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Many paths to the profession: Matthew’s school-leaver story

30 January 2020: Matthew Braybrook has worked in audit for EY since joining on the firm’s school-leaver programme. He tells us about his route into accountancy, gaining on-the-job experience and why there is no right or wrong path into the profession.

Matthew Braybrook

I had attended a state school, struggling with its performance at the time, before moving on to sixth form to study maths, chemistry and physics. I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future but, from a young age, it had been instilled in me that university would be the only route. This was almost regardless of the career path I wanted to take, as most employers seemed to require a degree as standard.

I attended the annual careers fair put on by the sixth form’s careers adviser, which had a vast range of employers and universities – everything from the police force to banking and accounting. At the time, I had never heard of EY and didn’t even consider them an option. I decided to talk with them to understand what they do and found myself drawn to the firm’s work, with client interaction and the problem-solving elements of audit appealing most.

I could join the firm as a school-leaver, only requiring A levels and not a degree. There were also various work experience schemes I could apply for to find out more about the roles available and gain basic skills needed in the workplace.

I was lucky enough to receive a place on the "Smart futures programme" – work experience for three weeks provided by the EY Foundation aimed at giving young people, generally from more challenged backgrounds, a chance to experience the working world.

After gaining valuable experience and contacts during the work experience, at 18 I decided to take the plunge into the world of work by joining EY and becoming a chartered accountant with ICAEW – something I would never have imagined doing when I joined sixth form.

This is one of the best decisions I have ever made, as the work I have been performing has allowed me to gain a wealth of on-the-job knowledge.

I joined EY in 2016 in the banking and capital markets sector of audit and have mainly worked on broker dealer clients. I’ve enjoyed looking deeply into new accounting standards, in particular IFRS 16. This has allowed me to challenge management's approach regarding the implementation of these standards and to have a lot of interaction with financial controllers and CFOs on the client side, as well as a lot of partner interaction from the EY side, which I believe is invaluable experience.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to university vs apprenticeship/school leaver routes – it is what works for the individual that counts. For me, joining EY on the school-leaver programme and studying to become an ICAEW chartered accountant has been a great alternative to the traditional university route. I am extremely proud of what I have achieved so far.