This is a follow up of a previous post.

Decisions regarding our futures are probably the most important (along with what to have for breakfast and whether to wear the 3 inch or the 4 inch heels). Now that I am nearing graduation, I have to start thinking about what lies beyond the varsity enclosure: the big bad wolf world.

Throughout high school and the greater part of my undergraduate torture, I have always wanted to work for one of the Big Four auditing firms. But as time went on, my desire to join the “elitist snobs of the auditing sphere” slowly manifested itself into a desire to join the “elitist snobs of the finance sphere” (i.e. the big four banks). What sparked the change was not at all profound; it was merely the realization that auditing was mindlessly boring. On this note, I’m glad I didn’t sign my soul away in first year the way some of my friends did. I’d much rather have the option to pick my poison than to have a peace of mind (and regrettably be tied down to a 3 year life-sucking contract).

As we all know, what used to be TIPP (training inside public practice) and TOPP (training outside public practice) have fallen away. They have been replaced by SAICA’s competency framework.

The Competency Framework encapsulates the competencies (broad range of knowledge, skills
and attribtes) of a CA(SA) at entry point to the profession. These competencies have reference
to the CA(SA) as a leader with a professional accounting background (see above) and include –
• pervasive qualities and skills which are fully integrated with
• specific competencies.

Trainees have to be exposed to all 7 skills, but at varying degrees of focus depending on the company. Accounting and persuasive skills are compulsory. Up to 3 elective skills can be taken and the rest are residual skills. An auditing firm will pick assurance and tax as its elective whereas a financial firm will pick financial management and decision making. In other words, a trainee at an auditing firm will be required to complete more hours of assurance than a trainee at an financial services firm, but he will do fewer hours of financial management, etc.

So why is it that so many people are signed to audit firms when the alternative is so much more merry? The answer boils down to capacity. Auditing firms have approximately 9000+ trainees while financial services firms only have 400 odd. The retention rate for trainees once they have qualified as CAs is relatively low in the auditing firms as many of them take the earliest opportunity to escape to the financial cluster.

Unfortunately, the approved training offices for the financial management firms are all based in Johannesburg. If I have to pick between the financial hub of Africa or the scenic beauty of Cape Town (purely basing my choice on location), I would choose the latter in a heart beat. But is that worth more than doing what I am interested in? I’m not so sure.

At this point, I am going to apply to both sectors. Ultimately, I predict that I will lean towards whoever offers me a placement first.