The following is a description of a busy season day as experienced by an Assurance Associate at one of the Big Four firms:
7:00am - I roll out of my bed and hit the alarm simultaneously. I head to the kitchen and mix some instant oatmeal mix with hot water and grab a piece of bread. As I wait for my oatmeal to cool, I dress for work and make sure I have my laptop, wallet, keys, phone, and sack lunch. Seven minutes in, my oatmeal has not cooled yet, but in the interest of time, I decide to finish it anyways. Afterwards, I brush my teeth, do my hair, and shave.
7:30am- I realize that I am already late, so I rush out of the house only to unsurprisingly hit freeway traffic.
8:30am - After navigating through the heavy traffic, I arrive at the client site. We were given badges for entry into the gated building on Monday. I open the gate with the badge and then walk through another door that requires a badge for entry.
8:45am- I walk into the audit conference room the client has situated us in for the three weeks. I find that two other associates have already arrived. I quickly find my seat and set up my laptop and internet connection. I take out all my necessary writing utensils and notepad.
9:00am - After scanning my emails for anything needing an immediate response, I note nothing pressing. What a let down. I kid. Typically, I check all my e-mails as I receive them on my Blackberry or like some girls like to call it Cranberry, but I left my phone uncharged the day before. Next, I go down my amassed question list for the client and make sure I understand what I am asking the client and prepare myself mentally for the push back they might give for my requests for supporting documents.
9:25am - I walk upstairs, track down one of my client contacts, and then casually ask her how she is doing this fine sunny morning. After about three minutes of small talk, I crafty segue into my long list of questions. First up on the list is having her explain the variance in unbilled AR balance when comparing prior year figures to current year figures. As I ask these questions I am taking brief notes and asking follow up questions as to receive clarification. I thank her for her time and rush to meet with another client contact.
10:30am - I track down another one of my client contacts on the same floor. This time it's with regards to an AR confirmation discrepancy. The client's customer returned a confirmation for $2M less than the invoice amount. I gain an understanding of the situation and why there is a $2M dispute. The client explains that the customer believes there was a system error that recorded on the invoice more of the product than was requested and delivered. However, the client believes otherwise. I scribble notes on my notepad, so I can interpret the information at a later time.
10:50am - I follow up with a third client contact regarding payroll controls testing. The first time around I did not receive proper support for an employee termination. The control reads that terminations require two levels of manager approval, while I only received support showing one level of manager approval. The client says that they mistakenly left out the information in the support she has sent previously. Just wonderful, I think to myself. She says she will have to follow up with her contact in New Zealand.
11:00am - I update my list of follow ups with the three client contacts I had just conversed with. Some of my other client contacts are pushing back and I will have to return in the afternoon when they believe they will have more time. I set up an appointment with one of the client contacts to meet later today at 4:30pm
11:30am - A whole morning is almost gone just from chasing the client around for support and explanations. I get back to the audit conference room and my senior asks me for a status update. I give him a status update including what items are open and the reason for them being open. I also explain to him about the progress I've made in the morning. He acknowledges and thanks me for the update.
11:45am -I document what I had just learned from the client in my accounts receivable unbilled step. I do a quick self check to ensure that I've addressed the tailored procedures, all the document links are linking to the intended areas, including firm templates and filled them out completely, and documented my work to the extent in which it can be readily re-performed by another auditor. I mark the step complete, knowing that I will be receiving coaching notes when I senior reviews the step.
12:00pm - I grab my sack lunch I brought from home from the client's fridge. I eat my lunch in an unused conference room and savor my quick twenty minute break away from the computer. Some of the team members decide to eat at their desks, while others are still on the phone with their client contacts.
12:20pm - It's back to work before 12:30pm and I continue to work on my assigned steps. One of the steps I am assigned is the search for unrecorded liabilities step. I've been in contact with the client, but have not been able to obtain the correct disbursement listing. The client is unsure as to how to generate a simple disbursement listing. I ask the client to follow up with her contact and figure out the situation before getting back to me. In the meantime, I have the payment and invoice support to perform procedures to the extent possible.
2:30pm - I continue to document procedures I performed in my assigned steps and build on my list of follow up questions for the client. I set up an analytics template, which includes developing an expectation and investigating any differences that may result from our expectation and actuals. There's a variance between the expected amount and the actual gross accounts receivable for the current yea. I do a quick scan and search my support and think if I have been made aware of anything that would help me explain the reason for this difference. One possibility could be that the recent downturn of the market has decreased sales and thus lead to a decrease in accounts receivables. Another possibility is that the client's competitors may have established more favorable credit terms, thus reducing business for the client. I chalk these down as possibilities, so I can suggest reasons for the variance, which would make me sound intelligent in front of the client. I write a reminder note to myself that I will have to follow up with the client.
4:30pm - My 4:30pm appointment is here, but the client is still on the phone when I walk by her cubical. How rude I think to myself, but as auditors we are mostly numb to this by now, so I quickly dismiss it. I wait for the client to get off the phone.
