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Careers Guide

Student Success Stories: William and KPMG (Audit Apprentice)

In this article, William shares insights into his journey to becoming a KPMG audit apprentice. Not only does he give authentic insights into the application process, he shares embarrassing moments and set backs he faced along the journey showing us how important it is to keep focused on your goals!

Tell us about yourself

I studied at William De Ferrers Sixth Form near Chelmsford, having completed my GCSEs there before. The A-levels I studied were Law, History and Business Studies, alongside completing an EPQ based on Investment Opportunities. In addition to this, I wanted to cover a topic on my EPQ that I could talk about during interviews.

Professional student success story William KPMG Uptree

William carefully chose subjects he enjoyed as he found it much easier to be successful doing something in which he had a genuine interest

Tell us about your Uptree experience

I heard about Uptree from a good friend of mine who I met at a summer work experience week I did at Freshfields law firm in 2019. Having kept in touch we discussed how hard it was to find other good opportunities for people our age, until he found and mentioned Uptree around Christmas time.

I signed up straight away to see a plethora of opportunities and career advice, deciding to attend the UBS work experience day in February 2020

The work experience day was so insightful whilst having the opportunity to talk to many like-minded individuals throughout the day.

So you're an apprentice! Tell us more!

I've joined KPMG, a Big4 firm, as an ‘Audit Apprentice’ which I began in October 2020.

The firm offers a fast-paced environment with plenty of opportunity for personal growth, great for young individuals looking to get a great start in the finance world. 

student success story William KPMG Uptree desk set up

William's work from home set up

Hopefully when the working world can return to the office, I will be working at Canary Wharf in London. It will be from here that I work with my team on a daily basis to complete audit engagements for clients. Due to the nature of an audit I may also be required to go to the client’s site/office.

When training for my qualifications we will be allocated time off to study for upcoming exams, whilst also learning in between work. The provider for my training is BPP, where I am initially studying towards AAT Level 3 and 4 qualifications for 3 years to then train to become a chartered accountant through ACA.


My national cohort includes over 800 new joiners across the UK entering at a graduate or apprenticeship level to be part of the many different services that the firm offer, including Audit, Tax, Consulting and even digital software engineering. However, due to COVID I have not yet been able to meet all the other people also joining in my office and apprenticeship in person.

How did you find the application process for KPMG?

When applying to top firms in most areas of finance (financial sector, banks etc) there are multiple recruitment stages

to complete before receiving an offer for a position, these being:

  • An application

  • Competency exams

  • Simulation tasks

  • Video interview or telephone Interview

  • Assessment Centre and Interview

Personally, I found the most difficult stage the assessment centre due to my natural lack of confidence yet as I participated more of them, I gradually gained my confidence.

It is important to remember that everybody going through the process is in the same position as you, also feeling nervous about the day and wanting to be successful!

When I was nervous for an assessment centre, I would try and constantly focus on changing that nervousness with excitement to prove to the firm why I would be an asset.

The process I found easiest was the application stage due to only inputting data. You are under no time obligation so make sure you do not rush this stage and take your time.

Ensure that you read through the application thoroughly before sending it off

Check for spelling mistakes or missed sections as they could be detrimental to your success in passing the stage.

Make sure you research the company you are applying for, knowing their values as well as what makes them different from other firms.

I would also suggest thinking about how your experiences and hobbies relate to the skillset they may be looking for, alongside with what separates you from all of the other candidates. 

student success story William KPMG Uptree cycling

One of William's hobbies!

Did your application process go smoothly?

Actually, there was an embarrassing moment! At one assessment day I attended in late December for a different company we had completed all the morning tasks and were being given lunch by the firm. We had the opportunity to discuss with a few partners, asking any questions we had about them and the company.

On the table, in the centre, were glass bottles filled with water, the type with the metal mechanism you have to push to take off the rubber top. I stepped aside from conversation to pour myself a glass of water and as I opened the glass bottle a spray of water shot out at me, to then realise that the water had been filled up so high that the pushed in lid had pressurised the water. I turned around in hope of no one noticing, before wiping all the water off my face.  

KPMG do something great uptree

By no means do I feel the journey to getting my apprenticeship was easy, riddled with setbacks and disappointment. From a personal standpoint, I knew it was going to be a big challenge, especially as I had no extensive connections, no great luck to help me, low confidence and self-doubt.

I hate to sound cliché but I genuinely believe the success I had was a testament to sheer resilience and a can-do attitude

The first big corporate encounter I had was at Freshfields and to tell the truth I was terrified when introducing myself to the rest of my peers in the icebreaker I could hear my voice tremor. Yet by stretching outside my comfort zone it allowed me great opportunities for growth and to improve my confidence.

From November to February I encountered numerous “unfortunately…” emails, receiving no feedback at all on how I could improve for the future. Although I found it important to avoid concentrating on the negatives and instead keep positive about the future, not letting the setbacks deter you from trying to achieve your goals.

The irony is that part of my mindset when facing setbacks was thinking about how much better my success story will sound when I do achieve what I am so hungry for. I believed that if you genuinely believe in something then you should continue working for it even if a successful result appears slim. 

Believe in yourself, even if you have to convince yourself by constantly saying it in your head. Tell your mind you can do! If you cannot convince yourself that you can do it, how will others be convinced you are good enough.

I have a little theory to help moments I feel anxious called the ‘Cold Shower’ theory. Having researched into cold showers I found a magnitude of benefits, such as breaking hesitation and stepping outside comforts as habit.

Cold shower theory Uptree success story william

For an entire month, William had cold showers!

I felt that the more that I made a daily habit of going outside my comfort zone, the less anxious I became when facing challenges that intimidated me.

My family now call moments of adversity and anxiousness ‘cold shower moments’ having to stretch outside the comfort zone to grow as an individual. 

Do you have any advice for students interested in a similar career path?

Identifying your goals and what you wish to be accomplishing in the future can be of significant help when looking to enter a career in finance

In order to begin climbing the ladder, you must first determine where the ladder leads to and how this will impact your goals.

Ladder Uptree

Getting work experience is exponentially beneficial when entering a career in finance as it shows great commitment and develops general business awareness. Creating an appreciation for commercial awareness is key, after all it is the environment you will be surrounded in for a long period of your life, making it vital you gain experience to determine whether it is something you enjoy.

Initially after finishing my first work experience, I thought I had done enough and could ease off. Yet I soon realised at a second work experience that there are many people just as hungry for success as you and are willing to put in as much work as it takes. Therefore, it is important to seize every opportunity you find, whether that be in the form of work experience, seminars, workshops, or networking events.

There are many ways to develop commercial awareness, I created this page to show a few alternatives methods of doing so:

Uptree success story william developing commercial awareness

Coming up with a way to differentiate is a great idea to stand apart from other candidates, such as learning excel, being part of a team or running a school economics society. This can extend from creating articles and podcasts shedding light in a particular area of finance you find interesting to even developing a company or business.

Many networks and websites are available to people in sixth form that help provide insight into amazing companies, making organisations like Uptree so incredible.

It is a great idea to keep up to date with current financial news, immersing yourself in the business world by following the news in sectors or companies you have an interest in. This will show the interviewer that you are keen for an opportunity in the finance industry and demonstrate an understanding towards how it operates.

I was particularly interested in funds and therefore subscribed to the Investors Chronicle, providing insight into investment strategies for portfolios alongside understanding a plethora of different sectors that are used to diversify a fund, E.g. bonds and fixed income.

A big thank you to William for his inspiring, insightful article and we will him all the best in his future apprenticeship journey!

Visit KPMG's page to find out more about them and what work experiences they have coming up.