What is your role?
My role is sort of a transition between being an audit senior and a management role; I plan audit jobs, do field work and I finalise audits. My time is split 50:50, with half of my time spent in the office and the other half being with clients.
I work with clients in a large range of industries; everything including a high tech technology company, a car dealership, a wine merchant and a company that sells rock crushing equipment around the world.
I love the variety of work in audit and that’s definitely an advantage to working in a practice of our size. Duncan & Toplis has more than 400 team members and 11 offices, so there’s a huge range of clients.
What was your pathway into accountancy?
Before I became an accountant, I was a chef for nine years and became the head chef at a restaurant. This isn’t exactly you’re typical route into accountancy, but I’d been offered a job in a very high end restaurant. While that was an incredible opportunity, it would have meant starting again at the bottom level of the kitchen so I was more inclined to move on and try something new instead. Besides, cheffing is a young man’s game and I felt like it was time for a change.
While I was still cheffing, I started doing three days a week at college. It was tough, and I was working without any days off, it lead to a training job at an accountancy firm in Lincoln where I finished my AAT qualifications. I qualified as an accountant in 2015 and I moved to Duncan & Toplis two and a half years ago.
People ask me why I decided to become an accountant and to be honest, I never knew what I wanted to be when I was younger. Compared to being a chef and many other jobs, accountancy is a stable and sensible career which you can do so much with. You can work in a wide variety of industries, sectors and practices. It relies on a lot of broad skills but you can pick and choose which fields you’d like to specialise in and there’s a huge amount of freedom once you qualify.
Accountancy qualifications are globally recognised and, through Duncan & Toplis’ membership of the Kreston network, you can have the opportunity to work on placements around the world.
What led you to audit?
At my first firm, performing audit junior work was a requirement for trainees and my time was split 50:50 between audit and accounts prep. At first I was probably more drawn to accounts prep but then I really started to understand the audit process.
As you progress, audit gets more and more interesting. It takes a while to get your head around it, but when you do it’s really rewarding. Audit teaches you to understand what the risk areas within a set of accounts are; the areas that require real scrutiny and attention to detail.
Audit isn’t the kind of job that you can easily explain to a friend in the pub; it’s quite complicated, but in a nutshell, it’s about making sure what is reported in a set of accounts is not so far from the actual position, so that somebody who wanted to use those accounts (a potential investor or a bank looking to provide finance) would still make the same decision.
What was your first impression of Duncan & Toplis?
While I was studying for my AAT qualifications at college, it was 2010 and training positions were rare following the financial crisis so I applied to another firm when I started my career. Of the 200 or so people who applied, I was chosen for the training role and I snapped it up right away.
I qualified while working at a different firm and while I was working there, my partner was at Duncan & Toplis. She had told me very good things about Duncan & Toplis and I knew this was the place I needed to be. One day, she heard they were looking for seniors and, luckily, one of the directors asked if she knew someone. As soon as I got a whiff of it, I was knocking on the door.
Applying for the job was an absolute no-brainer. For my old firm, Duncan & Toplis was always mentioned as the big regional competitor, but since I moved to Duncan & Toplis, I’ve not heard the name of my old firm mentioned in the two and a half years I’ve been here, which, I think, puts into perspective how much bigger Duncan & Toplis is. Duncan & Toplis is a great company and the work is much more varied which makes it the best place to be. It’s also more regionally diverse, so you get to work on a wider range of clients.
What do you enjoy most about being in audit?
The variety in the kinds of clients you get is one of my favourite parts of the work. You work with clients of different sizes and in a wide range of industries from small, family owned manufacturers to high street retail chains. Every client is totally different in the way they work and how they approach you. You get to see all sorts of issues and problems which need to be solved and they can be completely different between each client.
It’s a challenge to get your head around the differences, but I like problem solving and getting my head around technical issues.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Being an auditor requires a lot of problem solving which I absolutely love. You find really technical issues which you have to really think about and resolve which can be a really good challenge.
A key part of the audit process is adding value for the client. For the majority of clients an audit is mandatory, so it is not only satisfying to see improvements we suggest being put into practice by our clients but it is something that they really appreciate about our approach.
What’s been the most surprising thing about working in audit?
You learn to never be surprised in audit; the more experienced you become the more you expect the unexpected! Most of the time, surprises come from the clients that aren’t as well organised as others. You may find some fairly large issues, but every once in a while you have to pinch yourself and double check that you just heard what you think you just heard!
How does Duncan & Toplis positively impact your life?
Duncan & Toplis is a very good company to work for. I have a good work/life balance and, although audit does depend on long hours, you have quieter periods which make up for the busier ones, so things balance out. The company has good HR policies in place so you can reclaim the hours you worked when it’s busy which you can take off in quieter periods. But even when its at its busiest, it’s never excessive.
Both my partner and I previously worked at different accountancy firms before coming to Duncan & Toplis and we know that we work for the best firm in the region.
Describe your ideal audit client?
My ideal client is one that is organised but with real technical areas which I can get my teeth into. The easy clients aren’t always the most interesting for me, whereas the really technical and challenging ones where I have to really work things out are a great challenge.
For example, one of my clients, a wine merchant, sells product that doesn’t yet exist: they buy contracts for products which won’t be ready for delivery or even produced for two or more years. When someone gives you a scenario like that for the first time, your instant reaction is that you have no idea how it works, but you’re going to figure it out. Getting your head around issues that you have no understanding of at first is the challenge that the job brings and it’s the sort of challenge that I enjoy.