How I Did It: Secured Articles Training with Big 10 Accounting Firms - BDO & Grant Thornton

The Finance Story

  • Are you wondering how to get into 'Big Accounting firms' for your CA articleship or internship?
  • In fact, today we have Abhishek Garg who shares with us - How he got an opportunity in BDO and Grant Thornton to do his CA articles.
  • He is a qualified Chartered Accountant from ICAI and has done his article trainee with Grant Thornton LLP, Delhi in the Indirect Tax team. Prior to Grant Thornton (GT), he was an article assistant at BDO, Gurgaon in the Audit and Assurance team.

Pursuing Chartered Accountancy

I belong to Bahadurgarh, Haryana. I had no plan to be a Chartered Accountant. My intention was to study at Delhi University after my class 10 exams. However, since I did not do score very well I could not get admission in Delhi University. That is when my family told me to consider becoming a Chartered Accountant as that did not need any required percentage or marks also CA's earn well globally.

The First Step - My CPT Journey. Honestly, I was not very keen on pursuing CA. However, I still went ahead and registered for the CPT exams (1st level CA exam from ICAI) just one day prior to the registration closing deadline.

I wanted to join a coaching class to prepare for my CPT exams but since I decided to pursue CPT at the very last minute most of the coaching classes had completed their portion. Luckily I found a tutor who guided me and showed me the way. I started to study for CPT half-heartedly since I was not very keen. I attempted a few mock tests and scored very poorly.

One day while interacting with my CPT tutor I realized that I either quit CA right away or give my best and clear the CPT exams. I wanted to actually leave the course however since I had already paid my CPT fees quitting meant wasting my parents' hard-earned money. I come from a lower-middle-class family so every penny matters. That is when I decided to at least give my best. In those few days, I prepared as much as I could and went for my exams.

Luckily, I cleared my CPT exams with 150/200 marks. I was surprised and excited.

#MyAdvice: Give as many mock tests as you can and do not get demotivated if the test scores are low. Instead, give your best and give the exams.

My IPCC Journey. After CPT, I was crystal clear that even I could pass the CA exams and become a Chartered Accountant. I realized that the CA exams are not tough, but listening to others results in a mental blockage that the exams are tough. After clearing CPT, I was no longer scared of CA.

Now the next exam was CA IPCC (2nd level CA exam from ICAI. This has 2 groups - Group 1 and Group 2). I decided to give only IPCC Group 1 in my first attempt. Had I decided to give both groups I would have to study for a min of 6-8 hours day and I knew I could not study for many hours.

The first exam 'Accounts' of IPCC group-1, my favorite subject, unexpectedly did not go well. I was thinking to skip other subject exams, but my tutor told me to go for the exams even if I was going to die. I took his advice and gave the remaining papers. Fortunately, I scored well in all my papers including Accounts and cleared IPCC Group 1.

In IPCC group-2, I lost 7 kgs due to overthinking and study pressure. I was so thin that every time I went out everyone would ask me if I was fine. All-day long I would just think about clearing CA IPCC Group 2. I again gave my best and cleared IPCC Group 2.

My Advice: 

  1. Write your answers in a very presentable form. Have writing practice of as many MTPS and RTPs and at least last 5 years papers.
  2. Please don't skip any of your exams even if your friends are skipping the exams. The max that could happen you fail. But at least you will know where you stand and you can prepare well for your next attempt.
  3. Many of my friends enrolled for both groups and later just gave one group however my intention was clear right from the beginning to focus only on Group 1. So be sure of what you want to do right from the beginning.

Starting with my articles at BDO - Big 5 Accounting Firm 

After clearing IPCC the next step was to start my CA articles. When it was time to start my articles, everyone kept telling me to try getting into 'big accounting firms'.

I was not sure if I could get into such big firms and I always told them this – Yaar, naa Mujhe English aati hain dhangse aur naa mere paas reference hain (I do not English well nor do I have any reference to get into these big firms)...But I guess destiny had something else for me.

One day I randomly decided to apply to all the Big 10 Accounting firms and see what happens. I not only applied but luckily even got interview calls. I attended interviews at EY, PWC, KPMG, Lodha & Co, etc till the Partner round however, after that, no one from the firm contacted me. No reply means rejection!

After a lot of rejections, I finally got selected in BDO in the Audit and Assurance Department. Getting into BDO made everything so worth it.

