Name: Inderpal Dhillon
University: London School of Economics
Degree discipline: LLB Law
Job title: Associate/ Trainee Chartered Accountant
What is it you actually do?
In forensic accounting, there is a great diversity of work. Over the past year, I have been involved in a wide-ranging variety of cases, all completely different from the last. My tasks will typically involve research, preparing document request lists and analysis of any information provided. Currently, I am working on a high value matrimonial case where the aim is to prepare a budget for our client. In light of this, my typical day at the moment would be as follows:
9.30: Arrive at the office
9.35 – 10.00: A short meeting with my manager to discuss the work to be undertaken and any required timescales
10.00 – 1.00: Analysis of various files of information provided by Solicitors, namely bank statements and receipts to gauge the amount of expenditure the couple have incurred over the last few years of marriage.
14.00: Conference call with the solicitors to discuss our progress and to request further information to help provide a more thorough analysis
14.30 – 17.25: Preparation of a detailed budget of expenditure, supported by numerous schedules breaking down the many categories of expenditure to which our client should be entitled to following the dissolution of marriage.
17:30: Leave the office. Since regular social and marketing events are organised to ensure an enjoyable atmosphere in the office there is always something to do after work!
Were you always interested in finance/accountancy as a career?
A career in chartered accountancy had always appeared attractive due to the broad range of skills that the role and the training help to develop and because it provides the ability to study for a professional qualification which, in itself, can open up a wide range of career opportunities. Having researched the different areas of accountancy, I found Forensic Accounting to be the most appealing. Forensic Accounting appeared to offer a different slant on the profession. It is one of the most rapidly growing and exciting areas in accountancy due to the broad variety of work which continually keeps you interested and motivated, in addition to the high level of involvement required from the outset
How did you find out about this particular career/job?
By visiting various career fairs at University and reading graduate recruitment material, I knew that there was more to accountancy than simply audit. Having seen some forensic accountancy features, I knew that this was the area I wanted to focus on. It seemed an ideal way to combine my interest in accountancy with my background in law. When choosing my training firm, I sought to find a firm that offered my preferred qualification, the ACA, and which worked exclusively in forensic accounting, therefore avoiding the many conflicts of interest that hamper the ability of larger firms to take on some work. Moreover, I felt that the atmosphere in a slightly smaller firm would suit me best as I wanted a wide exposure and the opportunity to develop more quickly than would have been possible within a larger firm. The firms that met these requirements were those that I applied to.
Would you undertake further study in order to gain promotion?
I would definitely pursue further study in order to gain promotion. Currently, I am half way through the ACA, having completed my professional stage in December and commencing the advanced stage in July. I chose the ACA largely because I was keen to have the security of training for a highly recognised and prestigious qualification. Not only is the ICAEW the largest professional accountancy body in Europe, but it is estimated that 80% of FTSE 100 companies have at least one ACA as a finance director or chief executive on the board. It is a difficult qualification to achieve but that is also why it is worth having.
What do you like most about your job?
There are many things that I like about my job, some of which are as follows:
- Contrary to the numbercrunching image of Accountants, the work is actually very people-orientated. Much of the work in my organisation is conducted in teams. Moreover, I enjoy the atmosphere within the company I work for. Everyone in the office is friendly and we frequently socialise after work. I am particularly enjoying working alongside other graduates.
- As a trainee forensic accountant, no two days are the same. My tasks are often varied and I have worked on a large number of different projects.
- Since CRA International is a slightly smaller firm, I am given a greater level of responsibility earlier on in my career than perhaps would have been possible in a larger firm. Now in the second year of my training contract, I am expected to be able to work semi-autonomously and now help mentor junior colleagues and work directly with managers on specific projects
Are there any downsides to what you do?
Although not a downside, the most difficult aspect of my training is undoubtedly the exams that I am carrying out as part of my ACA qualification, which, as a graduate trainee I am contracted to pass. I attend training courses at FTC Kaplan during office hours. The courses are spread over several weeks and the tutoring and support provided by the college is excellent and supported by on-the-job training. Whilst the exams are not extremely difficult, it can occasionally be difficult to balance work and study. Fortunately, my training firm, CRA International is supportive and work pressures rarely interfere with study. I am quite fortunate in that I work in a firm which places a heavy emphasis on the training and development of their trainees.
What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you need to make a success of what you do?
To succeed in forensic accountancy, the most important skills and strengths which are needed in my view are as follows:
- Motivation, enthusiasm, persistence and creativity;
- Accuracy and attention to detail;
- Ability and willingness to work to tight deadlines;
- Numeric ability and computer literacy;
- Written and verbal communication skills;
- Team working skills;
- Ability to solve problems and think laterally;
- Tact and discretion; and
- Ability to analyse and assimilate information
What would be your best piece of advice for graduates wishing to come into this sector?
My advice to anyone considering a career in the accountancy field is, firstly, not to be deterred if they lack an accountancy or finance related background. Having completed my degree in Law, I thought I would be at a disadvantage for that reason. However, many who embark on the ACA qualification are from a diverse range of academic backgrounds and this is in no way a drawback. In addition, I would advise all to carefully research their chosen area of accountancy, their preferred qualification and the firms to which they will be applying by attending as many career fairs as possible and through company websites, for example.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Accountancy is a very rewarding career. If you can persevere through the initial three years where the exams may be disheartening and the work not always inspiring, once qualified, there are likely to be endless opportunities to progress and a great deal of exciting and challenging work!