Focusing primarily on the review of financial data and documents of a firm to test the soundness of its accounts, this process, called auditing, serves to “assure” the owners and the clients of the legitimacy of the establishment’s records. It also guides the organisation’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 enterprises in Singapore, businesses engage external auditors to inspect 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.
On the other hand, internal audits are domestic versions of annual audits performed by the respective institutes’ accountants. This form of audit isn’t compulsory, but firms are encouraged to do it as it helps them align Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) with their missions and goals. It also keeps accounts systematic and clear throughout the year, translating to a more ordered and stress-free annual audit for both the venture 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 a venture’s sustainability and its standards of social and corporate responsibility.
Interested candidates starting out are usually expected to juggle on-the-job training and the pursuit of professional qualifications at the same time. Though possibly hectic, this arrangement allows graduates to apply and test their theoretical knowledge in the actual working world, and gives great working experience from the get-go.
Travelling and meeting new people are part and parcel of the role; auditors have to travel often – and when the global pandemic is over, possibly abroad as well. This translates to exposure, and graduates often come face-to-face with various interesting opportunities early in their careers, not only broadening their professional perspectives, but also equipping themselves for future responsibilities as they continue to grow into the position.
Auditors work in teams most of the time, so good teamworking and communication skills are a must. Moreover, building a good rapport with the team will enhance work experience and ensure moral and professional support during the more demanding periods.
A keen mind is needed to get through the professional courses, as they can be fairly challenging. The good news, however, is that degrees do not necessarily have to be finance-related – graduates can become chartered accountants as long as they possess the necessary professional qualifications.
Work experience is a vital factor in this profession, so internships and prior working arrangements will stand applicants in good stead when entering the field. As mentioned earlier, good communication and team-building skills will also help in the long run, especially given the team-based nature of the work.
Other important traits include self-confidence and critical thinking. As this job involves facing a variety of situations, auditors need to be able to portray themselves as both competent and able to think on their feet. On top of that, there may be times when they have to read between the lines and dig up information not readily offered.
Pros and cons
One of the grouses about working in assurance is its long working hours, particularly during the tax season between February and April – auditors are even occasionally required to work on weekends. Moreover, work may sometimes become both repetitive and deadlines gruelling, with auditors expected to rush in order to meet deadlines.
These, however, may only be minor shortcomings in the face of benefits such as the opportunity to travel, build connections and gain an in-depth understanding of the inner workings of various corporations and business sectors.