You won’t believe how many times I got rejected, however, every rejection was a stepping stone to success. So if this is your story all I can say is - DO NOT GIVE UP.

"What is the interview rounds for an article assistant at BDO?"

BDO has 3 rounds of interview, which are as follows:

  1. Questionnaire and HR Round

  • The receptionist handed over a page full of questions to be filled up by me (these were not technical questions). The questions were like: Why do you want to join BDO? Why not any other firm? Which field do you want to join etc
  • I guess the purpose of the questionnaire is to give the HR an idea about yourself and your areas of interest.
  • In my case luckily the HR restricted himself to the answers that I wrote in that sheet of paper but one needs to be 100% sure of what one is writing in the questionnaire.
  • The HR also asked me about my proficiency in Excel. I honestly told him – I only have basic knowledge of excel, what I answered in my questionnaire. I remember, the same question being asked to another candidate who was attending the interview with me and she replied that she had practical experience in Excel! So the HR asked her to apply a shortcut to insert pivot table and she was unable to put the formula, she got rejected in that round itself.
  • That's when I realized - one has to be honest when replying to questions. Don’t try to influence HR with false talks, as he/she faces such candidates on a daily basis.

  1. Managers Round

  • The second round an interview with the Manager. This was more of a - Technical round.
  • The manager asked me to name a few Accounting Standards (AS) in detail. I spoke on: AS -2, AS-6, AS-9, AS-19. The next question was the methods of valuation of inventory as per AS-2 (as I spoke about AS-2 earlier!).
  • The other thing the manager asked me was on - Deferred tax liability, auditing standards, statutory provisions in respect of employer contribution to the provident fund.
  • They question us on what we tell them in the CV or while speaking to them. So one needs to be confident when deciding what to speak on.
  •  So friends please do brush through your IPCC academics before going for the interview. Also, be sure about what you are going to speak in the interview as every next question depends on what details you give them.

  1. Partner Round

  • Luckily I cleared the managers round and the Partner round was scheduled 2 days later.
  • The Partner round lasted for only 10 mins.
  • This round had no technical questions. In fact, it was so relaxed, I felt I was talking to a friend. The Partner asked me questions regarding my family structure, my aspirations in life, etc.
  • All went well and I was informed that I was selected.

"How was my article experience at BDO?" 

7th March 2017 was my first day at BDO. With so many questions in mind,  I walked into the shinning premises of BDO wearing my formal clothes. Laptop, ID card, biometric access, stationery with BDO tag is what I received on my very first day.

Along with other newly joined articles, the HR introduced us to our Assurance team, IT staff, Administration department. I got assigned to my first audit in a few days.

BDO Life. Audit life is so cool. Even though I was a fresher and knew nothing about corporate life I used to get so much respect from clients. It was very fascinating at first. Gradually I realized that when you are a statutory auditor and visit your clients getting this kind of respect is normal.

Though I was in BDO for a few months (as I took a transfer to GT in Indirect Tax team) I learned so much on conducting myself well by observing and interacting with others around me.

#WhatDidI Learn: I learned how to speak and present myself in a better way. Personally, it helped in shaping my personality. I learned email etiquettes and how to conduct myself professionally. As months passed by I realized that I was getting mature enough to handle various professional challenges that showed up.

Stipend. An article assistant gets paid well in BDO but that would also mean working late hours, doing monotonous vouching activities for months, etc. But the icing on the cake is the fancy off-sites, the various infrastructure facilities, the grooming, and learning that one experiences at such a young age, makes it all worth it.

I am very thankful to BDO for teaching me the way the corporate sector works.

"Taking a Transfer from BDO to Grant Thornton. How Did I Go About With It?" 

With all the happenings around GST, I had this inclination towards it and always wanted to make a transition to Indirect Taxation (IDT). Through Linkedin, I applied for an opening in Grant Thornton (GT) in the IDT team and luckily got selected. After all the great experience at BDO (8 months), I took a transfer to Grant Thornton (GT) as I got an opportunity in Indirect Taxation.

Generally, big firms like BDO have a very good policy. They don’t want you to stay if you are not willing to. But friends don't take this opportunity for granted, instead, consult a trusted senior article of the firm (who can mentor and guide) before planning to take a shift.

