NAO languageNAO, PAC, VfM, HR, FYI, ACA… These are just a few of the acronyms you seem to be bombarded with when you first start working at the NAO. During my first few weeks at the office I often wondered if my team was actually speaking English or some secret language I had never heard about when they were using a lot of acronyms and abbreviations and felt completely lost at times. One of the first things I realised was that I had to get to grips with this language or I would not be able to follow what colleagues or clients say in meetings or interviews.

An acronym is a new formed word that uses the components/initials of a phrase or a word. Knowing that I was able to guess easy acronyms by myself or make use of knowledge I had previously gained; HR (Human Resources) or VfM (Value for Money) are just a few examples.

Our intake received a lot of training during the first few weeks in the office and our colleagues were very patient and willing to go through any questions we had not only in regards to content, but also the meaning of any acronyms or other words we came across.

Once we sat at our desks for the first time, after a few weeks of formal training, the informal language training continued. Everyone in the office is aware of the fact that they are using a lot of acronyms and that they can be very confusing for a new joiner. You are always encouraged to ask if you don’t understand anything or if you need further clarification. No one will judge you if you ask what a certain acronym stands for.

And here I am now, a year and a half later, and I am more and more fluent in the language of audit acronyms, using them multiple times a day myself. But why are we using them?

First of all, it is not meant to confuse new joiners or stop them from becoming a fully recognised member of their team. It simply has practical reasons: When you write an email or talk in a meeting it is just easier and takes less time to write or say NAO instead of National Audit Office. Also, the use of acronyms can make it easier to read a text, assuming you know what they stand for, as the text becomes more condensed and can be read quicker. Also, often an acronym is more memorable than the actual word or phrase and therefore allows us to remember more content without having to worry about details of the actual phrase.

In order to avoid or at least mitigate the first shock that you might have when you start to work for the NAO I have created a list of acronyms that will help you to understand the language we use a little bit better:

Organisations we audit and committees we work with:

PAC – Public Accounts Committee

TPAC – Public Accounts Commission

PRA – Prudential Regulation Authority

FCA – Financial Conduct Authority

Auditor grades and other important roles:

AP – Audit Principal (qualified member of a professional accounting body)

AA – Assistant Auditor (trainee)

AAT – Assistant Audit Technician (trainee)

AM – Audit Manager

C&AG – Comptroller and Auditor General

Financial guidance we use:

FReM – Financial Reporting Manual

MPM – Managing Public Money

IAS – International Accounting Standards

ISA – International Standards on Auditing

Other audit terms:

GL – General Ledger

SoCTE – Statement of Comprehensive Total Expenditure

SOFP – Statement of Financial Position

FA – Financial Audit

VfM – Value for Money

Terms used by accountant students:

ACA – Associate Chartered Accountant

ICAEW – Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales

CFAB – Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business

Other terms used in the wider office:

HR – Human Resources

KPI – Key Performance Indicators

COO – Chief Operating Officers

FYI – For your information

Beware, though, the above is a non-exhaustive list so you are bound to come across many more terms that may sound very foreign to you at first…

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