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My job explained: Assurance and forensic associate

assurance forensic associate accountantChloe is a forensic accountant (sometimes called a ‘forensic auditor’) for PriceWaterhouseCoopers. We caught up with her to find out why she likes her job.

What made you decide on this career?

I did an internship with PWC the summer before I left university. This internship was just in assurance, which is basically testing financial statements to make sure they stand up to scrutiny. But a manager I worked for thought I’d do well in forensics so I looked into it and decided to apply for a scheme placing me in both departments when I graduated.

Forensics involves looking deeply into accounts that might be used in legal cases – fraud, for instance, or money laundering – and working out whether anything dodgy has been going on.

Could you talk us through a typical week at work?

My job is quite varied so there’s no such thing as a typical week! I could be working on a fraud investigation, at college studying for my exams in order to become a chartered accountant, auditing a multi-national client or organising a charity project for my team! Sometimes I work in the office but more often I’m out at the client’s site so my job involves quite a bit of travelling both within London and further afield.

What qualifications did you have to get?

I have a 2.1 in History from Cambridge University. These days you don’t have to study business or finance to become an accountant or auditor, just be fairly decent at maths!

I’m currently two years into studying professional exams in order to become a chartered accountant with the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales). This involves sitting ten exams and gaining at least three years work experience on the job.

How long does it take to train and what is the training like?

I spend about three months of each year at a financial training college studying for my professional exams. I also attend internal training courses and networking events for about two weeks a year. I am also a member of a development group with my peers, so we progress and train together.

We also get a lot of ‘on the job’ training and regular feedback so that we know how we are progressing and how we can improve. It takes three years or more to become a chartered accountant.

Have there been any particular challenges in getting where you are?

Maintaining a work-life balance can be difficult, as sometimes I have to work long hours. I’m a competitive rower so have had to learn to manage my time effectively to fit in training and work commitments but managed it and even won Henley Women’s Regatta in 2007! Sometimes the work can be repetitive, which is a challenge for me as I have a short attention span!

What is the best thing about your job?

Getting to meet lots of different people and work on different jobs. I’ve also enjoyed getting involved in the firm’s community affairs programme to give something back to the community- for example by playing my clarinet in the band for our charity pantomime and mentoring a year nine student in a local school.

What advice could you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

If possible get some work experience or do an internship to make sure you’re going into the area that suits you best. Be prepared to be disciplined with your time and have the odd late night but also to meet a lot of people and learn a lot about the world of international finance.

Where would you like to be in five years time?

I’d like to go into charitable finance and work for a charity, hopefully using my forensic knowledge to make sure aid money goes where it’s needed, not into a middleman’s pocket!

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