So from my experience, my advice to all:

  • Choose your CA firm wisely. Avoid transfers unless it is necessary.
  • Ideally one should work for at least 2 years after joining as an article and maybe in the last year one could consider Industrial training (IT).
  • However, if you have decided to take a transfer, follow your gut and go ahead. In my case, an opportunity in IDT was something I could not miss.
  • Taking a transfer from one firm to another could also be a waste of time because when we shift to another firm we again have to get familiar with that firm and its culture. Leaving one firm and adopting the new culture may leave you wasting a couple of months.

ICAI transfer policy. The ICAI has a Transfer Policy in place which says – Transfer of article clerks is permitted without any restriction during the 1st year of articleship. There is no restriction from ICAI in the first year of your articleship, so technically you can take more than one transfer in the first year of your articleship (pls confirm). I guess the main purpose of this is to help articles understand their area of interest. Details are on this link here.

"What is the interview procedure at GT?" 

I applied to GT through Linkedin and luckily got shortlisted for an interview. So at GT, there are 4 rounds:

  1. HR Round
  2. Group discussion
  3. Technical Round (Manager ask various technical questions)
  4. Partner round

However, since GST implementation was happening during my time everybody was busy in client engagements and I was interviewed directly by the manager (direct technical round).

The manager asked me the following questions:

  1. As I was from an audit background, I faced the much-awaited question 'why Indirect tax and not Audit'. I was well prepared for this question and replied honestly – That Taxation was always my dream but since I got Audit first after a long wait I took it up. However now if given a chance I would love to take this opportunity and go for Indirect Taxation.
  2. The next question the manager asked me was - What do you know of GST, I replied Composition scheme (like that time, GST was in the introductory stage I read basic things about GST and studied composition scheme in GST in detail). Luckily I was able to explain the composition scheme well to him and he was happy with my answer.
  3. Advice to all: Friends, here again, I would like to highlight, be sure of your answers when you reply. Now when he asked me what I know about GST I said composition scheme. His immediate next question was to explain the composition scheme in detail. So every question is interconnected so reply appropriately.

Finally, I got a call informing me that I was selected at GT. Again I just had technical round as the Partner was busy with client engagements back then.

Interview dress code (for boys). Usually, as per various firms policy, the following dress-code may be suitable:

  • Formal trousers and shirt
  • Necktie of a sober color (can ignore in summers)
  • Well-groomed beard
  • And the most important thing – Be yourself. Don't get nervous or over cautioned. Many candidates lack confidence. So whatever is your background – Be confident (not overconfident and over smart) and that would be a plus point.

What is the eligibility to be selected as an article assistant in Grant Thornton?

  1. Must have cleared both IPCC groups (there is always an exception)
  2. Either should have completed regular college or is pursuing Bachelors through correspondence.
  3. Should have good positive influencing power (if you can influence interviewer, number of attempts hardly matters)
  4. You can get selected easily without reference (at least my experience at GT NCR branch). I didn't have any references and still got selected.
  5. How to apply? They have a very good communication medium. One connects to the - HR, firm employees and trainees through Linkedin or through their website.
  6. I am personally very thankful to LinkedIn as I was able to get interviewed in many big firms by connecting to various seniors/ HR on Linkedin.

"How was my article experience at Grant Thornton?" 

  • The well-set floor, warm attitude of the HR, cool administrative staff and much more, I experienced on my induction day.
  • The life in Indirect tax field is very different from audit and assurance.
  • The deep study of provisions of GST Act, advisory to clients, relaxed work is all that I was looking for and touch wood, I got the same opportunity in GT.
  • I learned the importance of reading my emails at least 5 times before sending it to any of our clients as every word in it carries value.
  • In big firms even though we are restricted to a particular field, but deep analysis and learning compensate for that drawback.

Wrapping Up...

  • If you don't have any reference, you are really going to increase your worth –Yes, it is a bit shocking but it is true. So do not feel bad or sad if you have no reference.
  • Generally, all the HR of big firms are active on LinkedinYou can also contact other articles/ employees through Linkedin and surely somebody will help you forward your CV to the HR.
  • Friends, please take the studies of CA Final seriously right from the beginning of Articleship. I have many friends in BDO, who have a well-planned study pattern and continuously follow the pattern.
  • If you need any help forwarding your CV at GT, I am happy to help.

You can reach him at abhishekgarg141998@gmail.com.

Now It's Your Turn!!!

What is your article journey? Did you go through something similar?

Comment now and let us know.

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