A secondment experience in Cape Town

Doing a secondment abroad has been a long term goal from the first year of my studies at RSM UK. Back when I started in London, the firm was called Baker Tilly, and I was lucky enough to qualify at a time when we’d just rebranded and joined a large international network of firms. Riding that wave, I put my hand up to do a slightly longer than usual secondment.

I’ve harboured a love for southern Africa since the travelling I did before university. A couple of years prior to my secondment I actually visited for a holiday, checking out the city with one eye on a potential future placement. The South African economy is (despite what many of the locals will tell you!) the largest and strongest in the region, and Cape Town is universally acclaimed as a wonderful place to live. So the choice was an easy one.

South Africans have a great reputation for hospitality, and I can honestly say this is well deserved. I was warmly welcomed by the Cape Town team and have got to know a large swath of the office well. I managed to find a fantastic place in the centre of town, so settling in was relatively easy.

The opportunity to see how firms across the network operate slightly differently, but are ultimately working towards the same end goal has been fascinating to experience first-hand.

Differences in work cultures have also been interesting and at times challenging. The secondment has given me a new found appreciation of the impact that regulators and inspectors can have on the sector. The justification for certain procedures, or chasing up variances was often due to regulator pressure, making their impact much more real to me working on the front line. The impact this has on the level of detail in the audit work has made me sit back and think about how we do things in the UK, and whether there are things we can improve on. The whole secondment has been a healthy jolt to the mind-set of “this is how we’ve always done it”, which I think can only be a good thing – constantly challenging the status quo.

Because the office is slightly smaller than the office I’m from in the UK, I had the opportunity to undertake different types of work, rather than focusing solely on audit. Compilation and valuation work has provided both a nice step change to doing audit after audit back in London and has broadened my wider skills base.

The secondment has been a wonderful opportunity, both professionally and personally. During my stay I was treated to a steady flow of excellent recommendations of places to go, things to see, and restaurants to visit. This meant that I was lucky enough to get to know the city better than a tourist or short term secondee, by the end now it feels like home.

I’ve also enjoyed playing for the office football team. Although we ended up at the wrong end of the league table (not from lack of effort!), the chance to meet and socialise with people from all corners of the office made the experience an extremely enjoyable one.

Funnily enough however, the time away has also made me appreciate home. Although I’ll be very sad to leave, the prospect of seeing friends and family again after so long away will provide a good antidote to the January blues.

I’d like to express my gratitude to the entire office, in particular the partner group, for being so open and welcoming. Ultimately I’ve been a guest in your house and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity you’ve provided.

I hope the secondment has helped to forge and strengthen relationships across the network. I know for me personally it’s been hugely beneficial. I’d love to stay in touch and hope it’s not too long before I see Cape Town again.

Sebastian Knight

Supervisor, London

You may also be interested in reading:

The true worth of a secondment experience  

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