Ernst & Young
Accounting is sometimes referred to as the second-oldest profession, and Ernst & Young is one of its oldest practitioners. Part of the Big Four, Ernst & Young LLP is the UK member firm of Ernst & Young Global. Headquartered in London, it employs over 152,000 across 700 offices – providing auditing and accounting services in 140 countries.
Politics and lots of it.
- Solid international reputation and a strong launchpad into other corporate finance roles
- Flexible working hours
- Even ratio of men and women
- Relaxed, liberal atmosphere
- Colleagues are friendly and helpful
- Smart open plan offices on the South bank and a really good canteen with a deli bar
- Relatively lower salary compared to other Big Four firms
- Organisational changes imposed by high level management
- Too much politics and little career progression unless you play the politics
- Has a hot desk policy where everyone has to move every day
Although it may be the smallest of the Big Four, Ernst & Young's impressive revenue and clients put the majority of the competition in the shade. Headquartered in the City, E&Y is part of Ernst & Young Global, which has member firms in over 140 countries, and employs upwards of 152,000 people.
A Bit of Background
The primary driving forces behind Ernst & Young, Arthur Young and Alwin Ernst, never met and both died in 1948 – over 40 years before their firms would merge. E&Y’s inception can be traced back to 1903, when brothers Alwin and Theodore established a small public accounting firm in Cleveland named Ernst & Ernst. Shortly after, in 1906, Scotsman Arthur Young established his own accounting firm in Chicago, Arthur Young & Company, with his brother Stanley.
Ernst pioneered the idea that accounting information could be used to implement business decisions and make a difference to clients’ organisations. Young also positioned himself as much a business advisor as an accountant. And after several mergers, (including Young with British firm, Broads Paterson & Co, and Ernst with Whinney Smith & Whinney) Ernst & Young was finally created in 1989. During the rapid years of globalisation, the new organisation quickly positioned itself as one of the leading accountancy firms focusing particularly on new business technologies and continuous business change.
Following the Enron scandal, accounting firms were prohibited from simultaneously providing both audit and professional advice. Inevitably, with the latter being the more lucrative, the other Big Four firms relinquished their auditing clients, leaving the path clear for E&Y to pick up the unwanted work. Consequently, 86 of the FTSE 100 firms are now E&Y clients.
A Closer Look at Departments & Practices
E&Y has become an accounting titan through its stalwart advisory, assurance, tax and transactions services. Its assurance department incorporates the provision of information to investors and stakeholders, as well as audit committees; advisory focuses on improving business efficiency and responding to risks; and the tax division helps clients design and implement tax strategies and transactions, including advisory roles on M&A deals. In addition, E&Y offers strategic growth services, advising British companies on how to become market leaders. Due to client demand, E&Y also provides specialist advice in the two maturing sectors of business advisory and risk advisory services.
E&Y’s global network is split into five regions: EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa), the Americas, the Far East, Oceania, and Japan. The UK’s confederacy, EMEIA, includes 87 national firms with over 60,000 employees. However, E&Y Global does not perform client work and instead sets international standards, overseeing global policy and consistency of service. The aim of this compound structure is to better cater for an increasingly global clientele who have multinational concerns.Read all 55 employee quotes
The motto at Ernst & Young (EY) is “Quality in Everything We Do” and when applying you will quickly find that it is precisely “quality” the firm looks for in its candidates. Aside from the standard 300 UCAS points, As and/or Bs in Maths and English at GCSE, and a minimum 2:1 in any discipline, you’ll also need drive, talent and commitment as EY’s lengthy application process is designed to weed out the diamonds from the rough.
The first step is to think carefully about which track you want to pursue at EY. As a graduate you have the option to apply online for positions in audit and assurance, business advisory, corporate finance or tax, at various locations throughout the UK. Here’s a quick look at what you’ll be doing in each of the division: Advisory is pretty much consulting and you will spend your time identifying and solving business issues and optimising client’s businesses. In Assurance, which includes Audit, providing reliable financial information to clients for them to make sound decisions is the name of the game. Corporate Finance is all about helping clients raise, invest and spend capital whereas in Tax, you’ll help clients pay the right amount of tax, in the most efficient way. As you can see, the roles are quite varied so pick wisely according to your interested and personality.
It’s then down to the application and although the process vary slightly from division to division, it’s quite straightforward and typically requires candidates to 1) fill out an online application form, 2) work through an SHL online numerical and verbal reasoning test, 3) sit an interview 4) complete a numerical reasoning test and 5) attend an assessment centre.
