A year in Technology Risk Services (TRS)
I have written this post to share the brilliant experiences I have had during my first year on Grant Thornton’s graduate scheme in Technology Risk Services (TRS) in the London Finsbury Square (FSQ) office.
Like many of you reading this, before joining I was fairly clueless about what a job in TRS entailed. Despite various google searches and delving deep into the Grant Thornton’s website, I struggled to pin down exactly what TRS did. So allow me to start by giving an overview of our sector so that any potential applicants may be better prepared than I was going into the assessment day.
TRS sits within Business Risk Services (BRS - For more information on this I would recommend having a read of the BRS Core blog, ‘What’s BRS anyway?’), offering highly specialised and extensive expertise of various key IT risk management areas. This is often separated into three sectors: IT Internal Audit; External Audit; and Advisory. Within these areas, there are more specific client services such as data analytics, data privacy, and logical/physical security auditing. Now, if you are new to the world of auditing, a great deal of that may not have made much sense so I will try my best to enlighten you.
IT Internal Audit: The role of internal audit is to provide independent assurance that an organisation's risk management, governance and internal control processes are operating effectively. Therefore, our role in TRS is to go to a client and review the IT controls they have in place and identify any areas that are at risk. This involves a combination of enquiries with management, reviewing documentation that explains the processes they have in place and testing samples to check whether what is supposed to have been happening, has been happening.
External Audit: An external audit is an independent examination of the financial statements prepared by the organisation. The days of keeping records with a pen and paper are all but extinct and companies’ financial statements are nowadays generated by accounting systems. The role of TRS is to ensure that these systems are secure and assess the chance of data corruption/manipulation, whether that be accidental or deliberate. Examples of this include reviewing a company’s password policy, finding who has the access rights to manipulate records and investigating if employees who left days/months/years ago still have access to the system (this happens far more than you would think!)
Data Analytics: The data that these financial systems spew out is pretty much unintelligible, so our role in TRS is to take that data and make it user friendly. We use software (called IDEA) to convert it to something legible and highlight key risk areas so that the audit team can utilise it effectively. The next step from this, and this is a hot topic right now, is data visualisation. This means using the data to make graphs, heat maps and tables, so that companies can see where their issues lie. This is undoubtedly an area in which businesses are ever more interested and investing.
Back to my year! Grant Thornton really invest a huge amount into your development. I wasn’t in the office properly until a month in! The first two days involved a variety of induction activities at FSQ where we also had an afternoon to meet our teams. We then spent two days at Bradenham Manor, (a gorgeous estate Grant Thornton owns and uses for training (it was one of the Oligarchs’ home in BBC’s McMafia!)), where we learned some of the basics of accounting before playing an apprentice style board game, which was actually very intense (lost a cool £100 mil the first day, made an even cooler £600 mil the next (alas just play money unfortunately)) and a great crash course in running a business and book keeping.
We then spent a week at “Breaking Records”. A week long training course in all things accounting, it also included a gala dinner and was a great place to get to know the people you would be on the graduate scheme with. We then dove right into two weeks of college where we made a start on our ACA qualification. By the end of this month all of us were very keen to enter the office environment and get stuck into our new jobs.
Upon joining the team, we given another week of “local training” which was focused on our roles and what we would actually have to do. We also had a team social, Lawn Bowls on Finsbury Square, which was a great way to meet everybody in a social setting. From this point we started properly, working alongside more experienced members of the team to gain an understanding of the procedures we needed to follow and how to perform our roles. I can categorically state that I always felt fully supported, people were always willing to advise you and help you learn, no matter how much I bombarded them with questions. There is a real team culture and I never felt that anybody was unapproachable.
My first six months was a real mix of the work I mentioned above (paragraphs four to six). My time was spent both in the office and on client site. I also helped more senior people (directors & partners) with other projects, such as creating pitches to land new contracts. Very quickly I was given a lot of responsibility. Once I was ready, I was being sent to clients to perform reviews solo and was writing reports by myself. It was great to be given the opportunity to show what I could do so quickly and being given the chance to push my career forward at the pace I was comfortable with. What is great about TRS is that you are exposed to a real blend of technology and finance, a blend that is potentially unique to this sector. There are few skills that are more marketable in today’s world than these two fields, so it’s a really great sector to work in if you are of an ambitious mind-set. For those of you worried that you don’t have a background in finance or technology, let me put your mind at ease. I studied History and Literature at University. A former grad who was promoted to manager within four years studied Drama. You will receive all the training and technical know-how you need to succeed on the job. Whilst having an understanding of technology is advantageous, more important is a desire to learn!
Outside of work Grant Thornton has also offered many interesting opportunities. This is a company with a really strong social consciousness. There have been numerous talks on subjects such as homelessness, environmentalism and social equality. A personal highlight has been canoeing in London, helping to make its river cleaner by kayaking through the river and picking up litter. This was a really rewarding and fun day out with the grads. There is no shortage of opportunities to volunteer at Grant Thornton.
My first year at Grant Thornton has been a fantastic experience. I feel I couldn’t have been given more support or been made to feel more welcome upon joining the team. It has been challenging and certainly pushed me, but all in a way that has enhanced my development. Grant Thornton is an excellent company to work for and I highly recommend any prospective candidates to apply.