Big 4 Experience Lingo Dictionary - Words and Phrases Auditors Should Know

Mar 8, 2013 -

For those of you who have worked at a Big Four, it is almost as if you are in another world. We all speak the same language, but there is also what we call the Big 4 Lingo experience. Big 4 lingo is almost a different language. As a new hire or a first year associate, you may find yourself confused or not understanding your seniors mean. Here is a guide to help you decipher Big 4 words and phrases.

10-Key: As an auditor, we move from client to client. For convenience sake, we usually carry laptops versus computers. Most laptops do not have a 10-key, so we usually link a USB 10-key to the laptop to more easily enter in numbers.

Busy Season: This one we've covered before multiple times. It's usually the period from January through March whereby most people will work at least 12+ hours.

Campus/College Hire: Someone who has been hired directly from college. Usually they are extremely eager and motivated to start working.

Capacity: You will most commonly hear your Senior ask if you have the capacity to do something. She is asking you if you have enough work or is just hoping to dump more work on to you. Your response may include the words "full capacity", which suggests that you are overloaded with work.

Charge Code: For budget and billing purposes, each engagement or project will track the amount of hours it takes to complete the job. One way of doing that is for each person to assign hours to a charge code. For example, should you work 8 hours at your client, you would assign 8 hours to the respective client code. If you worked on general and administrative items, you would charge a different charge code. Each day you are required to charge at least 8 hours.

Circle Back: We will table this discussion and get back to it later. Sometimes used to subtly suggest that you have no idea what you are talking about. Also see, 'Get Back to You'

Clearing Coaching Notes: Not to be confused with deleting coaching notes. The process of resolving issues raised by partners, managers, and seniors while reviewing your work. This process can cause quite the headache if you have a nitpicking reviewer and a grumpy client because you will be be forced to try and not upset your client, but also resolve your reviewer's comments.

Coaching Notes: Comments, questions, and issues raised by your Senior, Manager, or Partner with regards to your work. They may include requests to change the format of your excel tables, fixing spelling errors, or reperform certain procedures. These can be quite annoying especially if you get a lot of them. While most coaching notes are legitimate, some people abuse the system and end up creating more work than previously expected.

Crossfoot: Similar to 'Foot', except you are summing the total across versus going vertically. Most commonly used when you have a row of numbers. Also designated as "CF" or ">"

Drinking the Kool-Aid: The associate, senior, manager, or senior manager who is 'drinking the kool-aid" is one who basically believes everything the his superior says and says whatever the superior wants to hear in hopes of building better rapport and ultimately get promoted early.

Documentation: In auditing, nearly everything you do needs to be written down. Documentation is the word for writing down evidence of the fact that you've performed your procedures.

Early Promo: If you are an early promo, you have been promoted earlier than the normal cycle. Though you will be hated by your peers, your superiors will think highly of you. It also becomes awkward when you are early promoted and those who started with you work under you. But, you are rewarded with more challenging work and somewhat better pay.

Eating Hours: This is largely prohibited and frowned upon in the Big 4 world. Eating hours refers to not charging a charge code for time you spent working on a project. In order to meet certain budgets, often time you will get indirect pressure from your superiors to eat hours.

Efficiency: Working at maximum capacity.

Engagement: A fancy word for the job you are working on. It is not uncommon for someone to ask "what engagement are you on". This means, what client are you on or what job are you on. Furthermore, at the beginning of an engagement, you are expected to give the client an engagement letter, which in some sense shows agreement to allow your firm to audit them.

Experienced Hire: Someone hired directly from another firm or industry. Not a campus-hire. Usually they are unfamiliar with the company's culture and thus may not fit in at first. Usually experience hires are hits or misses meaning they are extremely hard working or the complete opposite.

Expectation: It is good to lay out expectations when beginning a job. Your senior may expect something, but if he or she doesn't tell you then you may not be able to meet his or her expectation. Still, you may be held accountable. So ask your senior, "what are your expectations?".

Foot: If you have X numbers on the balance sheet and are asked to foot the schedule, you are being asked to sum the total of the column. Sometimes designated with a "F" or "^" mark.

G&A: General and administrative. This would appear on the income statement and also if you have no idea what charge code to charge, most people just charge the G&A code.

Get Back to You: If someone says this to you, they could mean one of two things. Either they  would like time to look into the issue and give you a correct response versus giving you a wrong response immediately or they were literally were taken aback and have no idea what you are saying, so will have to 'get back to you'. 'Get back to you' doesn't implicitly suggest a time frame. It could mean two minutes or two days.

Industry: The opposite of "public". If you work in industry, you work at a firm outside of public accounting. The accounting division of Apple would be considered an industry job. Working at Ernst & Young is considered working in "public".

Main Client: The client you spend most of your time working on or at. Usually most people have one or two main clients. They are usually large publicly traded companies, but can also be private companies.

On your plate: If a Senior asks, "what is on your plate?" He is not asking what is for dinner or lunch. He is asking what do you have to work on. You always want to appear to have a lot of new stuff on your plate, otherwise your superior think you are inefficient or simply give you more work.

Period End: Also, known as year-end. The end of the fiscal period. You audit based on the period-end date or the "as of" date. Companies may have different period ends based on how they decide to set the company's calendar year.

PBC: Prepared by Client. This can be a schedule or general ledger detail provided by the client. In order to do your audit work, you'll need to get things from the client. PBCs are usually tracked in a list called the PBC list. This list is tracked throughout the audit and as a new associate you will be asked to update that list.

Reaching out: Getting in contact with. This does not mean physically extending your hand and trying to touch someone. Usually if you reach out to someone you either need something from them or you have something to offer them whether it be a service or some document they might need or have.

Recruiting Lunch/Dinner: Free meal at a fancy restaurant. If you are already working at a firm, the pressure is off you. If you are looking to be recruited, then you better understand your dinner/lunch etiquette.

Reperformance Standard: This goes hand in hand with documentation. The expectation is that you document to the extent which someone else can reperform the work. Thus making your stock less valuable. If someone else, can reperform your work, then you are effectively replaceable.

Rolling-Off: If you roll-off an engagement, that means you no longer report to that particular job. However, this does not mean you get to push all your work on to someone else. What will happen is you will be asked to finish or answer any coaching notes that have been left behind for the areas you have been working on.

Sign-Off: The deadline for when all work must be done. Typically you can expect to work long hours. This is also when the partner will sign the audit opinion papers.

Sign-Off Party: Historically has been a grand party to celebrate the completion of the engagement. However, in recent year's it has been non-existent.

Touch Base: Let’s discuss something at a later date. Also see 'get back to you'.

Throw Someone Under the Bus: Blame someone if something that you did or didn't do. In a small office, you may be looked at negatively if you throw someone under the bus even if they were the ones to blame. Be careful and think before you decide to do this.

Walk you through: Basically show you step by step how it is done. As a first year associate, nobody expects you to do everything completely on your own. The senior should walk you through things that you haven't done before. He or she will sit down with you and show you and explain to you how it is done. But, if this doesn't happen you need to be proactive in reaching out to the senior and asking for help.

Workpapers: Any and all procedures performed by auditors is documented. The documentation is called workpapers. It is often used and reference for procedures in the following year.
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