Once you have decided where to apply, your first step towards landing that job will be to fill out an online form that will cover your basic information as well as additional questions about yourself and how you work. If you can answer questions such as: "What was the last activity you completed that took you out of your comfort zone? Describe a time when you have contributed to motivating a team? Describe how you applied something you learnt which made a practical difference. Describe a situation where you took responsibility without being asked. Describe the last time you delivered a task that required sustained effort.” Then you should have no problem with the online form.
If you successfully clear the first hurdle, you’ll then be asked to sit SHL online numerical and verbal reasoning tests. The majority of candidates are required to sit both tests. That said, if you’re lucky enough to have had experience in a maths (either via a previous job your A Level maths) then you may not need to take the numerical assessment. You may also be exempt from the next test, which is a written numerical quiz, and whizz on straight through to the interview. For the rest, the numerical piece will test your basic understanding of maths and walk you through a set of questions in arithmetic, numbers, ratios, fractions, percentages, interpretation of data and graphs and so on. The verbal section will require you to read short passages on business related topics and then select the right answer from multiple choices... Quite straightforward but a little practice beforehand never hurts.
If successful at completing the online application form and test, you will later be asked to attend a numerical test in person at an E&Y office. The test will most likely consist of 35 questions with a time limit of 30 minutes. Questions are multiple choice, in a similar format to the online test, and there'll be five possible answers for each question. You will be required to interpret data from tables and graphs, and typically there are 2-3 questions based on each. Don’t worry if you run out of time before answering all of the questions. The test is intentionally designed to be very challenging and EY is much more interested in you getting as many questions right as you can, rather than answering every single one. Nerve wracking hey? Luckily you won't be kept waiting for an answer; you'll be told your fate within 2-3 days. You will also be invited for your interview and assessment.
Here’s a closer look at Tax, as it’s a slightly different process: Your first in-person interview will last about an hour and you will need to discuss your personality and work habits as well as tax-related questions. Successful EY applicants will have had to concisely answer: “What have you done to learn about tax? When have you persuaded someone? Is there a company/brand you admire? If you could ask them some questions, what would you ask?” As long as you have reviewed your academic and work history, have given some thought about what your strengths and weaknesses are and about tax in general, you should do well in the interview.
Lastly comes the assessment day. First you will have another interview, this time with a partner. The questions will be about tax as well as yourself. Remember that online form you filled out in step one of the application process? Many times the partners use this as an interview guide so make sure you have reviewed the answers you gave on the form.
Next comes a case study. You will be given a packet of information stating that an EY partner is due for a meeting with a client and you must advise them beforehand. You will be able to do this exercise and write your thoughts down on a laptop, so no worries about handwriting. But you will need to think about important issues the partner should raise in the meeting and why they are critical. Some preparation hints for the case study: make sure you brush up on all of your knowledge of tax, think about international tax subjects and what tax issues face EU and non-EU countries (and make sure you know which countries are in the EU and which aren’t!) and make sure you know what tax areas are covered by EY.
The group exercise is the next phase of the assessment day and is based on that same case study, so fortunately there is no new information to digest. You will be put in groups with other candidates and given instructions to further prepare the partner for the theoretical meeting. You will not only have to discuss the tax areas that your interviewers point out, but also think about other services that EY could provide for this client. Here they will be looking for how well you work with others, that no one person overtakes the exercise and that everyone had a chance to speak.
Unfortunately there’s one more step and it takes the form of a role playing exercise. Again, it concerns the theoretical meeting from the case study and the group exercise, but this time you and one of your colleagues from the group exercise will meet with an actual partner to advise them on what they should highlight during the meeting and propose a meeting agenda. You will have 10 minutes to discuss everything with your colleague before you meet the partner. The partner will ask you and your colleague lots of questions, as this is designed to be more of a back and forth exchange and not just a presentation. Make sure to contribute to the discussion, but also ensure that your colleague gets to speak as well.
And that’s it! Yes, there are a lot of steps in the EY tax application process. But above it all, EY is looking for people who are enthusiastic, exhibit leadership qualities, those who work well with others and candidates who are honest and hard-working. If you think you have what it takes to become an EY employee, head over to their website to start your application and good luck.
