There is always a question how does it feel working in PwC Indonesia, one of the global big four public accounting firm and top ideal employer for undergraduate students in Indonesia. I would like to share a piece of my experience when I was working as PwC assurance associate. Though I worked for only a short period, I have experienced the most of associate journey.
In public accounting firm, like any other workplace, has good and bad stories. You can trust me once you overcome the bad stories, you have a multiplier factors for the good one. I can assure you for each risk you take and each miles you took out from your comfort zone, you are worthily compensated. To begin the story, I will start with summary of why a financial auditor and the firm has important role in the business nowadays.
First thing first, what does financial auditor really do?
Simply put, financial auditors are financial statement investigator/inspector. We examine a Company’s financial statement to ensure the figures are correct, exists and prepared within the standards. Most of the time, we gather all necessary evidences, prepare audit documentation and review the financial statement report. If you heard that auditor work until late very often and were guessing why, the only reason is because the vast task to be done in a short time. But we understand that we work for public interest, we want to give an assurance of our client’s financial statement reliability. Imagine if, say you are an investor or investment banker, you found out that the potential company you are going to acquire or invest manipulates their accounting figures, you are definitely going to lost billion of money. We come to minimize the risk, considering high quality of audit the PwC would like to provide.
Why you should consider working at public accounting firm?
Accounting is a business language. By learning financial statement, you can analyse the competitiveness, the profitability, the efficiency, the strategy, the compliance and the risk of investment. You can easily understand how a company derives their revenue, by which resources, and the interlink between business activities and accounting numbers. As analyst or decision maker, you can tweak the accounting figures for new project feasibility study, scenario analysis, merger and acquisition and performance evaluation.
Being a financial auditor will gives you a full access into a Company. Guaranteed. You have many opportunities to learn about a Company, though your main purpose is only to give an opinion on the financial statement fairness. You will examine how one Company do their business and analyse their performance compared to industry, because you are responsible for every single figures on the financial statements (remember: every single of accounting figures represents a business activities). You can jump from one company in automotive industry, to fast moving consumer goods, plantation company and perhaps service Companies. Once you are graduated from public accounting firm, you have been equipped with strong technical skills of accounting and basic business knowledge. This is a luxury feature of working as financial auditor, compare to start your career at a Company.
What are the other benefits of being a financial auditor? (specifically in PwC)
DISCLAIMER: The condition may or may not be changed as the time goes by. Thus asking your relatives or friends to confirm your understanding is highly recommended.
Compensation and benefit
- Progressive compensation. Similar with other major service Companies, PwC has formulated best compensation scheme. During peak season, associate and senior associate may double their monthly income (first year associate may get double digit salary). In comparison, accounting officer is hardly compensated at even ten million after working for five years, while at public accounting firm you just need to survive in at least 2 years to get that basic double digit salary. In terms of long term career in public accounting firm, you have a chance to be wealthy at mid 30s and financially freedom at end of 30s or early 40.
Career development and experiences
- Progressive career path. the Firm does not guarantee a once a year promotion. But most likely (more than 80% chance), you will be promoted. Public accounting firm is a pyramid ecosystem in which many undergraduates students apply and many associates left. Double promotion is possible and you can be a senior manager in 8 years (normally it takes 10 years). So it’s up to you to decide how your career will be.
- Hyper learning environment and exposure. We have a chance to learn everything about a Company in two or three months (industry analysis, end to end business process, financial and operational performance, internal control and its weaknesses, inventory costing, supplier or customer special arrangement, tax and legal matters and etc). In addition, in one year we may handle 3-4 clients on average. If you are lucky enough, you will get the irreplaceable and invaluable experience of auditing major listed companies in Indonesia.
- Building soft skill and relationship with people. Working as an auditor will help you to build and improve task management, social skills, English as business language and critical thinking. With a vast tasks that need to be done in a tight deadline, we are required to plan and prioritize almost everything! Luckily, we won’t spend most of our time in front of our laptop. We discuss with a lot of people with different personalities and stories for different purposes. Maintain good relationship with our Client helps us to complete the job and enhance our adaptability.
