It’s Study Group Day- A Day In The Life of an Accountant

By PRETTY BOOKS ON December 4, 2020
DAY IN THE LIFE is a snapshot of the life of an accountant, taken one day at a time. If you ask an accountant what they do, they will probably tell you “it depends on the day.” Because an accountant’s scope of responsibilities is vast and integrated into the decision making and operations of a business, it frequently shifts depending on the time of month, day of the year, and the needs of their clients. While you can’t pinpoint a typical day for an accountant, there are some days that pay out similarly throughout the year.

Today is Study Group Day. On these days, accountants take a step back from their every day work and shift their focus to the broader accounting world. They discuss case studies, breaking news and trends in finance to better explore the world through numbers.

7:00 AM: I wake up and get ready for work, excited about today’s meeting. It’s study group day, and we’re discussing Wirecard. According to the news, an outside auditor revealed that they were having trouble identifying some money in one or two of Wirecard’s bank accounts. Up to 1.9 billion dollars is unaccounted for. I’ve been following this story for a week now, and I’m excited to finally discuss it with the team.

9:00 AM: I arrive at work, grab a coffee, and head to my desk to check some emails. Hopefully there isn’t too much to do before our meeting at 11. I really want to dig a little deeper into the story. The company has an accounting team, a CFO, a board of directors and an external accounting team acting as an auditor. It’s so intriguing that even after passing by so many different sets of eyes, things still aren’t making sense in the books.

10:00 AM: I finish up some bookkeeping work for another client and start watching another video about Wirecard. It details a few points made in some of the other videos I watched last week.

10:35 AM: I peek over the partition behind my desk and ask my teammate if she’s seen the video. I’m so excited to talk about it that I can’t even wait 25 more minutes! “How do you think this happened?”

10:57 AM: I add some final thoughts to my notes and head into the conference room. I am so excited to discuss this story with the team!

11:00 AM: Our senior accountant starts the study group by giving us a brief overview of Wirecard’s history and what is happening. She prepared a few questions for us to think about to steer our discussion. The first one she asks is “drawing on your experience as an accountant, how could this have happened?”

11:10 AM: Wow. This is a tough one, and one I’ve been pondering all week. There were so many people who worked on these books. Between the accountants and the auditors, there had to have been at least a hundred different sets of eyes on the financials at one point or another.

11:15 AM: My coworker brought up the fact that Wirecard’s accounting team is corporate. Corporate is complex. In corporate accounting, an accountant is given one piece of the puzzle to solve. It’s very divided. Wait a minute, that means that these finances were probably completed in a hundred different pieces.

11:16 AM: I jump in with reflections on my previous job- a junior accountant in corporate. “From my experience, you each have your own work to do, so you do it and then you go home. I can see how something might slip through the cracks if there are a ton of different people working on a ton of different things. You don’t really pay attention to what anyone else is responsible for.”

11:45AM: My teammate, who also worked in corporate, added in her perspective of the culture of corporate accounting. “You just went in and did your part, expecting everyone else to do theirs. It’s not your responsibility to check other people’s work, especially not your senior accountant. You just assume everyone knows what they’re doing and that they all know more about it than you do.”

11:55 AM: Oh, wow! I never thought of that! My senior accountant brought up the Nigerian prince scams… The one where you get an email from a Nigerian Prince and wire him some money so he can deposit thousands into your bank account for holding. Apparently there are entire corporations behind the scam, all employing tons of people that probably don’t even know it’s a scam. They’re each working on one piece of the puzzle, not knowing it’s part of a broader scam. Interesting.

12:05 AM: My other teammate brought up another good point. This audit has been going on for years and somehow just stalled. In an article she read, she found that the auditors requested reports but never received them. For four years!

12:15 AM: The reality of it, I guess, is that financial accounting and all of its parts are complex, especially in a large corporation. As a company grows, it’s accounting is broken up into more and more pieces. If everyone is just focused on their own small chunk of the work, then nobody will be able to catch any loopholes. There’s a lot of moving parts.

12:17 PM: Wow, I’m wiped. This was a lot of thinking. Is it lunch time yet?

12:17:02 PM: My senior asks us another question. “What do you think should be implemented to make sure something like this doesn’t happen in an organization?”

12:19 PM: Piggybacking off of an earlier conversation, one teammate said to implement processes for double checking. If there are two sets of eyes looking at every piece, it’s less likely that something will go unnoticed.

12:25 PM: My turn. I think double checking, too, but you have to make sure that each person has the agency to do it. Maybe they could implement some processes that help encourage a culture where it’s okay to ask questions?

12:26 PM: The dreaded follow up question, “how?” I’ve got some on the spot thinking to do….

12:27 PM: “They can try to constantly empower people to ask questions. They can set up a culture that encourages people to ask why or how something works, how it fits into the grand scheme of things, and what it means. Setting up an environment that makes it okay to ask those questions helps create a safety net.”

12:57 PM: Wow. Not only did we do a healthy dose of self reflection, we also imagined ourselves in the shoes of accountants at Wirecard. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad it’s lunch time. My brain is fried and I need a thinking break!

1:30 PM: I head back to my desk with my batteries sufficiently charged to finish my work for the rest of the day. I settle in and start some bookkeeping work.

2:45 PM: Thoughts from the discussion keep wriggling themselves into my brain. I see how things could have been missed, but it’s still interesting that the financials passed through so many hands and no-one raised any red flags. I messaged my coworker to see if she has time for a quick rehashing.

2:46 PM: She responds that she has a few minutes, so I peek my head over the partition and we talk out some thoughts. Then I settle back in until it’s time to leave for the weekend.

5:00 PM: I finish up my work right on time and head out. I get on the bus and immediately start looking up more Wirecard information. I wonder if there are any similar things going on in other companies?

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The information provided in this post is for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Consult your financial, business, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Pretty Books assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon this information.
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