Thursday, 28 November 2013

I am able to Manage my Life: a Glimpse into the Life of an Auditor

"This tea is hot as hell," says Ramanuj Venkatesh. That sums up the sort of person he is: to the point, matter-of-fact, and with little room for facetiousness.

His job, however, requires a little more decorum. Based in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, Ramanuj is an auditor for Deloitte and Touche, a premier financial consultancy firm.

He's not used to people asking him in detail about his profession. Those who work in the financial world often have rather large, unwieldy titles that go some way in putting off a person regarding what is that a Hedge Fund Risk and Asset Management Analyst (for example) does. 

Ramanuj Venkatesh, Senior Analyst, Deloitte and Touche
Reproduced with permission

'I got the best start'

Growing up, Ramanuj loved numbers. "I learnt accounting to go to university. My goal was to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which is the reason why I pursued accounting as a profession," he tells me between mouthfuls of chocolate biscotti. 

"It was really very nice to apply those concepts in the later parts of my studying," he adds. "It was easy for me to grasp it and I was able to move on along with it." 

Ramanuj loved the field of finance, and he credits his dad for supporting his career choice. "He told me: son, get into accounting, study accounting, if you like it, just go ahead with it. If you don't like it, shift into another career."

"I got the best start that I ever wanted."

'Do you have evidence: yes or no?'

Ramanuj  is clad in a well-worn grey tee and a pair of stonewashed jeans. In the background, a coffee grinder whirrs loudly, but six years of working in the financial world have taught him to meticulously ignore distractions such as this. 

He's only too happy to talk about his job.

"What we do as auditors is we meet our clients, we basically get all the client records," he explains. "We check if there is substantive evidence on every single information that they have in their records."(I know, tedious, right?)

Finance runs in the family: Ramanuj tells me his two siblings and his father (extreme right) are all employed in the world of finance.
Reproduced with permission
"We're going to basically see that those financial figures [are] properly substantiated.

"Do you have an evidence for it? That is what is audit. Audit is 'do you have evidence: yes or no?'," he says, his voice gathering fortitude as he finishes.

Ramanuj tells me that Deloitte also reviews feasibility studies of projects to see if a particular endeavour can be carried out successfully in the long-term and analyses financial models of clients to see how best that client can grow as a company.

The tax bills that companies present at the end of a financial year are also normally put together and managed by such firms, says Ramanuj.

'We're here to serve the client'

He tells me that dealing with a client always comes first. "We first check what emails we get from our client and we also go through our pending items, what we have to do for the rest of the week," he says, taking me through how a standard workday at a financial firm begins.

"At the same time, we also need to schedule certain meetings with the clients during the week. We also need to make a note of certain reminders and certain pressing issues that we need to address with the clients."  

"At the end of the day, we are marketing our services to the client, and we're here to serve the client."

Ramanuj with his colleagues. He says that his job brings with it a lot of pressure, which can lead to people picking up bad habits.
Reproduced with permission
Ramanuj is leaning forward in earnestness, his voice clear, his brow furrowed in concentration as he explains to me the nitty-gritty of what he does. His tea may (still) be too hot but Ramanuj is loving the biscotti in front of him. 

To combat the immense stress at work, Ramanuj makes it a point to go to the gym regularly. He agrees with me when I say there are those who live life as though they are married to their jobs. 

His tea is (at last) the right temperature. He pauses to take a sip. "That is the one thing that makes people go into bad activities like smoking, drinking, or doing certain really bad activities that would spoil themselves

"Cases where you have things like peer pressure, pressure where you have to meet the deadline or otherwise you are kicked out of your job, that kind of a thing," he tells me over the clatter of spoons on plates as the rather large party next to us tuck into their chocolate tarts. 

"That is one thing that really, really sucks."

What he's saying is right. At a recent event in London, finance firm KPMG held a session to discuss the implications of mental stress at work.

What is more worrying is that the heads of several financial firms committed suicide due to the demands of their jobs. One such firm, Hogan Lovells, decided to employ a full-time health adviser after a partner of the company committed suicide.

'In terms of a life skill, I am able to manage my life'

Ramanuj brings lunch from home. He says it's a lot more viable than going home to eat. Some days require him to stay well past the five o'clock, when he normally goes home.

But he looks to glean as much life experience as he can from his work.

"Take for instance the normal work which I'm doing during the work week. If I were to put it into a life skill, I would say it really has helped me a lot in managing my stuff," he opines. 

"Managing everything: managing my time, managing my daily routine, setting time schedules, which is very important and setting deadlines, which is most important. In terms of a life skill, I am able to manage my life.

"I've been more alert and more careful than what I was before."

His finger is now sweeping the plate for crumbs of biscotti. He wants another piece, but after what seems to be a short, but sharp mental struggle, decides against it.

'We're not fooling around over here'

As we wind up the interview, Ramanuj says his job is a huge responsibility. "If I am dealing with clients where we're charging in terms of fees nearly seventy to eighty thousand rials, it definitely gives us a huge responsibility."

"It also gives us that crunch situation where we really need to pull [up] our socks and deliver what is required," he says. 

"It gives us the opportunity to be firm with the client because we're not fooling around over here. Along with knowledge comes responsibility and that is the same thing that is applicable over here."

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