Auditing adventures: co-op at KPMG

Nathan Farquharson (he/him) is in his third year of Accounting and Financial Management (AFM), minoring in Economics and specializing in Business Analytics. He gives us a glimpse of working at one of the Big Four accounting firms and the importance of networking as a co-op student.

Work terms one and two: As a staff accountant at KPMG in their audit practice, Nathan reviewed financial statements and company reports. Working with data further piqued his interest in accounting and data analysis.

What has been the most rewarding thing about your co-op experience?

“I really enjoyed working with everybody at KPMG. Everyone was so nice and supportive in the workplace and they’re great people outside of work as well. So, it really helped me enjoy my time there and made the transition to working on my co-op term much easier.”

“I’ve only ever done part-time jobs in high school, so this was the first time I was in a full-time corporate role which was definitely very interesting. My co-workers and being able to get out into the workforce early were the two most rewarding aspects of co-op.”

Nathan posing at the Rogers Centre with the baseball field in the background.What’s the work culture like at KPMG?

“The culture was great, and we participated in a lot of activities that allowed me to meet and connect with everyone. We had a soccer team which played every Monday, which allowed me to meet everyone at the firm and was my favorite part of working there!"

"They’re also very flexible with the location.You can decide where you want to work and we worked two days on average out of the office. It was a flexible, hybrid environment. Sometimes we would work out of our clients’ office spaces and sometimes in our own office in Hamilton, but if I couldn't go into the office during a particular week then that was never a problem."

What do you like about accounting?

“I like how the numbers tell a story. I've been doing it since grade 10 and there's a lot of information to be found in your financial statements and all your data. You can understand what's going on at a company or what somebody's doing based on their financial statements and accounting.”

“Getting a good understanding of the business from a financial perspective and being able to relate the finances to real-world scenarios is interesting. Working back from that is like saying “Oh, this is what we can see in the statements which means this is what’s happening in the business right now” is appealing to me. It's like a little puzzle that you're trying to figure out, especially in auditing. You're looking to confirm facts in the financials and so it's like searching for a needle in a haystack.”

What’s one challenge you’ve faced during your co-op?

“It was a little bit of a culture shock, for sure. In school you're only responsible for yourself and your own work for the most part, outside of group projects. As soon as you get to co-op, everyone's relying on you because you are part of the team.”

“So, transitioning from the mindset of doing things on my own time to dedicating time towards tasks and learning to be reliant on other people was challenging.”

What advice do you have for students seeking a co-op at KPMG?

“Working at one of the Big Four has been really rewarding. KPMG hired me in my first work term and invested in building my skills on the job. I felt like a part of the team since day one. A lot of other students talked about the Big Four as a place to build your skills, I really agree with that. I have been exposed to the accounting process and a good business background so I can find what I’m passionate about in the field of AFM.”

“I know the skills I have learned at KPMG are transferable to other experiences I might have in the future. That’s the great thing about accounting and finance. I really recommend KPMG as I’ve built a really good foundation here that I can build on moving forward.”

“Early recruitment for the Big Four is important, as is trying to network by reaching out to a few people within the organization. It makes your chances of getting hired go up a lot. It's a little scary to reach out, but you can go to networking events that these firms have and build connections. Case competitions are also a great way to meet people, even though they are a bigger commitment. I believe there is a lot of value in case competitions and that is how I got my role at KPMG” 

Nathan smiling in front of greenery


What’s next for you?

“Professionally, my next co-op term is in January, so I have some time to figure out what I’m doing for that, which is nice.” “Personally, I am going to Netherlands on an exchange term in September, which I’m very excited about. I’m going to be studying economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, which is very cool.”

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