Audit locations are not always glamorous – you can be working pretty much anywhere from a corporate city centre office to a small town in the middle of nowhere. I was lucky to have the chance to work on an international audit for the United Nations agency, Office for the Coordination of Human Rights, in Geneva for two weeks. The NAO is currently part of the UN’s Board of Auditors for a six-year term with the Chinese and Tanzanian audit offices, which gives trainees exciting opportunities to do UN work. I was with a team of three others, two of whom had just returned the previous week from another UN office in New York.

This was a really wonderful development opportunity as I was able to learn about a completely different accounting system and work with a finance team who remained enthusiastic and passionate despite a unique set of challenges. The UN use a different set of accounting standards to UK clients so the whole team attended training on this a few weeks beforehand. My role for the two weeks was auditing the ‘starters and leavers’, checking what employees had been paid during their first and last week of employment. As UN employees are based in many different locations, this presented some unique challenges such as working with clients in different time zones and interpreting employment contracts from all around the world. Having studied languages at university, I was also able to brush up on my French.

As it was the first time working on this audit for the whole team and the client operated in a very different way to the majority of the NAO’s portfolio, we had to be innovative and flexible in our audit approach and the way we worked with the finance team. Sensitivity and understanding was often required when requesting evidence from countries where conflict is on-going. For very good reasons, there was often trouble obtaining documents so we continued tying up the loose ends over email when I was back in London. I learnt a lot and was able to share what I’d learnt with my colleagues at the end of audit catch-up.

Over the weekend, we had the chance to explore Geneva and we were lucky enough to have glorious weather. The town centre is small and compact, meaning that everything is walkable. At the same time, it feels very cosmopolitan because of all the international organisations based there. A highlight was visiting Bains des Pâquis, a floating swimming pool and cafe in a lake that served delicious fondue!

Although trainees are assigned to a home area, there is scope to work on a variety of clients. The NAO is full of interesting challenges and if you join the graduate scheme, it is definitely worth being proactive and seeking out assignments of particular interest to you.

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