Working life

Why working in audit outside of London is a great career choice

21 Jun 2023, 15:42

Milly and Bex, audit graduate trainees at KPMG, share how you can have a successful career living and working outside of the UK capital, when you join one of KPMG’s regional offices.

KPMG's early careers recruitment branding: three female graduates walking alongside a wall that is blue with splashes of pink

It’s no secret that securing a role in audit at KPMG is a great opportunity when starting a successful career in business. What is perhaps less well known, is that you can have that successful career without being based in London, working from one of KPMG’s regional offices. You will have the same access to high-profile work, training and development, and the same career progression opportunities – without the high costs of living in the UK capital.

Working for KPMG in Bristol: ‘I can’t imagine having to get the Tube every day’

Milly is an audit graduate trainee at KPMG’s Bristol office. She graduated with a first in anthropology from the University of Bristol.

Some of Milly’s friends were a little surprised that she chose a more corporate career, especially as she was known at university for her artistry and jewellery-making side hustle. However, Milly knew that audit at KPMG was the career for her, as she’d been inspired by her older brother Tom. He’d put her in touch with friends who were studying for their chartered accountancy (ACA) exams, one of whom was working in audit for KPMG. Their insights sealed her belief that this job, with both its stability and range of career opportunities, was right for her.

Living and working in Bristol

Accepted on to KPMG’s graduate programme, Milly opted to return to Bristol, where she studied for her degree.

‘I was happy to go back home – I like Bristol and I enjoy being in a regional office, rather than London. There are also fewer people here, meaning I get to observe and participate in more work than I potentially would in the London office, with hundreds of other graduates,’ Milly says.

Another daily upside is the 20-minute walk from home to KPMG’s quayside offices, ahead of her first meetings at 9.00 am. ‘I currently can’t imagine being in London and having to get on the Tube every day,’ she says.

Growing professionally and personally

Graduate life at KPMG initially felt like a return to university, Milly found. The set-up encourages interaction across peer groups, as KPMG focuses on helping graduates to build a community − facilitating socialising and working relationships with people ahead of and behind you on the programme, Milly explains. This means that there is a lot of peer support. ‘I like being able to talk things through with others, if I need to,’ she adds.

With a degree in anthropology, rather than a numerate subject such as maths or finance, Milly was initially concerned that she lacked experience in some aspects of the work, such as spreadsheets. ‘At first, everything felt like a steep learning curve, but there was support on offer,’ she says. ‘I’ve become comfortable reaching out and speaking up when there are things I don’t know.’

Having an assigned performance manager, who offers guidance and support, has been helpful. However, she’s also learned through absorbing the wealth of experience around her: ‘I’ve found it interesting to watch and listen when my seniors are discussing how to deal with something nuanced,’ she says. ‘I learn how they use their knowledge and experience to consider different approaches.’

Milly has had the opportunity to become more involved in other aspects of the business. For example, she is part of KPMG’s shadow board, a group of colleagues ranging from graduates up to senior management who give the firm’s leadership and partners feedback on new policies, proposals and corporate strategies. She has also taken opportunities to push herself out of her comfort zone (which also has had the effect of boosting her profile). She volunteered to deliver a graduate speech to audit colleagues. ‘I’m definitely very proud of that, even though it was nerve-wracking,’ she smiles.

How does audit compare with anthropology?

There is more crossover than might first appear. ‘Looking back on my first year, the most surprising thing I have found about my job is how sociable auditing is,’ Milly says. ‘It’s a people thing and I like that.’

Meet Bex and Milly. Bex is a senior audit associate and in her third year of the graduate training programme at KPMG’s Leeds office, while Milly is an audit graduate trainee at KPMG’s Bristol office.

LinkedIn style headshots of Bex and Milly, two audit graduates who work for KPMG outside of London.

Working for KPMG in Leeds: ‘I’ve just returned from a business trip to Montreal’

Rebecca graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc in economics. Now a senior audit associate, she’s in her third year of the graduate training programme at KPMG’s Leeds office.

Like Milly, Rebecca (known as Bex) starts her morning commute with a walk along the waterside to her office. Unlike Milly, Bex studied economics with a view to start a career in finance, but what, exactly?! She was undecided. ‘I went through the details of graduate schemes, reading different job descriptions and I kept coming back to audit,’ she remembers.

As a career, it offered a solid foundation in business, with a range of options for the future. ‘Your ACA (chartered accountancy) qualification opens doors, rather than closing things off or leading you down one particular pathway,’ she says.

Living and working in Leeds

Bex knew she liked Leeds, since she had considered attending university there, but when it came up as a work location she was initially concerned that it was away from friends and family. However, the good quality of life as a result of being in a smaller city drew her to it.

‘I live really close to the office, which is something I definitely couldn’t afford to do if I was in London, where housing is really expensive,’ Bex points out. ‘And, if I want to go to London it is only a two-hour train journey away, while the beautiful Yorkshire countryside is a 20-minute car drive outside Leeds.’

From Leeds to Montreal

Bex likens her job to being a financial detective – she examines, investigates and confirms that businesses have the assets or cash they are said to have, and makes enquiries about financial decisions to ensure they are legally compliant. Each day is varied, each business is structured differently and businesses can change from year to year, she has found.

She has a close-knit community of peers. ‘I started with about 15 people around the same age, which means that I have a nice group of people to socialise, study and work with, and I can get to know all of them,’ she reflects.

Training opportunities and working within smaller cohorts have brought Bex greater visibility to senior leaders, she feels. She believes she has been involved in a wider cross-section of work than she might have been in London, because of the spread of workload. Leeds is home to public sector organisations and several FTSE 100 and 250 businesses, so at no time has Bex missed out on big-name business practices. In addition, some of the companies KPMG audits in Leeds also have global premises.

‘I’ve just returned from a business trip to Montreal with a partner and a senior manager where I sat in on conversations at board level. It was a brilliant opportunity,’ Bex says.

Dedicated to development

Bex has found that KPMG is very supportive of her gaining accountancy professional qualifications. ‘Managers and partners are very understanding, supportive and protective of your time when you are studying or coming up to exams because they’ve all been through something similar,’ she says. She is also appreciative of the financial support offered: ‘I doubt I could have funded my studies without KPMG,’ she reflects.

Working at KPMG: the world’s at your feet

Both Bex and Milly are keen to point out that working in a regional office doesn’t mean their horizons have narrowed.

‘I’d relocate anywhere if opportunities to stretch myself arose,’ says Milly.

‘I could see myself working abroad on secondment in the future,’ agrees Bex.

With KPMG member firms operating in 143 countries and territories across the globe, who knows where their career in auditing could take them? You can find out more on KPMG's website , view their Audit opportunities and browse all of its advice and video content.

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