Phil succeeds at Ernst & Young

Name: Philip O. Sarthou

Course: MSc Corporate and International Finance

Graduated: 2009

Nationality: USA/Haitian

Employer: Ernst & Young, London

Current position: Assurance Associate, Mining, Oil & Gas and Utilities

I currently work for Ernst & Young in London. I work in MOGU (Mining, Oil & Gas and Utilities) as part of the Assurance team and am studying towards the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) ACA qualification.

The main reasons why I picked Durham were the collegiate system and the campus atmosphere. Durham is a fantastic place to study and the experience I had was wonderful. I went to Hatfield College and it really allowed me to integrate and get a feel of British culture and make lots of friends. I can’t speak highly enough of my college experience.

My course involved quite a lot of contact hours compared to other courses. The Durham Business School academic staff were very approachable and being able to speak to those that had written the theory we were applying was an excellent experience. I always felt I could ask questions when I didn’t properly understand something which was very useful for subjects such as econometrics.

Durham University provides endless opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities. I was a committed member of Hatfield College Association Football Club. I also tried out new activities such as the Clay Pigeon Club and learnt how to shoot (not very well though). In addition I was part of Durham University Investment and Finance Group, taking part in the Fund Team. This was great fun while also being instructive as we managed a portfolio of £7,000 that our sponsors had provided.

Ernst & Young’s fantastic reputation attracted me to apply. Although I had offers from other “Big Four” firms, I picked EY because of the people I met during my assessment centre. I felt that it was an environment in which I could really learn and grow to be an exceptional professional. Finally, EY is, in my opinion, the most internationally integrated “Big Four” firm, especially thanks to the EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa Area) structure. Having an international background myself, I found that particularly interesting.

As an audit associate I spend most of my time ensuring that the financial statements of my clients show a true and fair view of their financial position and performance. The first year was quite intense as you are thrown in the deep end and have to juggle work and studying. However, the second year is much more enjoyable as you start to gain a better understanding of what you do and get the opportunity to take on more challenging work as you audit more challenging accounts and get involved in the actual planning of the audit.

My experience at Durham helped as it meant that I had a much better understanding of the cultural habits in this country. Also, because Ernst & Young is very keen on hiring Durham graduates, I have met quite a few Durham alumni here and this has helped me develop my network further. In addition, the theoretical knowledge that I acquired as part of my degree has helped me understand the bigger picture and how the work that I perform fits into our audit strategy. Overall my Durham experience provided me with strong evidence for the rigorous selection process which included a first interview, assessment centre and a final partner interview.

I advise current students to get involved in as much as possible and to make the most of their free time because you’ll miss that when you start work! Getting any sort of experience managing something is very useful when it comes to graduate applications, so I would definitely recommend leading a society of some kind.

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