A day in the life of an audit senior

LAURA RADUS, AUDIT SENIOR

When did you join Hood & Strong?

A little over five years ago. I joined from another firm as a senior with experience in Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Since I started, I have been working closely with many of our education and nonprofit clients on their ERISA plans (employee benefit plans) and financial statement audits. This includes their 401k or their 403B plans, which is basically a 401k for a nonprofit organization.

How is your current team structured; who reports to you and to whom do you report?

I am currently an audit senior at the firm. The way our teams are structured are based on the size and scope of our audits. Each of our client audits could range from one to two weeks, or up to four weeks if it’s a longer engagement. ERISA plans are usually one week, while the nonprofit clients are usually two weeks.

For longer audits, I work with a partner and a supervisor or manager, and I may have one to two staff that work with me to help me with the testing, while I do the more higher-level work papers and financial statements. If they are smaller audits, it could be just a partner or manager and myself. It also depends on if it’s a nonprofit organization or an ERISA client because I’m part of both audit groups.

What do you like about working at Hood & Strong?

Aside from the great team members that I work with at the firm, it’s the variety of clients. I enjoy meeting new people and seeing the different work that they do for the community. My audits usually take me all around the Bay Area. I have clients based in San Francisco, East Bay, Silicon Valley and the Peninsula.

What’s the day-to-day activity breakdown of your current position? How has it altered due to COVID?

I usually work one-to-two weeks on an audit file from start to finish. What I normally do at the beginning of each audit is go through the high-risk areas in the file and first complete those workpapers and testing areas, so that I have all the questions out to the client before the second week. Then, I can get started on the financial statements, so that deliverables are done by the dates that they’re expected.

Besides the fact that we are not on site with the client, a lot of our work has always been done remotely. The biggest adjustment is not being able to talk with my team face-to-face during these audit engagements. Now, we share screens on Microsoft Teams, and together we look at workpapers, and I show them how different workpapers flow and their purpose, and walk them through any challenges that they may not have seen before. We collaborate this way to work together, whereas you may feel like you’re working alone if everything is done solely through email.

What other responsibilities or committees have you taken on, on top of your current role at the firm?

I have been asked to lead the new hire training for the ERISA group, so I’m developing a training packet for that. I also recently earned my Intermediate Employee Benefit Plans Audit Certificate issued by Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), which shows that I have expertise and competency in the ERISA field.

What led you to seek this additional opportunity?

I had initially talked about it to one of the audit partners a year ago because of the work that I do for ERISA. The firm sponsored the test, and they worked with me to free up my schedule to ensure I had enough time to study and take the test. AICPA recommends 13 hours of CPE, and the exam itself is 100 questions timed at three and a half hours. Especially with my current workload, and the schedule I have with my kids at home, I was thankful that the firm helped adjust things to accommodate for this advancement opportunity.

How has Hood & Strong adapted and remained flexible to ensure that team members are equipped to perform efficiently and effectively while remote? Or during a time like COVID?

COVID-19 has definitely been challenging for our team members for different reasons. We do our part to remain communicative about our schedules so that we can work together and cover each other whenever we need time away for our personal engagements. It’s been a learning curve for everyone, but the firm has been flexible with our work. I’m trying to help my child through remote schooling. There are a few of us at the firm with young kids, including one of the partners I work directly with, so I don’t feel alone.

How often do you communicate with your managers and/or the team members that work under you? What innovative ways have you been able to stay connected with your team during COVID?

I communicate with my team daily and provide updates a few times during the week to my manager. Because we aren’t together in-person, I make it a point to check-in with my team regularly to ensure that they feel empowered to reach out and ask questions if they have any concerns. We use Microsoft Teams to communicate, utilizing their chat, call and share screen features to review documents that we would usually view in-person, side-by-side.

As an audit group, we have been connecting every couple of weeks to hang out and play games virtually, which has been fun. We’ve set up scavenger hunts, poker and bingo nights, so that we have the opportunities to keep in touch with our team outside of the day-to-day work activities.

What does success look like for you? 

Success is turning in a great work product and fostering a healthy work environment and team. Having this environment is important in order to provide teachable moments as an in-charge and mentor.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to advance their career at Hood & Strong?

Be proactive. Figure out what you would like to be doing and set the goals to achieve them. Listen to your mentors and take their advice. Learn from the feedback that you receive, and always look for ways to add value.