6 months on

At the end of June I was back in college completing a block of Audit & Assurance (AA) tuition and beginning Tax Compliance (TC).  It’s interesting to see how far AA & TC build on our first 3 exams: Accounting, Assurance and Principles of Taxation. I have also had a lot of mock exams in-between which is good practice to push myself into learning exam technique which is just as important as the content.

Back in the office I was given my first solo client visit to attend a stock-take of a steel yard in Devon. I was slightly nervous going to a clients by myself so far away, but they were very friendly and was a good confidence boost for when I have more senior roles in the future.

On the audit-side of work I was assigned to a letting management company matching expenses to invoices and payslips, and noting any discrepancies – which requires an eye for detail.   With audit there are times where you have to wait for client information, so I juggled between several accounts preps rolling forward data from last year and tagging completed financial statements.

I also had my first 6-monthly appraisal meeting with Peter Ellis and my mentor Mark Richardson. It’s a good opportunity to discuss what I think has gone well over the period and well as creating goals to improve myself over the training contract and suggest types of clients that I would like to gain more experience of.

On the social side we have had a fair few things to celebrate! The beginning of July marked Graham Baxter’s 43rd anniversary at Shipleys – yes prospective applicants, you read that right! Graham will be retiring at the end of the month which will involve past and present colleagues celebrating at our office.  We also had drinks to congratulate Alice and Jess for passing their exams, and to say a farewell to Alex and Jade who have left this month after several years working with us.

Terinder Bhangal

I'm part of the most recent graduate intake working as a Junior in the Audit Department, having graduated last year in Economics from the University of Leicester. My work is split roughly into two-thirds of Audit work and a third training to become ACA qualified.

Stock-takes and socials

Cricket at The Oval

Cricket at The Oval

It’s been a very busy month and a half since I last had the chance to write a blog post; for that I’m sorry! If you decide to follow the trainee accountancy path one of the first things you’ll realise is how busy your life suddenly can be.

Since my last post I have done a lot of things in and out of work. As I mentioned, I had a few more exams and have now completed 9 in total! I keep telling myself that’s 60% of the way through (despite the hardest exams being the ones yet to come!).

Also, quite soon after we started the blog, I helped organise a Pointless themed quiz with our training manager, Peter Ellis. Between us we came up with an extended version of the popular show, presented it to 20 members of staff and handed out a fair few prizes for pointless answers! There was also a lot of pizza available to keep everyone’s brains working. This hasn’t been the only social in the past month however; a fortnight ago we took a trip to The Oval in Vauxhall to watch Kent vs. Surrey in a T20. Although cricket isn’t really my thing there are always new social events cropping up, and if you want to spend some time getting to know your colleagues and have fun in the process then Shipleys is a great place to do that.

Of course, one of the main contributors to the busy life of a trainee accountant is work. Working in audit can, at times, be relaxed and quite contained within the office (Terinder mentioned working on a client’s accounts), but it is more often than not quite full-on. For example, today was my first day back in the office after going to Glastonbury Festival over the weekend and I arrived in the office at 9:00am to be told straight away that I was to attend a stock-take in Staines. This meant returning to rush hour traffic and getting to grips with the client’s business and reading over the prior year notes on the train. The silver lining is that the weather in London at the minute is lovely and the stock-take took place outside in a steel yard.

I would say one of the best things about this job for me is being out of the office and meeting new people and new clients; seeing how different businesses are run and getting an understanding of various industries. In the past few weeks I have worked on everything from clients in the Media and Entertainment industry to an Open Ended Investment Company!

Lizzi Gear

I work in the Audit team and started as a trainee in August 2014. I studied Mathematics at the University of Sheffield. I work on the audit and accounts of a variety of Shipleys' clients.

My month of June 2015 so far

The first week I was set to work onsite at a client in Surrey, however this was rescheduled (which can happen last minute in audit) and so I was in the office working on an accounts prep for a small property company. Accounts preps are rarely straightforward as you have to get an understanding of the client by looking at their prior year accounts and develop an expectation of how their accounts should form this year.

I was set to work on this fairly autonomously, but with some help from a few friendly seniors I was able to produce the bulk of the work by the end of the week. That Friday we also had a leaving lunch and evening drinks for the Assistant Manager, Dino Campanaro, who had been at Shipleys for 7 years since he was a trainee.  It was sad to see him leave and we wish him all the best in his future career.

The following week I was back at Kaplan to finish my Financial Accounting and Reporting tuition – one of the 3 exams I will be sitting in September. We were given a mock exam, which seems scary several months before the exam but was just to test our progress so far. We begin the ‘revision phase’ in August and so until then it’s a matter of solidifying my understanding of the course. I will begin tuition for Tax Compliance and Audit & Assurance next week.