For Assurance and Audit the initial process is similar; an online application, followed by a verbal and numerical test, another test... the interviews and assessment centres is where things may vary slightly. Once invited in, you’ll most likely kick off the day with a Partner Interview so get ready to tackle questions like “Why EY and not any of the other Big4? Why Audit? When have you worked in a team? Ever had to motivate someone? Have you had to lead? Etc.”
Then it’s all down to a writing session. You’ll be given information about a business, the problems that business may be facing and you’ll be asked to come up with solutions and services EY could provide to the business. You’ll be timed and will have to work very fast. Make sure to clearly jot down thoughts and plan your argument before you start writing. Needless to say, use correct grammar and spelling, and make sure your writing readable. The rest is pretty much the same as in tax.
For Advisory Consulting, it's pretty much the same as for the other divisions (see above) for the first part of the application. If successful, you’ll then be invited to a face-to-face interview at an EY office. Your interviewer will be a manager in the line of work you’re applying for. The interview will last about an hour and there will be lots of questions asked of you in quick succession such as: “Would you describe yourself as an effective person? Do you believe in talent or hard work? Would your friends say you’re organised? Do you plan your week?”
The last hurdle you’ll have to face is the assessment day, which consists of a partner interview, a report writing exercise and then a group exercise. The partner interview will be very heavily competency based and will delve deeper into why you’ve chosen EY over the other Big Four firms. The report writing exercise involves a case study where you only have a certain amount of time to digest the information given to you and to write your report. Because you will be doing this will a pen on paper, it is advised that you read the case study carefully, compose your thoughts or take some notes, and only when you have your thoughts organised should you begin to write. Make sure you write legibly as you won’t score very high if no one can read your report! Finally the group exercise is based on the case study you just read and you will have to work with your team to address certain points about the study. Use what you have already written/thought about during your report writing exercise as the interviewers won’t know at this point anything about your report. In the group exercise they are looking for people who take the lead, but who let their colleagues have equal time to speak and make their points heard.
Consultants at EY are constantly challenged and have the chance to tackle a wide-range of subjects in a number of different countries, making it the perfect place to start or even continue your consulting career.
Placement and Internships at Ernst & Young
E&Y offers 12 month placements for current students, as well as popular six week summer internships for students in their last year, and two week work experience programmes at Easter. The internship has two intakes, one at the end of June, and the second at the beginning of August. This represents a great opportunity to gain experience in accountancy, and most crucially, in different departments. There’ll be an initial week of training, then interns are given assignments that first year graduates are expected to do – such as project work and the opportunity to shadow a partner. Successful interns are often offered graduate jobs.
The two week work experience at Easter is for first year students, and involves two days of intensive training followed by a client-facing project. Students that do well are often fast-tracked for the summer internship. In addition, the firm offers a two day course called Encounter Ernst & Young, held at the London office every June; this lets students find out first hand if accountancy is for them. If that wasn't enough, there is also a milk-round event which students can register for, offering the opportunity to speak to staff and participate in an interactive business game.
E&Y even offers its own degree, a BSc in Accounting, Auditing and Finance, in partnership with Lancaster University Management School and The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. This four year course involves 18 months of paid work at E&Y, split into two three month and one year placements.
No. of employees worldwide: 152,000
No. of employees in the UK: 11,000+
No. of offices: 770+
Business Risk Advisory
Good exposure to senior people such as directors and partners, and everyone is always willing to take time out and help you if needed. Great support scheme, I was assigned a buddy (on the graduate programme) and a counsellor (manager level).Intern, LondonHelpful?
Hours depend on client, time of year and amount of work. Generally, if you’re in the office past 8pm then that's regarded as a ‘late night’. The Busy season’ runs from January through to the end of March. That said, in your first couple of years you’ll be doing studying & exams so the whole year is pretty much ‘busy’! In the first year 23 weeks out of the first 18 or so months are spent studying for the ACA qualification.Entry level, LondonHelpful?
The first step was an online application, followed by online numerical tests, then if succesful it's on to a first round interview with someone from HR, then the assessment centre and topped of with a partner interview. The entire process from the application (in Sept) to acceptance (in Jan) took just under 5 months.Entry level, LondonHelpful?
As a first year associate in assurance, the majority of my work takes place either in college, studying, or out at a client’s site. Where you work will depend on which sector you cover (you can request this in advance). The exposure to the clients we work with has been fantastic: As a ‘big 4’, we work with some of the world’s largest companies (e.g. BP, Orange, Apple, UBS, Virgin.....).Entry level, LondonHelpful?
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