Millennial interviews: the audit director

This week CCH Daily talks to Joe Aswani, an audit director in BDO’s London office, on the struggles of being a trainee, his unique role in audit and how he gets to travel the world

Joe Aswani, 30, is a director in BDO’s London audit team. He joined BDO in 2006 from one of the firm’s trainee recruitment programmes where he achieved his ACA qualification. Joe then went on to build and develop a business line within BDO’s audit stream which is based around international operations and compliance. He runs a team which delivers worldwide compliance services, through one point of contact being BDO London, providing clients with both cost and time efficiencies.

What made you go into audit?

I joined BDO’s school leaver programme 11 years ago, before they became trendy, so they were not readily advertised. I was in an A-level economic class and my tutor brought in someone from the local BDO office to try and explain the relevance of what we were learning and how it impacted the real world.

I went to a school that pushed students towards going to university but this was the first time a firm looked to be giving 17 year olds a choice other than university. I went home and did a bit of research around what BDO were offering, the role and the experience I would be getting.

Do you have any regrets?

Now, absolutely not, however when I was a school leaver and studying for my ACA, all my friends were coming back from university for their holiday, which at the time was very difficult. After a year of working with businesses, earning a salary and generally getting experience I realised I had done the right thing.

If I had gone to university I would have graduated at the same time that Lehman Brothers went bust, therefore a lot of my friends who had taken the university route found it difficult to get onto the ACA scheme whereas I was already approaching management level.

What is the toughest challenge you have faced?

During the recession we went through a restructuring which impacted all levels. I had to spread myself across a number of different areas which really stretched me and it felt very sink or swim at the time. This experience taught me how to make decisions and support team members who then looked to me as a senior. It was definitely a struggle but it was a good experience.

What is your dream role?

Over the last 18 months I have started leading a team. I was given the chance to create and develop a business line over the last three to four years which BDO have supported. We have gone from four to 33 team members in just over 12 months and we will be increasing further over the next year. Therefore BDO is allowing me to create my so called’ dream role’ as I go along.

How did you get to your current position?

I started my training with BDO in my regional office in Bromley which relocated to Gatwick shortly after. After my training I made various secondments into centralised departments, such as our technical standards group, and from there I moved into our retail business and got experience working with US and listed companies.

Throughout this I kept my longstanding clients which is ultimately what has extended into this new business model. I worked alongside a partner when I was in our consumer division who took me under his wing and helped me to grow the business which I now lead.

What is the best part of your role?

I get to travel a lot with the type of work that I do so I get to see new places which I wouldn’t ordinarily go to. I would say I spend 75% of my time outside of the country.

I go to the US most often but in the last month or two I have been to India, Dubai, Singapore and Shanghai. Spending time in these countries and understanding how business in China or India operates makes you more aligned with how people work, which in turn helps when you have to lead a team.

…and the worst?

The constant regulation and review. Also the reputation that an auditor has, we are seen as very boring people. It is very annoying that that is how people see me but it is nice being able to dispel it.

What advice would you give to trainees?

When you are training you have to make this your priority because if you do not pass your exams then that is the end of the line.

When I joined I would have never imaged that I would be doing what I do now, because it never even existed. You have to maximise any opportunity that people give you.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

As a partner in BDO leading one of the fastest growing sectors in London audit.

Are you under 30 years old and in the audit, accountancy or tax industry? Want to be grilled on your role? Get in touch here.

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