Q & A session with Matt Sevenoaks, Asst Manager, Forensics @ KPMG.
This reading provides excellent insight to the uncommon path of Forensic Accounting / Audit. Hardly anyone is aware about this fantastic & challenging profession. I’m sure this article would inspire a lot of individuals to follow the info about Forensics.
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“Be As Sly As A Fox, But As Innocent As A Lamb.”
Q & A
Name of Employer: KPMG
Location (city): London
Name of Employee: Matt Sevenoaks
Title: Assistant Manager
Number of years at firm: 5 years
Number of years in current role: 2 (3 years in audit practice, financial services audit)
Degree (s): Economics and Mathematics BSc from Bristol University.
How did you first decide to enter your industry?
I wanted to train for the chartered accountancy qualification. I wanted a job that provided variety and that was business relevant. Audit would be a good way of doing that, I thought. I also wanted to be in a job that added value to the client.
What first attracted you?
The people. I met a lot of the people at graduate fairs and got a strong impression that it would be a supportive and friendly environment. In audit I knew I’d be working on lots of different teams, so I wanted to be confident that they were people I’d get on with very quickly. I also wanted to progress through a firm and have a career, and knew I’d need support from colleagues, to do things like secondments. I was confident that I’d get that here.
I was attracted to the accountancy qualification because I wanted to gain a professional qualification that would expand my career horizons and offer variety. I wanted something that would add value to me and expand my options, the ACA does this.
What are the typical education requirements?
The requirements are very broad. You need a 2:1 or higher in any discipline to do the ACA. You also need an A in Maths and an A in English at GCSE (please don’t quote me on this, you can confirm the entry requirements on http://www.kpmgcareers.co.uk). Stamina is also important – the ACA qualification is very, very tough. It’s well regarded internationally because it’s so tough. Combining that with doing a day job is quite demanding.
No trend in the degrees people here have done. It’s very broad.
What skills and/or experience are important for success?
We have eight or nine different global skills and behaviours that everyone here needs. Number one is business focus. Being out on an audit talking to a client about the banking industry, you need to be reading the papers so you know what’s going on and stay up to date with current affairs. That adds to your credibility. Number two is building relationships. Working in teams is very important, and you often work alongside the client. Three: making an impact is important. As you progress throughout the firm you’re expected to coach people that are junior to you. Likewise if you have an issue with the client, you need to be able to communicate with some conviction.
Four: leadership is important as need to supervise people and allocate work effectively. As you become more senior you have more and more meetings with the client in which you need to demonstrate strong leadership to increase their confidence in you. Five: problem solving is quite important. There’ll be issues where you’ll need to work out quick work-arounds. For example sending a report if the internet is down at the client’s office. It can also get very technical if you are dealing with clients operating in complex industries such as financial service. Six: you need drive and resilience. Sometimes you’ll be combining your working day with studying at home. You need to take a very a strong positive attitude. Also, you might have engagements where you’re working long hours, or away from home.
You need to make your own way through the firm. It’s such a large organisation — about 11,000 people work here — and there are lots of different departments: tax, audit, forensic and so on. If you’re in audit and you want a secondment in another area, it takes you to make those contacts. Within forensic, when I wanted a secondment, I identified people I needed to speak to, had meetings with them, then spoke with my department. You need to be self-motivated and do things yourself.
What is the typical career path in your industry?
The main trend is to do training for three years and get your qualification. You can’t really do secondments until you’ve passed all your exams. Then you can either move within the firm, or work in another area – work in forensics for example. Lots of people go abroad, while other people work in corporate recovery, corporate finance, etc. Some people leave and work in industry.
The two main paths are to either move into other departments within the firm, or move into industry. Some people from my old office went to work for investment banks.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Variety. If you do push for things and make the right contacts, you can get very varied work. Every six months I present an audit business game to university students. I also take part in a numeracy programme that we run, going through exercises with some secondary school students some lunch times. Working in forensics is also very interesting, checking whether people are working within regulations etc – also quite varied.
What is your least favourite part of the job?
If you want to have that much variety you have to manage your own time a lot. I’m expected to deliver on certain commitments, so I have to inform people that I won’t be available for an hour here or there. You do feel guilty if you have to disappear for an hour here or there when you’re trying to give 100 percent to the job.
How relevant is your education to what you are doing today?
In terms of my experience, Maths and Economics, Economics has helped me get a broader understanding of what I’m doing. In terms of Maths, I can’t really relate things like calculus to what I’m doing, but it makes you more numerate. The things you learn outside of the classroom at university help, like being independent and self-driven. Also socialising, making friends and joining groups. That’s what makes you a good employee. It’s not all about knowing your subject thoroughly. The soft skills I learned help the most.
Can you offer any advice to graduates seeking a career in the accounting profession?
Do your research and make sure you understand what working day is like. The resources are a hell of a lot better than they were when I was doing research six years ago. Find out about the qualification itself. I’d also say speak to people who are already doing it, if you can get in touch with people at the companies, do that. I’m on a contact database so people at university can get in touch with me.
Go to careers fairs where you can speak to someone face to face and get a good idea of the culture from that. The experience can be very different with different firms, even though it’s the same qualification. It’s very important that you can see whether you’d like to work in that environment and whether it’s an employer that you want to work for.
What is something unusual that they might not know?
It may no longer be an issue, but if you live in the regions and don’t request which market sector you want to work in within KPMG, you’re allotted to a department. I wasn’t aware that’s what happened. I then didn’t get to select which area I worked in. In interviews you should ask if it’ll be divided by market, and whether you can choose which area.
In the London office, because it’s so large, that option is built in.
What is your favourite perk?
25 days of holiday and the opportunity to buy a week extra.