Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It has been a rather busy few days. On Friday we went to De Montfort University in Leicester which is about 90 minutes to the northwest of London. The professor we interviewed was kind enough to give us a rather large walking tour of the city prior to the interview. There were quite a few interesting sites in the city but much of it was in ruin because of bombing in the world wars. For example, the only complete remaining part of the castle was on the campus mall and was only about the area of a small parking lot. Because of the information we have gotten from professors so far we have began to shift our interview questions in a different direction. We have been getting more focused on ethics and curriculum rather than the change because we have gotten the same answers so far.

Saturday we finally left London after two weeks and began to head towards Edinburgh. We stopped along the way in Newcastle to interview a professor at Newcastle University. Like in Leicester, this professor was kind enough to give us a tour of the city as well. It was amazing to hear about the development of Newcastle over time and how much has happened there. What was really cool was the college of business building. The current building was just opened a few months ago and is massive. We were amazed by its size but then he took us to the former building. The architecture was far superior and was hard to believe they would have had to leave this building. So far it was my favorite city visit other than London. Saturday we also had the chance to go out and enjoy the Newcastle nightlife. Since the city has three universities there is a large student population. However, the people and places we were at were far different than any we had been before.

Sunday morning we resumed our travel and arrived at our new flat in Edinburgh. We literally have a view of a castle just across the street. We spent Sunday just getting accommodated and checking out our neighborhood. Monday we went further by exploring the castle across the street, the Royal Mile, and area parks. Today we took a full day bus tour of the Scotland highlands and Loch Ness. The scenery was amazing on the trip because of the mountains and greenery. Loch Ness was cool but unfortunately we did not get to see Nessie. 12 hours on a bus was a bit much but it was still a good time.

Fred Mear, De Montfort University in Leicester

View from our flat in Edinburgh, Scotland

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Tuesday we traveled to Nottingham, the home of Robin Hood, Sherwood forest, and more importantly, the University of Nottingham.  We interviewed two professors from their accounting department, Diane Bowler and Thomas Spencer.  They were great.  The interview went very well.  It is very interesting to see how different UK Universities work compared to U.S. Universities.  They gave us a tour of the University and then shared their personal experiences with IFRS.  The university is massive with about 20,000 students.  They also took us on a tour of Northampton, bought us an excellent lunch at a fun pub (where we had great food and beer).  The pub was directly across from the Castle and the statue of Robin Hood. 
Nottingham was a fun city, with lots to see.  A great portion of the city has caves below it.  We got to tour a portion of the caves which was fun.  We also got to tour what they say is the oldest pub in the UK(Trip to Jerusalem).  The pub is built into a cave, with the back and parts of the ceiling being solid rock.  Very cool, and the beer was not bad either.
On Wednesday we traveled to Northamton to interview Damian Pickard and accounting professor at the University of Northampton.  Northampton is one of the largest cities in Great Britain.  So, we only did a little bit of site seeing after our interview (the town square area).  The interview itself was one of our best.  The professor at the time of the transition to IFRS, worked for EGG Bank and oversaw the transition for the bank.  EGG with the help of KPMG was the first company to issue IFRS statements when the EU made the transition to IFRS in 2005.  So, not only did he share how the University managed the transition and teach IFRS today, but he was able to speak to us about what he personally encountered at a private company.  He also spoke faster than anyone else I have ever spoken to.
Today we went to Southampton and interviewed Carol Masters, an accounting professor at the University of Southampton.  She was great.  She was able to speak to us about two universities, since she worked at Solent University in Southampton at the time of the transition to IFRS.  So, she was able to give us great data for two different universities.  After the interview we took a walking tour of the town.
Southampton was heavily bombed during WWII.  It is a port town and was the home of the Spitfire fighters.  Luckily, they saved and incorporated a lot of the remaining old buildings/walls and portions of them with the new.  We followed a couple mile walking path along the old city walls.  It was fun. 
Today was also Tyrrell’s birthday, so we added visiting two pubs to our walk(we did have lunch at one of them).    We were pretty tired when we got back to London, and ordered dinner in. 
We are nearing the end of our time in the UK.  We are off to Leicester tomorrow followed by Newcastle on Saturday.  We head to Scotland on Sunday… so more blog to follow in a few days…
Nottingham Trent University-Diane Bowler & Tom Spencer
Northampton University-Damian Pickard
Southampton University-Carol Masters

Monday, June 18, 2012

We had quite the weekend and first day of interviewing this week. Saturday we spent traveling to Snailwell outside Cambridge to visit friends of Professor Miller. They were kind enough to take us to dinner, put us up for the night, and show us around town. We had quite a bit of fun playing in their yard and with their 5 dogs. Saturday was also my birthday so we did a little celebrating and hit a few sites up that I was looking forward to on Sunday. We toured the grounds of the upcoming Olympic games which was very cool. We were able to check out the surrounding area as well as see the exterior of the venues, the athletes’ village, and the new largest mall in Europe that was built. Hearing what will be done with the venues after the games was especially interesting. Afterwards we went to the Hard Rock CafĂ© London for dinner. I think I enjoyed this a bit more than everyone else considering I love the music, the memorabilia, and the food at all the other locations.