4:35pm - She finally has time to and gets right to the point and asks what I need from her. I told her that I need the support that I've been asking for the past week or so. I scan my list of follow up questions and note that I have a few for her. I fire away and quickly make notes of the client's responses. Further, I try to gain an understanding of when to expect the support. The reason I push is because I know my senior will push me and ask me why I have not received the support. As a way to cover my bases, I push the client a little bit.
5:00pm - I get back to the audit conference room and notice that it is already 5:00pm. Unfortunately it is busy season and we are only half way done with the day. I hope to get out by 10:00pm. I've been assigned to take care of dinner. Luckily for me we use an outside delivery service. All I have to do is pick the restaurant and then the service will send each of my team members an email in which they will be able to order from a menu. After they place their orders, it will send the orders to the selected restaurant and a driver will deliver the food to us at a specified time. I arrange for the email to be sent to my team members.
6:00pm -I continue to audit and document my understanding that I gained from the client. I scan the database and see that the senior has left me coaching notes. One of the coaching notes pertains to if we have performed a bucketing test for the AR aging or not. I document that in the scoping document in step 9210, we deemed it unnecessary as we have controls reliance over the system report. I ask the senior if he has time to go over some of the other coaching notes he has left for me.
8:00pm - By now all the client contacts have left for the day. It's just the audit team and the janitors now. Our food arrives on time and the engagement team takes over a difference conference room to have dinner. We take about thirty minutes to eat dinner. It is a good break from the computer screen. One of the associates asks if anyone has any big plans for the weekend. He obviously is unaware of the fact that the entire time will be working through the weekend. That is quite alright because the senior quickly reminds him of this.
8:30pm - It's time to get back to the computer. Now that the client has left, I have time to do some more audit work. I also update my list of follow up questions and note the progress to the right of each line item. I document all that I can with what I've learned from the client and continue to do detail testing for my cash steps. Yet another status update with the senior and at this point, I've amassed a list of questions for my senior as well. Many of which include the testing approaches we are taking this year. Others are simply documentation preference questions- whether or not he wants the step description as well as the step number in the documentation.
10:30pm - I still have a lot on my plate and a billion neurons firing at once in my brain. Suddenly, I am reminded of having to follow up on support I received from a contact located in New York. As there is a three hour time difference between the east coast and west coast, I will have to call the contact at 7:00am tomorrow to reach them at 10:00am. It looks like an early morning tomorrow.
11:30pm - The entire team is still in the conference room. So much for leaving at 10:00pm today, I think to myself. I make sure that I have all my questions listed for the client tomorrow and have sent out the necessary e-mails. I have audited to the extent, which I can with the given time. My senior tells me to go home. Out of courtesy, I ask the entire team if there is anything I can help with. Nobody is going to give me additional work at this hour, so I take off.
1:00am - I get back home and get ready for bed. Within seconds, I knock out.
Essential Knowledge for a First Year Audit Staff/Intern at a Big 4 Accounting Firm
A True Insider’s Perspective on Big 4 Accounting
You have an idea of what working at a Big 4 is like for a day. What about what your first year is going to be like? Or for the rest of your career? You want the inside scoop? Kevin H spent countless hours developing the ultimate informational book that answers all your questions about public accounting.
Inside comprehensive informational book, we will do a deep dive in to the following topics:
Careers in Accounting
-Accounting doesn't restrict you to only being an auditor. There are more than 5 other career paths.
-The fact of the matter is accounting is an essential foundation for any financial career.
Busy Season Experiences
-What it feels like to work during busy season to help you anticipate your first busy season.
-We answer how many hours you can expect to work on average and when it is the most busy.
Big 4 Experiences
-We will provide answers to why the Big 4 experience is worth going through and so highly-valued.
-Real life challenges you may face & what you can expect to get through your first busy season.
Average age in Big 4 Accounting
-The question we get all the time is whether or not you are too old/young for Big 4.
-We will provide you with alternative options of breaking into Big 4 (not interviewing on-campus)
Choosing your Office/Location
-You should consider specific factors when you make your decision as to where you'd like to work
-Choosing the best fit office/location for yourself makes a difference especially as first year
Traveling for Work
-Explore the benefits of traveling within the United States, but also internationally
-Understand when and how to find opportunities to travel or limit your opportunities to travel
-Understand on an overall basis the structure of these live trainings
-Aside from formalized trainings firms offer a variety of other types of essential trainings
Outsourcing Services. 14
-Your role in all of this and what you need to do to stand out to your senior staff or manager
-What services are outsourced and what does that mean in terms of your learning opportunities
Cycle counts and Physical Inventory Observations
-What are these and what can you expect
-Real life experiences in performing cycle counts and insider perspective on the process
-Get an idea of what is standard lunch protocol. Are you surprised there is such a thing?