If you clear IPCC, you have to compulsorily go through an articleship process in a CA firm. So which firm to choose? Big Size-Medium Size or Small Size? The Big Four Companies are namely these: Deloitte, PWC (PriceWater Coopers), EY (Ernst & Young) and KPMG (Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler)
We have with us Hemil Shah who is a 24-year-old new-bie Chartered Accountant, working as an Executive at Ernst & Young, Ahmedabad (registered as S R B C & CO LLP ) one of the Big Four Companies in the world. He did his graduation in Commerce from H. L. Institute of Commerce. He is a pro at travel planning, loves stock market trading, and is a proud haggler. We caught him from his busy schedule to help you with all the ‘What If’s, ‘Whether or Not’s and ‘How to’s for working in a Big Four CA Firm after IPCC.
What kind of score in IPCC did you need to get into a big four?
There is no particular score that can get you a sure shot internship into a big four company or any top CA firm. Yes, they do prefer ranks, but they don’t swear by it. As such the score depends on the overall result percentage. For example,50% is the minimum requirement to clear IPCC. So in an attempt where the overall result is as low as 3-4%, even 55-60% gives you a good chance, whereas if the overall result spikes up, even 65% won’t help.
In my case, I scored 377 out of 700 in my IPCC (almost 54%), that too on the second attempt. Hence, I was a little under-confident before giving the interview. But to my surprise, the preference to my IPCC score was just preliminary. My substance, skills, and potential were tested too.
What kind of prep did you do for the Test? How was the interview round?
I never thought I would even be considered for the internship, So, I did not speculate much about the interview. My only objective was to check whether I even qualify for that. There was a preliminary written test first. It contained questions from different topics, such as general knowledge, language skills, accounting and auditing, company Law, basics of capital markets, etc.
Pro Tip: Scoring well in this written test makes the further levels a lot easier for you.
After the test came 2 rounds of grilling technical interviews. The interview basically revolves around your subjects: accounting and auditing. But that’s just one part of it. To test your personal skills, they might throw bouncers at you. Some things that I can say from my experience. If you don’t know, accept it honestly. That will increase your chances to answer more questions without wasting time. Be careful with how you frame your answers. Don’t use technical jargons unnecessarily unless you really need to.
They can ask you anything. I repeat. Anything.
After the technical round, I had another round with the associate director of the firm where I was asked: “Do you know how to write?” Now, it’s important that you don’t take any questions for granted. At times, you might not understand the context of the question, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one.
Who should choose a Big Four CA Firm? What should be the frame of mind?
This is probably the most important question that any student who clear IPCC goes through: Big 4 or any medium or small sized firm for an internship. This is a very subjective choice. It all depends on what you wish to do after clearing CA. If you are motivated to have a practice of your own, it’s better to have an internship where you learn all the facets of the job. Generally, a big firm would have different specialities for each field.
Remember: Don’t think about the money that is being offered to you at the big four firms.
Like I did my internship in Audit services. So after completing the internship, I can say that I have got enough exposure in the field of audit, including many different industries, different scale of companies, all of it. But if you ask me if I have enough experience in transfer pricing or tax advisory services, No I don’t. Though that was my choice and I never wanted to have a practice in those, and hence I was pretty happy more exposure in one area as compared to little exposure in different areas. Yes, it’s natural that you would be attracted to such a lucrative stipend. But at your age, the decision to join a big four firm should only be based on the work prospects and not the money.
Articleship is a necessity for all CA pursuing students. How is the articleship structure like, over the years?
Our frame of mind in interviews is generally funny. We are so desperate to bag the job that we pay little attention to these details. Most internship aspirants ask about long working hours and out station audits. No, there cannot be any specific answer to this question. It all depends on which clients are you working on. I was told in my interview that I will have to travel outstation audits for at least fifteen-twenty days of the month. If after reading ‘out of station’, you are imagining fascinating exotic locations, trust me, more often than not, you will be visiting client factories, which will be in an industrial sector, away from the main city, in the middle of nowhere. So yes, there would be out station audits, there would be stretched deadlines, you will miss your lectures for CA finals. I cannot guarantee the frequency.
In the interview when the interviewer tells you, “You would not be able to attend any lectures for CA final studies, you might be working on out of station assignments for around twenty days in a month”, he is saying the truth.
How difficult is it to manage Articleship with B.Com? Are colleges supportive?
I can tell you how it was for me. I took admission in HLIC and this was the first batch of Ahmedabad University. As it was the first year, the attendance norms were pretty lenient. So managing office along with the college wasn’t an issue. Now I have heard that they have made some strict regulations regarding the attendance so I wouldn’t be able to comment on the current scenario.There are no definite hacks to manage both office and college.
College life has its own importance and charm. Don’t lose it just because of the coaching classes for CA. I am not denying the importance of coaching, but at the end of it, it’s better to regret not attending a few lectures at the coaching rather than regretting not spending time on the college campus or the canteen.
Can you explain how working in a Big four differentiates you from the rest?
The internship is your first step towards your professional career. Working with a big four firm gives you great exposure to the corporate world and the working styles across different industries. As you are pretty young then, this experience exposes you to define your own work ethics and more responsibilities since the beginning. Another skill that you learn by working with a big firm is that of crisis management. Quite literally; last minute changes in the schedules, stretched working hours, critical deadlines, all these become a part of your life.
On a lighter note, you may be travelling in the middle of nowhere during the year on the client factories. But once in a year, you will get to travel for a weekend at some of the most beautiful resorts in India, as an off-site. You will love the fact that you are working with a big four firm during such luxurious excursions.
A lot of students shy away from BIG Firms, thinking they might not be able to work as hard as it is required. Is the work pressure too much?
Yes, there is some work pressure as most of the clients here with the firm work on stringent deadlines. But a lot more depends on how much pressure can you absorb. If you prove that you can handle it effectively, you’ll be entrusted with higher responsibilities and that will only move on to enrich your prospects with the firm.
What are the shortcomings of working at a BIG Four CA Firm?
To manage your studies along with working in a big firm, you have to be good at self -study. Depending on the coaching centre for all the academic studies will just make our life miserable. Yes, for a few important and complex topics, you will definitely need a tutor. But moving away from spoon feeding and trying to study it all by yourself is going to make the jugglery between work and studies a lot more convenient and easier.
Which are the other nationally popular firms, apart from the Big Four? Which are some of the really good CA firms in Ahmedabad?
Other good firms in Ahmedabad apart from the big four companies are as follows:
- Mukesh M. Shah & Co.
- Kantilal Patel & Co.
- C M Shah & Co.
- Sorab S Engineer & Co.
- Manubhai & Co.
Disclaimer: I have been associated with S R B C & CO LLP (Ernst & Young). So my experiences relates to the firm procedures and policies of EY. That might not be exactly in line with that of the other big four firms. However, on an overall level, all the big four firms operate in a more or less similar work cultures.
(This was Hemil Shah’s experience of working at a Big Four CA Firm. Ernst & Young was ranked as one of the India’s Best Places to Work in 2016 by Economic Times. If you have further questions, feel free to put them in the Comments. Share this article widely to help confused students get some good direction!)