Today was packed with three interviews and a fair amount of traveling in between. Our first interview was by far one of the coolest because it was with the Director of Education Initiatives at the IASB (International Accounting Standards Board). It was obvious where his support was but hearing the other information he had was incredibly interesting. From here we went to another EY office in London and interviewed a partner with experience in the transition. Much of the information she provided supplemented what we have learned from our other interviews.  Next we caught a train and headed out to our first interview at a company other than an accounting firm, E2V. We met with the director of finance who also had experience with KPMG. It was interesting to get his perspective on the transition from both the public and private fields of accounting.

We have now completed the last of our London interviews (and thankfully the last of wearing suits for a while). The rest of this week we will be patronizing the British Rail System traveling to places such as Nottingham, Northampton, Southampton, and Leicester. All of these will be university interviews which will hopefully go as well as the first. Saturday morning we leave London for northern England and Scotland so time to enjoy our last few days!
Michael Wells, IASB
Justine Belton, EY
Nick Wright, E2V

Friday, June 15, 2012

The last few days have been full of interviews, travel, and some more sightseeing. Wednesday we headed to our first professor interview at Worcester University which is roughly 2.5 hours out of London by train. It was really interesting to hear more about how different the UK college system works for accounting compared to our own. The university did not actually have a comprehensive accounting major until 3 years ago when a need finally arose beyond its more simple pathways program. Students also only spend 3 years at the university prior to entering their career and classes are not so individual like ours as they are in 15 credit blocks. After the meeting we were given a tour of the university which occupies several buildings in the city including the old hospital. Afterwards we walked the river and checked out some of the architecture which included a cathedral built in the 1750’s. For such a small/medium sized town we were amazed at how large it was and how intricate the interior was.

Yesterday we were back in London to interview at EY. Prior to the interview we went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. Our interviewee had such a diverse background. She is an Australian native who served on the Australian standards setting board, spent 30 years at EY, served 6 years on the IFRS interpretations committee (IFRIC), and wrote a textbook. She had an abundance of information from her role overseeing the global IFRS committee for the firm. The EY office is in a great location to as you can see Big Ben in the background of our picture. Later in the evening we met up with a UWEC alumnus on a 3 year assignment in the UK with Deloitte for dinner. It was cool to hear about how he got the opportunity to come here, how the process worked, his expectations, and just what living here for the last year was like.

Today we had 3 more interviews at KPMG but at a different office. It was definitely more challenging to track all the information with back-to-back-to-back interviews as opposed to our single interviews all week. The three partners came from rather different areas including quality and risk management, banking, and consulting and change management. All were rather involved in the IFRS transition and other roles including consulting, support management, and working on the IASB.

Tonight we are meeting up with another UWEC alumnus for dinner, possibly some more sightseeing, and then packing for our weekend trip to Snailwell. Hopefully the weather is nice this weekend so we can enjoy some more outdoor activities and a break in the interviews before we hit the busy stretch next week!
Stephen Hicks, Worcester University

Ruth Picker, EY
David Matthews, KPMG
Christian Kusi-Yeborah, KPMG
Gary Reader, KPMG

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The last two days have been rather busy. We started yesterday off by heading to Westminster to do a walking tour of the area. We walked past Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, and a few other places. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit them all but we plan on it another day. It was also a little unpleasant because it has been cold and raining the last two days. Today we went back though and toured the Churchill War Rooms and Museum. Here we saw where many of the critical decisions and intel from WWII went. The history was definitely interesting, especially to see the war perspective from the view of a different nation.

We also have completed our first two interviews. The first was with a senior partner at KPMG and the second was with three US CPAs on exchange in the UK doing special IFRS projects at Deloitte. We got some similar answers between the two interviews and some rather different giving the varying backgrounds. Given our semi-limited knowledge and views on the topic, these varying inputs have proven to be interesting. Even Dr. Miller seems to be surprised at what we are finding already.

One of the most surprising things we learned actually has to do with getting a CPA job in the UK. Rather than completing five years of school as we do in the US, in the UK you can get a job after just a year of general education essentially. You could have real accounting background and still get a job. You would then spend three years at university getting trained and then another three years on the job getting specialized field training before taking their exams. Essentially, all trial by fire. In one interview it was mentioned one partner had a PhD in genetics prior to starting at Deloitte. Another had a degree in Greek philosophy. Really strange to hear it done this way.

Tonight we are off to celebrate Carol’s birthday and wander London some more. Tomorrow we are heading to a university outside of town to interview our first professor. Hopefully the sun is shining again and we can enjoy the outdoors when we get back!