Practice profiles: seize the day

practice careers cover

Anna Coutts Donald, KPMG

It’s not often that red tape helps further someone’s career, but that is
exactly what happened to Anna Coutts Donald two years ago. As part of a
multi-disciplinary team at KPMG, Coutts Donald played a central role in pulling
together the Big Four firm’s government commissioned report on the
administrative burden of the UK’s tax and excise duty system.

And her experience shows the extent of opportunities available to
professionals who decide to stay with their firm. Coutts Donald originally
joined KPMG in September 2002 as a marketing assistant in its graduate
recruitment department. But after a year there, the 26-year-old economics
graduate decided she wanted to switch to the fee-earning side of the business.

‘I wanted to do what the organisation does,’ she recalls, ‘and I wanted to
stay with KPMG because of the people.’ She joined the firm’s tax graduate entry
programme, gaining her ATT qualification in May 2004. Then came her big break
with the red tape project.

‘I’ve always believed that life is what you make of it, and I put myself
forward for everything,’ she says, clearly undaunted by the project’s scope and
high-profile nature.

Working with London senior partner Ian Barlow, Coutts Donald recruited a
number of high-profile business figures to an advisory board to help drive the
project forward. ‘There were a lot of late nights, but we hit our deadline of
producing the report in time for the March 2006 Budget.’

After that experience, there has been no stopping the ambitious tax manager.
She has spent the last six months working at the right hand of Loughlin Hickey,
the firm’s global head of tax. During this time, she has racked up a few
thousand air miles travelling around the world, and built up her own network of
international contacts.

But now she is facing a fresh challenge as the only non-partner on the
leadership group of a new service line in KPMG. At the beginning of March, she
joined the firm’s alternative investment group, which aims to provide services
to the rapidly converging areas of hedge funds and private equity.

Lauren Thomson, Horwath Clark Whitehill

A supportive environment and the opportunity to move on to client work are
the factors that have helped Lauren Thomson further her career with top 20 firm
Horwath Clark Whitehill. Thomson joined the firm’s finance department in 2000.
She had considered university but signed up for the firm’s accountancy training
programme after discovering a real interest in her work.

‘I really enjoyed my time working in the accounts department and decided to
do a professional qualification. I looked at all of the qualifications but
decided the ACA was the one I most wanted to do,’ she says. ‘The training
director was very supportive, and the managers and partners were very keen for
me to do it as well.’

Thomson was able to switch from an internally focused role to a client-facing
position with little difficulty, and qualified as an ACA last September.

While training, she was able to take advantage of other opportunities that
came her way as a result of working in the practice. For instance, she enjoyed a
month’s secondment to the firm’s forensic accounting department where she helped
prepare expert witness reports and carried out other research and data-gathering

‘It was a really interesting area; people with legal minds and legal degrees
would be very interested in going into it,’ she says.

Thomson also gained a wide exposure to different sectors. For instance, as an
auditor she worked on the audit of a couple of banks and other financial
institutions, as well as non-profit organisations, property syndicates and
computer software companies.

Now, she has bagged a position in Horwath Clark Whitehill’s tax department.

‘When I was studying I always found tax the most interesting subject,’ she
says. ‘I wanted to get a broad understanding of quite a few different areas of
accountancy, but I always knew that eventually I wanted to get into tax.’

Thomson says there will always be plenty of opportunities for those working
in a practice, but that you need to go out and find them. ‘You have to be
proactive and you have to speak to the relevant people,’ she says. A case of
speak and ye shall find.

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