Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: Banking or auditing?

We have four experts on career management, HR and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as Careernomers - experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. So if you have any burning question to ask, send it to and we will get the panel to answer it.

This week, Claudia Cadena, director, strategic human capital management, president and group CEO’s office at SapuraKencana and Salika Suksuwan, former head of recruitment at PricewaterhouseCoopers, currently on secondment to TalentCorp, answer Jeromy’s question.

Dear Careernomers,

I am a final semester student majoring in accounting, banking and finance. I have not decided on what field to join upon graduation as I am interested in both academically.

Based on online sources and conversation with my friends, I found out that:

A. Working as an auditor will be more stressful as it is required to work overtime without extra pay to complete audit work that is always on a tight deadline. Auditors also need to study and work part-time to obtain the professional certification.

B. A career in banking will be more competitive as there are a lot of fresh graduates who wish to start their career there. Thus, most of the banks have introduced graduate programmes. In my opinion, the salary will be lower (because of demand and supply forces) but this will be considered by individuals as a good working experience. Besides, bankers need to pass their internal exams to have the opportunity for promotion while for other finance professionals, study is optional for them.

I am not sure whether the above are correct. Could you please share your point of view for audit and banking careers? I would like to have an understanding of the market place.

Thank you for your time.



Dear Jeromy,

I can understand your situation; you’re at a crossroad deciding between a career in auditing or banking. This may seem like a tough decision, but rest assured both are good options which will get your career off to a good start.

Professional services firms and banks offer good development programmes for graduates, although it goes without saying that these programmes are rigorous. In weighing your options, you mentioned the exams you have to sit for and the stressful and competitive environment you’ll be working in. Yes, this may be the case but starting out in your career is like training to be a good athlete. Being ahead of the race or part of the winning team means putting in many hours of practice, which involve a lot of discipline and personal sacrifices. So in short, both options involve hard work and commitment. In helping you decide, I’ve put together some key points which you may want to consider.

Audit training

You will have to complete professional accounting papers while working as an auditor. In most cases, your employer will provide you with monetary support and time off to study, so this usually comes with a training contract of three to four years. Auditors have “nomadic” working lives, moving from one client to another. This can be exciting, as you gain exposure in various industries and different clients and insight on how these organisations are run. Your experience will be diverse, and you may find yourself counting car parts during a stock take, looking at stacks of money, or auditing the votes in a beauty pageant. Some larger firms have a global network, which means you’ll be able to work with colleagues from a diverse background, tap on extensive knowledge databases and be coached by subject matter experts. The audit training will give you a broad range of experience, and make you more adaptable.


Graduate trainee programmes are another popular choice among graduates. Within a period of 12 to 18 months, you’ll be attached to various departments and you will attend classroom training, prepare business presentations, and sit for written and online assessments. In most cases, you will have to sign a bond, generally between one and two years. Upon completing the programme, you will be placed in a business unit in the bank. You may have to sit for exams, like the professional credit qualification exam or a money market exam, to enhance your technical competencies and progress in your career.

Besides the graduate trainee programme, you may opt to join directly as a fresh graduate. In the sales team for instance, you will have some internal certification programmes for about two to three weeks, with a combination of classroom and online learning.

As you can see, both options have structured development plans and will open other doors in future should you opt for a career change. Whatever you choose, you must have the tenacity to complete the programme. I meet many smart but restless graduates who often feel the grass is greener on the other side. Some even drop out before completing their training contract or bond period. Your initial years are important, and you should focus on what you can learn rather than how much you earn. Your pay may not be as attractive as you’d prefer, but in the longer term the hard work will enhance your earning capacity - as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain”.

If you find it difficult to decide, you may be interested to find out more about new programmes like CIMB PwC Fusion and the Maybank E&Y ACCA programme which give you the best of both worlds - the opportunity to experience working both in a bank and in an audit firm.

So keep asking questions and talking to people to help you decide. Once you’ve made your choice, stay focused to complete the journey.

I wish you all the best.

