Assurance: Graduate Area of Work
Assurance focuses primarily on the reviewing of financial data and documents of a company to test the soundness of its accounts. This process, called auditing, serves to “assure” the owners and the clients of the legitimacy of the company’s records, and will also guide the company’s subsequent financial planning and investments.
Assurance services generally encompass two types of audits, annual and internal.
During annual audits, which are mandatory for most companies in Singapore, the company will engage an external auditor to inspect its accounts. The resulting audit reports will then be presented during Annual General Meetings (AGMs) for decision-making purposes, or used for the company’s yearly filings.
Internal audits, on the other hand, are domestic versions of annual audits performed by a company’s own accountants. This form of audit is not compulsory, but business organisations are encouraged to do it as it will help them to align their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) with the company’s missions and goals.
Internal audits also function to keep accounts systematic and clear throughout the year. This translates to a more ordered, stress-free annual audit for both the company and its auditors.
Aside from auditing duties, assurance services also carry out various “investigative” duties. These include due diligence on potential mergers and acquisitions, or assessing an organisation’s sustainability and its standards of social and corporate responsibility.
Starting out, you are usually expected to juggle on-the-job training and the pursuit of professional qualifications at the same time. Though possibly hectic, this arrangement does give you the chance to apply and test your theoretical knowledge in the actual working world, giving you great working experience from the get-go.
If you enjoy travelling and meeting new people,then you may be a good fit for this job. You will be required to travel often — possibly even abroad— and this will expose you to various interesting opportunities early on in your career. This will broaden your professional perspective and equip you for future responsibilities as you continue to grow into the position.
You will be working in teams most of the time, so good teamwork and communication skills are a must. Building a good rapport with them will not only enhance your work experience, but also ensure that you have moral and professional support during the more demanding periods of the job.
You need to have a keen mind in order to tide you through the professional courses, as they can be fairly challenging. The good news, however, is that your degree does not necessarily have to be finance-related. You can become a chartered accountant as long as you possess the necessary professional qualifications.
Work experience is an important factor in this profession. Internships and prior working arrangements will stand you in good stead if you hope to enter this field. As mentioned earlier, good communication and team-building skills will also help you in the long run given the team-based nature of the work.
Self-confidence and critical thinking are also important traits. As this job will require you to face a variety of situations, you need to be able to portray yourself as someone who is both competent and able to think on your feet. There may be times where you will have to read between the lines and dig up information that is not being offered readily.
Pros and cons
One of the grouses about working in assurance is its long working hours, especially during the tax season between February to April. Occasionally, you may be required to work on weekends as well. The work may sometimes become both repetitive and grueling, as you will be expected to rush deadlines while maintaining the accuracy of your calculations.
These, however, may only be minor shortcomings in the face of benefits such as the opportunity to travel, to build business connections, and to gain an in-depth understanding of the inner workings of various companies and business sectors.