David Lefèvre CA on defying expectations and starting a career in audit
David Lefèvre CA, Audit Senior at COFFRA, tells us about working in Paris, defying expectations and his experience of working in commercial audit.
Can you describe your career journey?
My career journey started in the recruitment sector in 2010 when I joined the renewable energy team of Netsource, a recruitment consultancy based in Manchester.
In 2014, I decided to change career and started my ICAS training as an audit trainee with Scott-Moncrieff, an accountancy firm based in Glasgow, as part of their commercial audit team.
Last year (2017) I left Scotland for France and joined the audit department of COFFRA, a French/German accountancy firm based in Paris. COFFRA provide accountancy, audit and transaction services to German companies and their French subsidiaries.
What inspired you to start a career in audit?
My girlfriend (also a chartered accountant) and I started our careers at the same time in Manchester in 2010, her in audit and I in recruitment. She was therefore telling me about her training and her work as an audit trainee. I did not know anything about accountancy and audit until then.
My biggest achievement was to defy expectations in both my studies and career. I am the first person in my family to have a degree and studied and worked abroad and work in accountancy.
Audit appealed to me because it offered the opportunities to intervene in varied business sectors and interact with clients on a daily basis, gain a valuable qualification and acquire and maintain technical business skills.
Would you recommend a move to France - and what were some of the challenges?
I would recommend a move to France however you should know that there are major cultural differences between the two countries. Working hours are different from what I was used to in Scotland. <
Legal working time in France is 35 hours a week, but senior staff are required to work 40 hours as a minimum (from 9am to 6pm every day and flexi-time is not an option) as opposed to 35 hours a week when I was in Scotland.
Staff can get up to an additional 10 holidays on top of the normal 25 days to compensate for this.
The first challenge is to be able to communicate effectively with your clients and speak their language. For instance, at COFFRA, if one of our clients does not speak French and has a limited understanding of English, what if you are unable to speak German? There are also differences between French GAAP, German GAAP and IFRS that you need to understand and explain to your clients.
Another example of cultural differences is the relationship with food. It is considered inappropriate and impolite for staff to have lunch at their desk. Instead, at COFFRA we go to a nearby canteen located five minutes away from the office which is also used by other employers of the area.
French people will take between 45 and 90 minutes for lunch and go to the restaurant when working at clients, even if this means driving for 20 minutes. French people cannot understand why British workers eat at their desk.
How has your CA training helped you prepare for career path?
The CA qualification provided me with a solid foundation in accountancy and finance and the necessary skills (such as time management and discipline) to work in business.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to start on their CA journey?
I would recommend anyone thinking about becoming a CA to speak to other CAs about what the three-year traineeship will involve - and for further advice.
What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement was to defy expectations - in both my studies and my career. I am the first person in my family to have a degree, and the first to have both studied and worked abroad. Working in accountancy has also been a great achievement.
What are your goals for the future?
In the next two to three years I plan on working on my language skills to improve my German and Spanish skills to a better level. I would also like to work in the United States later on in my career. I like audit and to become a partner at an accountancy firm (as well as help run the family farm) is an objective.