Why Audit? An Interview with Paul Copland, EY Audit Partner

Professional Services Consultant, Fraser Burnett recently caught up with EY Audit Partner, Paul Copland in the first instalment of our new ‘Why Audit?’ interview series.


1. Why did you pick a career in audit?

Honestly, it was never something I had thought about as a career – my university course had a gap/industrial placement year and the FD of my employer suggested it when I was in my final year (although peers were going through the grad recruitment / interview process, it just never felt like something I would be interested in – I was in Aberdeen and just assumed a finance/office role for an Oil & Gas company would be my route).

When it was suggested, I sought out people I knew who were CA’s and asked why they did it – the clincher for me was that it would open doors to overseas travel; working abroad was always something I wanted to do!


2. What have been some of your career highlights?

After over 20 years in the profession there are loads of highlights, so I will try to keep within the space provided…

  • Working overseas (both short client trips and 3 years in Canada), opened my eyes to the big bad world, as well as how small the business world is. Linked to that, developing relationships across the world; I genuinely believe I could get a contact in most countries/locations within 3 or 4 calls / emails – and they would be good contacts, not just a name
  • Being brought “inside the tent” by clients (everyone likes a secret or knowing something is happening before “Joe Public”). This has been everything from knowing about new product launches years before the market, or major transactions/deals
  • Meeting / working with some amazing people, from some of the grads I have coached, to key business leaders


3. Why should people consider a career in audit?

Without sounding corny, becoming a qualified CA (no matter if it’s ICAS, ACCA, CPA, etc.) really does result in the world being your oyster! No matter what developments happen, from an innovation or changes in economic conditions (highs and lows), there will always be a need for qualified / highly trained / experienced finance professionals.

Whether or not you see audit as your long-term career, it gives the foundation for so many avenues – how many CFO’s are not qualified accountants? Even a high proportion of CEO’s have a CA background. In the profession, I have so many peers / people who have trained for me who are now tax advisors, M&A professionals, and more recently, sustainability / environmental advisors.

All of that is on top of how it opens doors to develop your own personal brand and network within the business / corporate world. Oh and of course, just look at how you can see the world – as it stands I have just South America, Australia and Antarctica left to visit to hit every continent (and I would argue that my 3 months in the Falklands maybe gives me an argument for South America and Antarctica!)


4. The changing landscape of audit brings its challenges. However, what do you think are the key opportunities within audit?

For me it’s all opportunities… being in the UK we are at the forefront of what I see as the biggest changes that will hit our profession in a generation.

How many professions are regularly in the press, being debated and discussed in Parliament and slowly, but surely, getting the recognition for its importance across all aspects of business (from its importance for global capital markets, all the way to the impact / relationship with the push for net zero by corporates)?

The level of innovation and investment in technology on a global scale is also huge; as a profession we are using automation, AI and robotics on a daily basis and we see the impact daily – so the learning and development opportunities for the business world of tomorrow are happening now.


5. What one piece of advice would you give someone who is starting a career in audit?

Don’t expect your career to be given to you – you need to be the one that drives your career, so push yourself out of your comfort zone, look for opportunities (as they won’t come looking for you) and recognise that your grad years are not even the tip of the iceberg, so don’t base your views on “what an auditor does” on those years!

Your training / understanding / learning starts after you become qualified…


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].