PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms, which also includes KPMG, EY and Deloitte. With over 180,000 employees and operations in 157 countries, PwC has a wide reach. In addition to co-op positions, the firm hires many new graduates for full-time work at offices all over Canada and the world. As a public accounting firm, PwC offers various services to public, private and not-for-profit organizations. Their core services are audit and tax; however, other service lines include advisory, deals, consulting and risk assurance.
PwC has three core values: excellence, teamwork and leadership. Excellence is reflected in the application and interview process at PwC, which is highly competitive as they search for top applicants to accept to the firm. Teamwork is a critical component, especially in audit, as you will be working in a team almost exclusively. Leadership is necessary, as you will quickly find that others come to you for advice. Additionally, despite the fact that many of our seniors had only been at the firm for two to three years, they are able to provide solid leadership to new employees.
Promotion of learning is at the crux of PwC’s values. They not only value, but expect that you will be continuously learning and improving in all aspects of your job. In order to assist employees in accomplishing that expectation, PwC has enhanced working practices (EWP) and a ‘teach don’t tell’ philosophy that challenges you to think through a problem fully and come to a solution, instead of being told the answer.
My Time at PwC
My co-op position with PwC was in their Audit and Assurance division. This division works to provide an ‘opinion’ on an organization’s financial statements. An unqualified opinion means that according to our testing, the financial statements are not materially misstated. In simpler terms, we provide assurance to users of the financial statements that they are in fact accurate.
When I started with PwC in May, I went through about two weeks of training with my fellow interns and co-ops before being placed on my first engagement. I was located out of the Fraser Valley office but I didn’t actually spend any time in that office until about the July. Training took place in the downtown office and for my first engagement, the audit team worked at our client’s office for about four to five weeks. Being an auditor means you will spend most of your time at clients’ sites performing testing rather than in the office. Being out at the client site with the audit team means you get to know the team members really well. This is a great chance to make connections and a positive impression on your coworkers
In terms of responsibilities and tasks as a co-op student, your main task is to test the validity of evidence provided from the client to ensure financial statement numbers are correct. However, be prepared to learn quick as you will likely find yourself working independently on a section of a certain job. This likely means you will need to have conversations with the client to request additional documentation or clarify documents you are reviewing. Some advice I have for new co-op students is to really pay attention and ask lots of questions during training and continue to ask them all the way through your co-op term. Make sure when you ask your question you have thought it through and have a response or recommendation prepared because, with PwC’s teach don’t tell culture, you will find it will be more of a conversation then your senior telling you the answer. Additional advice I would give is to ask for more responsibility and look for ways to get new experiences. Always be asking for new things to do. If you don’t know how to do them, ask someone to teach you and don’t shy away from tasks that might intimidate you like speaking with clients or partners.
Flexibility was another cool aspect of this role that I experienced while working at PwC. While I was based out of the Fraser Valley office, I would come in and work from the downtown office from time to time so I could be closer to team members for group meetings. PwC also has floater days, and provides designated study days for employees who are going through their Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) modules. These initiatives improve flexibility and give employees time to study and learn as well as work and gain experience.
Working at PwC over the summer was a lot of fun. PwC’s campus recruitment team put on several events for the summer interns and co-op students, some of which were planned by the co-op students themselves. Events included a volunteer day, a tour of the cosmetics company Lush, a charity fundraiser for the Vancouver Food Bank, an internal case competition and my personal favourite, an Ultimate Frisbee tournament with the other big four accounting firms. These events gave me a chance to really form strong connections, not only with my fellow co-op students, but with other members of the firm as well.
One of my favourite things about working with PwC was all the people I got to meet over the course of the summer. I built a strong bond with many of my fellow interns and co-op students, and working with associates and managers gave me a chance to expand my professional network. In addition, before I even started at PwC, I was assigned a coach and a buddy—people who would help guide my development and introduce me to others at the office. Having these connections right off the bat really helped ensure a smooth my start at the firm. My coach also helped find projects for me to work on and went through my performance reviews; she was an integral part of my experience.
If you are a self-motivated, problem solver looking learn, gain accounting experience and build solid connections at a firm filled with great people, apply to PwC and prepare to have a co-op experience like no other!