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January 31, 2013

The Bigger Picture

As I sat thinking about what my first blog piece of 2013 would be about, I was acutely aware that I had already dived into the politics behind the ‘busy season’. However, when it comes to January, February and March, it is impossible to avoid the elephant in the room, especially as it is normally sitting on your social life, your health, and in some cases your happiness.

However, I am not going to try and discuss the busy season with a view to its merits or how horrible it is. Instead I am going to try and impart some advice that I hope will aid all senior associates and associates out there in getting through the most trying part of the year.

One of the biggest issues when conducting an audit is time constraints. However, this is, I find, particularly prevalent when working on small clients as it seems the work can get the better of you and as time pressures build up you can find yourself rushing through the work without understanding the detail.

Detail is all important in every part of the audit even the one part that you may be covering but this could mean the bigger picture of the audit and how the company is actually performing gets lost on you. At the end of the day, that is why we perform the work we do, so that when analysts are scrutinising that company’s annual financial results they will get to see the true performance of the company for the past 12 months.

You should keep this in mind at all times when performing your work and treat every single piece of verifying that you are doing like a mini BAF (Business Analysis Framework). If you are looking at loans and receivables, for example, understanding why the balance might have moved up or down will help keep you involved with the work and keep your motivation up.

But beware to do this, you need to ensure you are aware of the bigger picture, which is something I think the profession in general still lacks – awareness of our clients’ industries and the economy in general.

I know a lot of people read publications such as City AM and many associates get the Economist, but this is not enough. It is also about having the knowledge to apply what we know to our clients and our clients’ performance. For example, if loans and receivables has gone up on a bank’s balance sheet this is probably not unusual because the UK Government has recently been trying to encourage the banks to issue more loans to SMEs. You would know this if you were aware of what was going on in the wider business arena.

So my final pointer is that when you are reading City AM or listing to one of the Economist podcasts, or whatever you do to get your news and information, instead of just absorbing what you are reading or hearing, try and relate the work to your client and their industry. If you do, I think you will find that this tiresome part of the year will be more manageable, and who knows, you might even enjoy it!

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