People: 2003 Secondees
P&A Ambassadors span international horizons
In late 2003, Audit Manager Chris Ferareza flew out of the country for the first time. In recognition of his outstanding performance, his local audit firm had fielded him on a two-year assignment in Chicago, and it wasn’t long before he found himself poring over the financial statements of a large family-owned manufacturing company based in the Windy City.
“One day, this well-dressed man came in the room where I was working,” recalls Ferareza. “After asking me for updates on the audit, he started reminiscing about Manila and even mentioned pancit, his favorite Filipino food. He even patted me on the back before leaving and said, ‘Make good. Soon, you’ll be a partner.’”
Ferareza had assumed that the amiable man was a finance executive of the manufacturing company he was auditing. His boss, however, later pointed out that he had, in fact, been chatting with the owner, Robert Pritzker of the famous Pritzker family (owner of a hugely successful international hotel chain) and one of Chicago’s wealthiest businessmen.
Ferareza, together with fellow Audit Manager Nelson Dinio, belongs to the first batch of auditors from local CPA firm Punongbayan & Araullo (P&A) to take part in its secondment program with its global affiliate, Grant Thornton International. Under the program, P&A sends select senior auditors on 18-month assignments to various Grant Thornton offices in the U.S.
Their job overseas was very similar to their job at P&A, except that the two auditors had to work with the more detailed US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in mind, instead of the more general Philippine pronouncements. They also had the opportunity to handle a number of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance engagements.
When the Ferareza and Dinio arrived in the U.S., winter was already in full swing, and so was the audit season. Although they had little time to find their bearings before they tackled their first engagements, the secondees had no trouble getting their rhythm back.
“When we got there, we weren’t familiar with the software they were using, and they didn’t have enough time to give us formal training,” says Dinio, who was assigned to Grant Thornton Los Angeles. “I had to ask the staff to teach me what they could during their free time.” After a couple of months, Dinio was already the one teaching his fellow senior auditors how to work with their own software.
On one occasion, Ferareza found himself in Birmingham, Alabama working with a big team of auditors on a high-profile engagement. “There were times when I would have to work overnight just to finish reports that were needed the following day,” says Ferareza. He was very happy, though, that he was able to share his expertise in terms of analyzing and preparing financial statements -- skills that were honed in the training grounds of P&A. Ferareza even helped the other auditors, who fell behind schedule, finish their half of the job. And at the end of a very exhausting day, the young CPA even found time to hit some golf balls in a nearby golf course.
The experience is a good illustration of the most important lesson they learned abroad: if you have something to say, make sure your voice is heard. It is a familiar sentiment that has been echoed by many overseas workers. “You really have to be aggressive and assert yourself,” points out Dinio. “Otherwise, the competition will swallow you whole.”
Back at P&A as audit managers, Dinio and Ferareza are putting their overseas training to good use, and relishing the fact that they are, once more, in home court. Asked to assess how local staff stack up to the people they worked with overseas, the two confidently say that Filipino auditors are comparable to auditors in the U.S. And in terms of commitment to finishing the job on time and within budget, Ferareza and Dinio proudly agree: very few people can hold a cand
le to local auditors.
Also published in Manila Standard Today (October 26, 2006) and the Philippine Star (November 13, 2006)