Salika Suksuwan

Dear Jeromy,

One thing is for sure, whether you choose a career in banking or in the audit field, they are both competitive, challenging and very rewarding.

A career in banking is best initiated through a management trainee programme which is widely available within our local financial institutions. The programmes are generally designed to provide participants with the chance to learn and experience the wide range of career opportunities available, i.e. from consumer and corporate banking to lending, credit and financing just to mention a few alternatives.

You will not only obtain the technical knowledge and skills required to be successful in your banking career, but you will most probably also be taught leadership, communication and many other soft skills that will help you in your quest to develop as a professional within the industry.

You are right in saying that the management trainee programmes within the financial institutions are very competitive. Each organisation aims to bring on board individuals who have the potential to be excellent professionals and who will demonstrate and embrace the organisation’s culture and values. In many instances, not everyone who is selected to participate in the management trainee programme will be absorbed as a permanent employee.

Therefore, it is your performance throughout the programme as an individual and a team player which will ultimately be the determining factor of your ability to succeed. As for the money, most organisations recognise, differentiate and reward performance. You will most certainly be given objectives and targets to achieve, and if you do achieve them, and furthermore exceed them, you will be rewarded.

Promotions are structured and most of the times are based on performance and demonstrated knowledge and skills. Throughout your career it will be important to attend technical and leadership courses that will equip you with the knowledge, skills and abilities required to progress and grow within the industry. Don’t miss opportunities to get involved in projects and additional assignments.

This will enable you to enhance your experience, enlarge your network and learn new things. Most of the time, promotions are accorded to those who demonstrate ability to go the extra mile and deliver results.

Let’s look at a career in audit. There are two avenues available for individuals wanting to pursue an audit career. You may start in an audit firm or you can work in the internal audit department of an organisation. These two options are significantly different from each other and accord you with very different opportunities and experiences.

If you choose to start your audit career in an audit firm, you will most likely focus your audit efforts on the financial field, which is what I believe you are interested in. The great benefit of starting your audit career in an audit firm is that you will be exposed to a wide range of clients from different industries. Auditing financial statements and company accounts is not as simple as just ensuring that the balance sheet and income statements are in order. You will need to understand the business, understand why they do things the way they do, as this will be the only way in which you will be able to ascertain whether what they are doing when balancing their accounts is right or wrong. The exposure to different clients and industries will enable you to develop your technical skills and acquire business acumen and understanding, something which is critical in your ability to make informed decisions about your future career options.

The audit profession is also very competitive, and in order to remain relevant and obtain the right skills and abilities individuals study while they work to obtain additional professional certifications, which will be critical in your ability as an audit professional to progress and to perform certain specific roles/functions. Choosing this path demands commitment and sacrifices as you will need to study on your own, attend classes over the weekends and sit for extensive and generally tough exams. However, having the qualification brings benefits professionally and financially as you will be able to progress in your career, perform higher levels of roles and be rewarded according to your performance.

As I said before the audit career can start in an audit firm, but it can also start in the internal audit department of a corporation. The internal audit role will offer a wider range of opportunities beyond finance as you may be required to audit other areas of the business beyond finance like operations, human resources, procurement, etc. In order to be successful as an internal audit professional, you will need to understand the processes, policies and practices of the respective functions that you are auditing, and this will clearly benefit you as you will learn about the business and its operations.

In the long term this will enable you to diversify and even branch out from audit into operations or other functions within the organisation.

Making the right career choice is important. Give yourself the chance to talk with individuals working in these fields, read about the potential employers that offer this type of opportunities and most importantly choose the career that you feel will allow you to contribute your knowledge and skills the most. Hard work and sacrifices are part of the process of growing and learning. Don’t take shortcuts just to get a higher salary. Money is important, but you will soon realise that you will be rewarded based on your performance, so choose your career based on what you feel most affinity to, as when you enjoy what you do, the chances of you performing adequately and even exceeding expectations are higher.

I wish you all the best!

Claudia Cadena

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of