. It started with a weekend trip to the South coast of England. I saw the channel for the first time. The calm white rolling waves can’t be found in the city.

The South Coast

The South Coast

Several friends commented that they would like to live in such a place. But not me, I’d be bored after a day. As annoying as London can be – the frantic pace and impersonal nature, it is addictively exciting. I do want to stay for a few more years at least. Friends have complained that London has caused them to feel abandoned in the North West. It’s a shame that the UK is so capital-centric, but the fact that it is London is compensation enough.

Let’s hope I don’t get burnt out soon.