On secondment – Didzis Berzins

Didzis Berzins, senior accountant, PwC, Melbourne, Australia

Although qualifying with a Bachelor of Finance degree from the Banking Institution of Higher Education, Didzis began his career at an IT system installation company. He soon moved on and took up a three-month internship in the Bank of Latvia’s International Department, which manages the bank’s relationship with international financial organisations, foreign central banks, and foreign governments.

‘I had to prepare a report on the workings of the IMF for bank staff,’ explains Didzis. The internship led to the offer of a permanent job – which Didzis turned down. ‘The internship showed me what it was like working for a government‑related institution. The job was well paid but low key – if I stayed longer I was worried I would never leave. At that time, when I was 21, I needed something more challenging and dynamic, and so I moved to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Latvia, as a junior financial auditor.’

The ACCA Qualification is compulsory for all PwC Latvia auditors, and employees are sponsored through their studies by the firm. ‘I became an ACCA student in my second year at PwC,’ says Didzis, ‘and soon realised that even if PwC was not supporting me, I would pay my own way through the Qualification because it is so valuable.’

After two years at PwC, Didzis needed another challenge: ‘I knew that PwC offered secondments overseas, and so decided to take up the opportunity before family commitments might make things more difficult. To my surprise, four months after deciding to move (in July 2006) I found myself in Melbourne. At first it was hard dealing with new surroundings, a new language, and new friends, but since I arrived my career has progressed relatively quickly; after six months I was promoted to accountant 2, and shortly after to senior accountant 1 and 2.’

In terms of work, Didzis has found PwC Latvia and Australia very similar: ‘Big Four auditors are all guided by the same International Standards on Auditing, and the financial reports that auditors review usually follow International Financial Reporting Standards.’ Culturally, however, things are more different. ‘People here are more laid back; partners and management are more approachable and the client relationship is more relaxed and even friendly, which I’ve found to be very beneficial.’

The nature of Didzis’ audit clients has also changed – from Latvian retail, timber, advertising and banking firms to Australian investment funds, fund managers and fund administrators, many with significantly greater turnover and net asset value. As senior accountant, Didzis is now involved in all stages of an audit engagement, from planning to preparing the audit file for the engagement manager’s review. ‘My time is now split equally between administration, coaching and developing junior staff, and actual audit work in the field,’ he explains.

He is also continuing his ACCA studies, alongside additional training: ‘PwC invests significant resources in staff development, which is one of the reasons why people stay. We have a technical update every fortnight, different compulsory courses every few months, and a week of more specific training before the busy season. We can also access the latest technical updates on our internal knowledge database.’

Didzis is now reaching the end of his secondment, and although he’s been asked to stay longer, he will return to Latvia in September 2008. ‘I know that the knowledge I have gained of Australia’s well-developed investment fund industry will ensure my success in the same industry in Latvia,’ he comments. ‘I also consider ACCA to be a precondition of success and so even if I move on from auditing, I will definitely finish my ACCA studies and become a chartered certified accountant.’


"I became an ACCA student in my second year at PwC and soon realised that even if PwC was not supporting me, I would pay my own way through the ACCA Qualification because it is so valuable"