This week, the client side of things in the office has been slow so I have used the time to update my training log ready for my 6 monthly review next month. This involves keeping a log of how many hours worth of audit and accounts work I have achieved so far, as sufficient  practical experience is part of the requirement to become ACA qualified.  There are also ‘skill ladders’ in areas ranging from team work to technical competency that need to be achieved at the end of the 3 year training course. Part of the 6 monthly review is to ensure the firm allocates your work to areas to help you stay on track to achieve these.

Today is the assessment day for the August intake at Shipleys. Myself and some fellow trainees and seniors will be spending lunch answering questions to the candidates and showing them around the office to give them a feel for what it would be like to join us. Jane has given an insight into the day below, and whilst it’s a challenging and nervous day, it is also an exciting chance to potentially enter into a fantastic career with us.


Terinder Bhangal

I'm part of the most recent graduate intake working as a Junior in the Audit Department, having graduated last year in Economics from the University of Leicester. My work is split roughly into two-thirds of Audit work and a third training to become ACA qualified.

Excited about our ACA Graduate Assessment Day tomorrow!

We are ready for the big day tomorrow!  There’s always lots to do in preparation for graduate assessment days; select candidates to attend, prepare the paperwork, organise who is doing what and most importantly… arrange breakfast and lunch.

The assessment starts as soon as our candidates walk in the door.  We involve our Receptionists in the process by asking their thoughts on how the candidates introduced themselves and how well they interacted with each other.

The day starts with a presentation about Shipleys and discussing the ACA qualification, so it’s a good opportunity for candidates to ask questions.  We then split the candidates into two groups to work on the case study.

When we observe the candidates we are looking for their ability to facilitate discussion, generate sensible ideas, their communication skills, problem-solving approach, ability to work well in a team, their commercial awareness, ability to cope under pressure and their presentation skills.

After the group task, the candidates have lunch with some of our audit team, ranging from new trainees through to audit seniors.  They can ask the team as many silly questions as they like without worrying that it will form part of our decision.

The audit team do a tour around our office, with the most popular room being our basement which holds a pool table, table tennis, table football, sofas, huge TV and tuck shop.  We are a sociable bunch!

Whilst the candidates are busy with the audit team, the team of observers discuss the candidates’ performance in order to select who will go through to the afternoon interviews.  Once our decision is made, we then have the difficult task of letting the candidates know whether or not they have been successful.

We then spend the afternoon interviewing and aim to make a final decision by the end of the day.  It’s a tiring day, but so incredibly worth it when you can give someone the opportunity to start their career with an excellent firm such as Shipleys (I know – I am biased!).

My biggest bit of advice when you have been rejected, is to always ask for feedback on your performance.  The only way you can improve is to ask and work out how you can make those improvements.


Jane managed the internal HR function for Shipleys LLP.

ACAs – what it’s like under our wings

Well, as someone who has been with the firm for 12 years, I’ve seen many graduates arrive and successfully complete their ACA qualification with the firm. Some of them have gone onto become principals of the firm, some into industry, some into other practices… the list goes on. What I do know, is that Shipleys produces excellent chartered accountants (ok, I am biased, but it is true!).

I must admit that I get a bit teary when I hear that one of our trainees has passed their final exams, because there’s nothing better than knowing someone has worked really hard to achieve where they wanted to be, whilst also growing as a person.

It all starts at our graduate assessment day (which I will write about on a separate post… there may be some insider information given!), where the group will be on their best behaviour, albeit slightly nervous.

The first day usually involves more nerves, briefcase in hand, smart suit with a white shirt and stripy tie, or a smart dress and jacket. The tie and jackets come off relatively quickly when they realise that we are pretty relaxed about what people wear in the office.

The audit department are super at looking after their new trainees. It’s the thing that all new employees say to me after their first week – that they can’t believe how friendly everyone is at Shipleys and it is true. There’s a good social scene here and that starts on the first day with welcome drinks in the afternoon.

As the qualification progresses, you can see an increase in confidence. I guess this is down to a combination of passing exams and taking on more responsibility in the office. We also have mentors in place, which means that all trainees have a manager to talk to if they need help with their studies, work or long-term career planning.

Upon qualification, in celebration the partners pay for a very nice lunch for the trainee (who is no longer a trainee of course!) and their mentor. Although we’ve seen hundreds of trainees qualify, we still treat each qualification as if it is our first.


Jane managed the internal HR function for Shipleys LLP.