Work-life balance and other thing
- Young and energetic environment. Our core team member are mostly consists of people at age 22-28. Yes we are young, many, diverse and have a lot of fun moment. So it feels like back to the college. Furthermore, in one year we have four quarterly gathering, one big outing event and one PwC day (or year end party).
- Travelling. This is a privilege of working as auditor in big 4 firm. We can have a chance to travel outside Jakarta using premium airline (Garuda Indonesia). I had a chance to travel to Balikpapan, Makassar, Batam, Pekanbaru and Palangkaraya by Garuda (might upgrade my GFF blue to silver actually). During our spare time, we could enjoy the signature culinary and tourism object on the town and get the best accommodation there.
- Coaching. in PwC we highly value our member. Each member of the firm has their coach who help them everything from work matters, career development or maybe your personal matters. We have a coaching session once in a month to share our thought, concern and stories so that we can solve our immediate problem and focus on completing our assignment.
What are the consequences of acquiring those premium benefit?
DISCLAIMER: The following paragraphs are solely based on my experience from completing the audit and observing the environment. You may get broaden knowledge if you ask your friends or relatives who work in public accounting firm. Bear in mind that my stories are highly related to working as an associate, not senior associate or even manager.
- High pressure and high expectation. What differentiates PwC from other public accounting firm is our concern and effort to produce the highest quality of audit while maintain client satisfaction. We are expected to learn almost everything in a short time (maybe 1 – 2 clients to understand and master one area) and complete the engagement within the tight deadline. Being proactive and have comprehensive understanding is one success key to survive. Being humble, ready to receive and learn the point of improvement is a critical career development factors.
- So many things to do yet so little time. Auditing is not only completing single assignment, but we have around 4-5 areas to be done, simultaneously. In each area, we have to understand everything we need to know, do the audit, have it reviewed, follow up any notes and revise the documentation. The process takes longer if the Client does not give our expected document or data, or maybe the listing is not effectively structured. Most of the time we got stress and take longer working hours (130 working hours for two weeks is possible)
- Long working hours, health and quality of life issue. During busy season we may work from 8 am to 12 pm everyday for a few weeks. We have a very little room to see our phone or pay attention to other things. Sometimes we woke up with anxious and exhaustive feeling, whether our assignment could be done on time or deal with difficult client or team member. We could easily forget to drink mineral water, eat unhealthy food, eye strain and lack of movement. Unless we improve our unhealthy life, we will have a serious problem and get stress so easily.
- Feeling underpaid or deserved to get better. I have friends in investment banking, consulting firm, law firm or major companies. We may spent the same level of working hours and intensity, however their salary outperform us. After five or six years, maybe they become executive VP, highly reputable consultant, build their own business and involve in major nationwide corporate transaction with high project bonus. We probably end up as an accounting manager or internal auditor, as a support system of one company with routine activities.
- Environment. Opinion is strong here, if you get bad comment, people usually agree. Manager or senior relies on other manager/seniors comment of your performance if they want to use your service. If you want to get good rating or performance, treat your senior and manager well (don’t overdo it also).
Basically there is no such thing as a perfect workplace to work for. There is always a good and bad side. If we take the challenge and able to complete it, all the hard work and experiences would help to you to build your strong personality and characteristics, help you to be persistent, critical person, humble, wise, and at the end it will help you to build strong reputation and portfolios.
In terms of salary, exposure and learning experience, you are well compensated if you take the challenge, compare to working in Company as corporate accounting. However, good or bad decision is highly depend on how you value your work, whether you place it in a critical way to climb your career or just do it for running your life. Hopefully my post enrich your reference before you apply for associate position or before you submit a resignation letter 🙂
For your information, I have resigned from PwC Indonesia (or locally known as KAP TWR) at September 2014 after worked for one year and three months. My client portfolios are ranging from major listed company, subsidiary of multinational companies and local private company. I have experienced full set of audit from planning to completion of audit, being trusted by manager and director to handle a few critical area, and working with awesome people there.