Professional Services Consultant, Fraser Burnett recently caught up with RSM Partner, Claire Monaghan in the next instalment of our new ‘Why Audit?’ interview series.
1. Why did you pick a career in audit?
I had always enjoyed accountancy at school and went on to study Accountancy and Finance at university, so the obvious choice coming out of university was to apply for a graduate role and to continue my studies with ICAS.
I remember in my final interview with the Partner at the time; she asked what I would do if not audit, and my rather hasty reply was “open a shoe and handbag shop”. I think I’ve chosen the more lucrative career which allows me to indulge in those other interests! Personality is very important in audit as a lot of what we do is built on relationships, so I like to think this showed a flash of my personality and it is something I look for when I interview candidates.
2. What have been some of your career highlights?
Becoming partner in 2016 was a definite highlight. I joined what was Baker Tilly, now RSM, back in 2004 as a graduate and worked through the ranks. A career in audit is not easy, juggling client demands, studying and work-life balance; but I always try to remain focused on the ‘next step’, so to be put forward for Partner was a big achievement for me. I’ve not looked back since and continue to focus on growing our business.
Another big highlight for me is seeing my own team progress. I’m very focused on people development, and a number of graduates I recruited have moved into manager, and senior manager roles. I’m just as proud of their achievements.
Seeing clients deliver on their ambitions is a highlight. This can vary from seeing a new hotel launch having been involved from the development stage, to clients successfully executing mergers or exit plans, or a client launching a gin school where I was more than happy to sample the product!
The role varies and I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in Royal visits and dinners as part of RSM’s support of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, enjoying days with clients which are less focused on work – my team may even have won the RSM National Golf Day before I retired my clubs!
3. Why should people consider a career in audit?
Audit provides a deep dive into the operations of a company. Clients will be at various stages in their business life cycle which means you are exposed directly to all the different challenges they face, leading to rounded commercial knowledge and understanding.
Audit is generally a team sport – communication, both within the team and with the client, is key to success. The client relationship piece is crucial, and you are pushed from day one to build your relationship with the client so that you are their trusted advisor who they can debate key commercial issues with and consider the wider financial impacts.
As a trusted advisor you are party to a lot of privileged information and can have a ring-side seat as deals occur, new strategies are embarked on, or products or sites are launched.
Working closely with clients and building that relationship is one of the most rewarding parts of the role.
The audit role is incredibly varied, and every day is different. Site tours are a favourite of mine as you learn so much about a business by seeing the mechanics in operation. You’ll also have the opportunity to get involved in pitching for new work, business development and networking, as well as one-off client projects.
4. The changing landscape of audit brings its challenges. However, what do you think are the key opportunities within audit?
There is a significant demand for resource in audit and there are therefore significant opportunities for good auditors in the marketplace with similar opportunities for further promotion.
The audit landscape continues to change with increasing regulatory pressures. A robust audit can add significant value to clients. There is more to be done in the market to educate on this value add, and the close working relationship auditors can have with clients to support their businesses whilst also carefully managing independence. The role of audit can often be misunderstood.
5. What one piece of advice would you give someone who is starting a career in audit?
Take ownership from day one. Only you can drive your career, albeit with support from the senior team around you. Ownership covers a lot. It is everything from being inquisitive from day one, researching your clients and asking lots of good questions, to pushing to work on certain clients or to work on key areas of the file. Don’t be afraid to actively seek promotion and be clear on your goals with your line manager, thinking about the support you may need to achieve your goals and any development programmes which might be beneficial.
6. Any additional comments you would like to add?
While my main day to day role is that of Audit Partner, the role is much wider than this. As Partner, my role involves line management and people development which are very different things – one of the most rewarding parts of the job is supporting and seeing my team develop.
I do a lot of business development which takes a number of guises; targeting clients, assessing the clients we want to work with and where I feel we can add value, and also building the profile of RSM in the marketplace through attendance at events and thought leadership pieces for the press. No two days are the same.
If you have any questions about this ‘Why Audit?’ interview series, or you would like to get involved and share your thoughts on the Audit function, please contact [email protected].