#AuditorProud – Sabrina Horton – Audit Manager
My role includes planning all of the audits for my team, going out to meet clients and working on systems with them. I help our clients to identify any weaknesses they may have and find ways they can reduce their exposure to risk.
I oversee a team of auditors onsite and I help to train them and develop their skills. I collate all the audit findings into a report for the clients, get the final accounts ready, attend audit outcome meetings and I gather feedback from our clients.
Around 80% of my time is out with clients which include companies, charities and academies across the East Midlands and beyond.
What was your pathway into accountancy?
You won’t believe this, but I’ve actually wanted to be an accountant since I was two. My god-mother was an accountant and she really inspired me from a young age. My plan was to study accountancy at A level and then go on to university, but I found the Duncan & Toplis apprenticeship scheme which offered me everything I wanted straight out of school. I joined in 2007, did AAT training and ACA training and worked my way to where I am now.
What led you to audit?
I’m a people person: I like to meet people and build a relationship with clients, so audit is a great role for me. I also enjoy finding problems and solving them and I like the variety in my work: No two audits are the same and there are always different problems and different challenges with each client.
I discovered audit after a few months at Duncan & Toplis when I was taken out on my first audit and I had to go through lots of purchase invoices. From the word ‘go’, I enjoyed it. A new audit manager started at the company and he took me under his wing so I learned a lot from him and that gave me a great introduction to audit.
What was your first impression of Duncan & Toplis?
Duncan & Toplis offered me an interview at their Skegness office and I had no idea what to expect. On the first day, everybody made me feel welcome and there was a very friendly atmosphere. Once I was on the apprenticeship scheme, the people training me made me feel at ease and I wasn’t made to feel stupid for asking endless questions. It was also good to be part of a larger organisation where you can work with people with different areas of expertise. In audit, the size of Duncan & Toplis brings another big advantage as my team can borrow people from our other offices if we’re working on bigger jobs and need some more boots on the ground.
What do you enjoy the most about being in audit?
Ultimately, audit is about helping clients and showing them the finer things they aren’t aware of. We’re helping them to solve problems and we identify lots of ways we can help them.
Helping clients is definitely the most satisfying part of my job and it’s very rewarding to know that we’ve done the best we can for our clients and they’re benefitting from that support. I also love the close knit team I work with and the way in which we motivate each other when we are out on site and the working relationship that we develop.
At Duncan & Toplis, we have such a wealth of knowledge which can draw on. If I don’t know the answer, then I know someone in the company who does, so we’re in no way limited in what we can achieve. When we work together, use our expertise and work out solutions that work for them, it’s a great feeling to hear from a client that they’re happy and things are going well for them.
What’s been the most surprising thing about working in audit?
In audit, the most surprising things are what you find, which can be really astonishing: I had one client last year, for instance, where I discovered an error during the audit which amounted to more than £400,000 they didn’t know they had!
Sometimes, small mistakes we find amount to a large amount of money and it’s surprising how big these problems can be. We have to draw a line so we aren’t spending too much time investigating errors which aren’t causing problems and which don’t amount to much, but it’s something you’re always looking out for.
How does Duncan & Toplis positively impact your life?
The amount of support that Duncan & Toplis provides, particularly in training, is second to none in our region. They helped me through my exams, they help you to specialise in areas which aren’t limited to accountancy and they open the door for a lot of opportunities. They encourage people to develop a rounded career and they have really good flexibility. Duncan & Toplis also encourages internal opportunities, and is supportive of team members transitioning between departments or even offices to progress their careers. Even though Duncan & Toplis has 11 offices across the East Midlands, we are still one team and this has meant that when I transitioned to the Lincoln office, the process was seamless.
I have a four year old girl and I now live more than an hour away from my base office, but their flexible working policy makes a big difference, helping me to have a good career and a happy home life. They also have generous benefits packages with childcare support and other flexibility initiatives which benefit a lot of people across our offices.
What is your ideal audit client?
There are two clients which I particularly enjoy working with and I think the thing which sets them apart is that they both have a finance director and a team of internal accountants. When we’re working with them, everyone understands what they’re doing with good systems and controls in place. 99% of the time, this works great and everything runs smoothly, but that makes it all the more rewarding when we spot something they aren’t aware of!
You can rest on your laurels when you have a very secure system but it’s important to have a wakeup call now and then. As much as you like the work to be easy, you can’t be complacent because things can easily catch you out. For these clients, their system works very well and because they have a team of accountants, they understand what you’re doing and what you tell them, and they appreciate your recommendations.
When we’re with our clients, we create a really good working relationship with them and it’s nice to be able to have a friendly chat with them during the day. We aren’t scary or boring; we can and do have fun and that’s an important part of building a good relationship with clients.