I am an Auditor at heart

Perks of audit

Perks of outstation audit : Enjoying a backwater ride in Kerala on a Sunday

I was 22 when I cleared my CA final examination and I still had to complete another 9 months of articleship (internship) before getting a job. Everyone advised me to look for jobs on the marketing, sales side, the “business generating side” in banks, consulting companies, insurance sector etc. not the audit or taxation side, because that’s not where the real money is. But I enjoyed auditing from the core. I did a lot of internal audit in my articleship and what pure joy I found in doing new audits every 2-3 months.

For those uninitiated, let me tell you : broadly in audit there is internal audit and statutory audit. Statutory auditors are those who sign off the balance sheets primarily by looking at the books of accounts. Meanwhile internal audit looks at the processes and regulations and compare it with the actual functioning of the department and point out loopholes, suggest better ways to do certain things. It is a very hands-on, real-time way of auditing and I gradually had developed a knack of getting at the core in a short time. But for the world, auditors seem to be a hassle, someone who needs to be pampered with good lunches to get a favourable audit report. But that’s not true at all. Which is not to say that we did not enjoy the client paid lunches, but we kicked some ass on the work side and helped them improve their procedures. I am still friends with a lot of my earlier auditees and I think that says a lot about our working efficiencies.

So then at ICAI campus placement when I heard that Kotak Mahindra bank was recruiting in internal audit, I was elated. I knew I had to get that job. And the recruiting team from Kotak was surprised too. Here they had someone who had cleared the group discussion round and had audit department as the first choice! They did not let me go out of their sight for the rest of the day till the appointment letter was in my hands. So while a few others had landed up in Kotak audit department because there were no other suitable jobs available, there I was, with my dream job. I worked there for 2 and a half years before quitting and joining our family business, but what a great learning experience that was. Mostly thanks to my boss and the head of the audit team. Both of them played a pivotal role in where I am professionally and personally.

So sometimes people may try to nudge you towards what they think is best for you, but you know in your heart what you want to do. Listen to it and do it. I can’t imagine not having that auditing experience and developing that framework of mind. Later in our family business, I found it much easier to lay down systems and establish fool-proof checks in all departments because of that auditor brain. Looking at verbal and non-verbal cues while working has been coded in my brain now, making work intuitive.

Yesterday I was talking to my dad’s friend and he proudly told me that his son is now in the Risk Analysis department of a consulting firm and how he was so above the typical, run-of-the-mill stuff like auditing. And I thought to myself, Really? How different is risk analysis from auditing? Just a fancier name.

Perhaps the pay and incentives would have been better on the business development side. But there is no monetary tag on doing the things you love and the 15 different states of India I travelled to while on audit for five years of my life. A few years down the line when my baby is a bit older, I would love to get back to part-time auditing along with our family business. But that is for another time.


Mentoring : An everyday walk. And Flan de mango – the last of this season

It is true that every day, in every walk of life we are learning something new. Something that you didn’t know a day before, but something that you can’t live tomorrow without. Most of it is self-awareness, but the nudge to move towards that zone of being aware, is an external one. Sometimes I think you yourself are your best mentor; but of-course that would be being too full of yourself. So we assign the ‘mentorship’ to a teacher, a coach, a boss, a friend or even an author whose writing played a major role in your belief system. Positive or negative, they all had a role to play in what you are today and I am thankful to them, to say the least.

I remember, till the seventh grade, I disliked mathematics. And then it changed, because I was in love with my new mathematics teacher. She was so warm, kind and witty, that I had to do well in her subject. And at the end of that year, I genuinely started liking those numbers, and went on to become an accountant. Of course, all the Sin-Cos-Tan is now lost on me, but I knew that these numbers can be manipulated and that I could do it.

Few years later, in the first month of my internship, I was assigned to work with a hated big, fat, snobby boss. He asked me to study a particular accounting standard and would grill me at the end of every day about my learnings and no answer seemed to please him. He constantly counter questioned and looked at me with a cultivated look of hopelessness that still scares me. I was 19, had cleared the difficult entrance test in the first go and considered myself at-least an average student. But this guy, within a week, shattered the very base of my belief. Predictably, after about 10 days, I broke down one evening in the office. And then suddenly, he was like this big daddy, trying to console me, explaining how he was “preparing me” for the future. I wanted to punch him in his gut. I didn’t care about those stupid accounting standards, but I knew that this is a corrosive man, I needed no association with him. I almost managed to stay away from him for the rest of my 3 year internship, and hence preserved my sanity. He has damaged a lot of my friends by constantly assuring them that they are no good. Somebody needs to shut him up.

At a deeper level, in a rougher way I realised that some people will try to pull you down. You have to recognise them and run as far away from them as possible, because arguing with them is just not worth it.

But soon after, I took up a job in a private bank and luckily for me, I reported to a sensitive and mature lady, the VP of our audit department. She soon realised, even before I knew it, that I needed freedom and independence to work my best. Those two years, I was at the peak of my performance, firstly because I loved my work and secondly because I could think and audit in a way no-one had before. She subconsciously ingrained out-of-box thinking in me, by making me believe that I could do it. Had it not been for her, I would have been a mediocre clerk in some bank, assuming that I could be only as good as the person besides me.

Another very crucial role in my mental set-up has been played by Ayn Rand. Basically it felt as if she was talking to me through her books and telling me (in her own words) –

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

Hang on to everyone who tells you that. Because those people are precious. In this dog eat dog world, sometimes all you need is that word of encouragement which will restore your belief in yourself. And yes, the person next to you needs it as much as you do. Go on, tell him that he worked well, tell her that she is right in taking a firm stand, pick up that child and teach him a magic trip, or just help fix that little girl’s broken doll.

It always helps. The ball is now in your court.

Well, the Indian monsoon is almost here, and to cherish the mangoes one last time before they disappear for this season, I made the Mango flan. It is delicate yet robust, smooth but chunky and colorful yet natural.

Flan de mango

Presenting : Flan de Mango first brought to my notice by a friend Jasmine Gandhi on CAL

What you will need :

  • 1 cup mango puree
  • ½ can condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk

What to do:

  1. Dissolve the corn flour in 2 tbsp milk so that there are no clumps. Then combine it with the rest of the milk, mango puree, condensed milk and eggs.
  2. Scoop the batter into four-six ramekins or metal molds.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
  4. Take a large shallow pan and fill it halfway with water. Put it in the oven while it is being preheated.
  5. Now place the four-six moulds in the pan with the warm water.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes till the flan is set.
  7. Let it cool at room temperature before putting in the fridge to cool for 2-3 hours.
  8. Before serving, release the flan from the sides of the mold with a knife and turn it upside down on a serving plate.

Mango flan single serving

Notes :

  • By placing the molds in a shallow pan filled water, we are essentially creating a water bath. This helps provide moisture while baking, so that the flan does not dry up, but still gets firm.
  • While un-molding, if it is unwilling to leave the sides, gently heat the mold on a gas flame before turning upside down.