Working in advisory: a graduate insider's view
Amit Bagga is a financial advisory associate at Grant Thornton UK LLP. He spoke with us about work experience, the graduate programme, training, new skills and work/life balance. He also offered his advice to students interested in graduate careers in accountancy.
One of the reasons I chose to apply here is the work/life balance you can have while also being a leader in the financial advisory field.
1. What made you choose to work in advisory?
I was attracted to Grant Thornton because of its ambition to be the ‘go-to firm for growth’ and unlock the potential of the most dynamic businesses in the mid-market. The advisory space of professional services gives me the chance to work closely with these entrepreneurial clients, acting as a soundboard for their growth strategies and being a part of their exciting journeys.
2. Did you do any work experience before starting full-time work?
While I was an economics and management student at Aston University, I undertook a placement year within Grant Thornton’s corporate finance practice, supporting numerous transactions including disposals, acquisitions and management buy-outs. This definitely helped me get my job – not only did I receive a graduate offer at the end of it, but it also motivated me to achieve a first class honours in my degree.
3. What do you think made you stand out from the other candidates?
My entrepreneurial nature. I have run several businesses from a young age and this was predominantly the topic of discussion during my interviews. These had included designing websites for local businesses in my area, including for a taxi firm and hair salon, whilst also developing my own global eCommerce gaming store. Whilst in my second year of university, I also developed a multiplatform mobile application, which helped to simplify the process of ticket purchasing in and around university campuses across the UK. During my placement, I always had new ideas and was able to use my initiative and the resources around me to make them a reality. Grant Thornton really encourages ‘intrapreneurship’ – being an entrepreneur while working for an employer – and this allowed me to stand out.
4. What does being a financial advisory associate involve?
I am part of the Graduate Rotational Advisory Programme here. I’m on my first rotation now, which is within the government and infrastructure advisory team. My focus is on healthcare, energy and environment projects.
5. What are your main responsibilities on a day-to-day basis?
They vary greatly. Depending on the nature of the project, I could be involved in any of these, for example:
- identifying operational efficiencies for different NHS trusts around the UK
- preparing proposal documents for new merger mandate opportunities
- helping to sell the renewable energy generated from local wind farms.
6. How is your work/life balance?
One of the reasons I chose to apply here is the work/life balance you can have while also being a leader in the financial advisory field. I am able to maintain a healthy lifestyle by doing meditation in the morning before work, going to the gym in my lunch breaks and also going for a run in the evenings. Finishing work at 5.30pm the majority of the time allows me to enjoy my evenings with friends and family.
7. What are the most exciting parts of working in this area, and are there any downsides?
Working in Finsbury Square is a great location as not only is it convenient for travel, but I am also able to make the most of what the city offers – from playing bowls in the square, having a drink at the rooftop bar Aviary, going to clubs on Liverpool Street, to eating at my favourite vegan spot, CookDaily in Shoreditch! The cost of living this lifestyle in London would have to be a downside!
8. Can you tell us about a workplace highlight?
I had a great experience project managing the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) Awards for the Midlands region. I had the opportunity to meet some of the most dynamic and ambitiously growing firms in the UK and was given a lot of responsibility in the awards as an associate. I learned how to deal with various different personalities through this process and am now a lot more confident in my ability to manage projects of such magnitude.
9. What training and support have you received so far?
I have attended numerous workshops in Grant Thornton’s training facility Bradenham Manor, in High Wycombe, and also locally in Finsbury Square. These have included workshops on financial modelling, how to present confidently, report writing, the foundations of advisory and many more topics.
10. What skills in particular do you think you’ve developed?
I have developed many skills on both a personal and professional level. My technical skills have improved massively as I have a greater understanding of the structure of accounts and also the importance of modelling for forecasting the returns on various projects. I am much more confident as an individual as I have been stretched to manage client relationships, liaise with the strategic leadership team within the firm and also engage in public speaking.
11. Is there anything you wish you’d focused on more at university, which would have helped you get your job?
I wish I had sought greater responsibility within my university societies. For example, although I was part of Aston’s Entrepreneurs Society, it would have been a great experience to have taken a leadership position, either as President or as a general committee member.
12. What are the top three skills for a successful career in your sector?
I think it really helps if you have:
- an entrepreneurial mindset
- strong interpersonal skills
- the ability to interpret/manipulate financial data.