Interview with the NBA

For the Dutch version, click here

Krenar Berisha is a self-employed auditor and an ambassador of the NBA. In this interview, Krenar tells us about his experiences in the audit practice and how important the NBA is for auditors.

Can you tell us something about yourself?

I am Krenar Berisha, born and raised in the most beautiful town of Noord-Brabant: Tilburg. Despite the fact that many (former) colleagues have tried to convince me that there are more beautiful cities in Brabant (especially colleagues who live in Breda), they haven’t been able to convince me. I started my student career at VMBO, then moved on to HAVO, and finally started HBO Accountancy at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda. In my final year of study and during my orientation phase, I came in contact with Baker Tilly in Breda through a (former) fellow student. Because of the positive stories about Baker Tilly, I became enthusiastic and started working there at the end of 2016. At the same time, I started the pre-master Accountancy at Nyenrode. 

After my first year at Baker Tilly, I decided to make the switch to KPMG. KPMG, a so-called big four office, is active in the highest segment of the market, which offers a lot of challenges. This challenge finally made me decide to make the switch. In addition to the challenges that an office such as KPMG offers, I also found the personal guidance very pleasant. In your early years, you will receive intensive guidance so that you get to know the profession well. In addition to my job and studies, I have also carried outside activities in recent years and I have been an ambassador for the NBA since 2019.

After a few years at KPMG, I decided to start working as a self-employed person. Entrepreneurship has always been my ambition. This eventually made me decide to continue as a self-employed person. I also had the ambition to start working as a teacher. Since last summer I have been a teacher at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven. I do this in combination with my current work at the municipality of Roosendaal and GR de Bevelanden.

Many vacancies in our sector nowadays require extracurricular activities such as a board year, did you do something like this besides your studies?

No. I did not perform any relevant curricular activities during my studies. A tip I can give here is: start setting up a network. A study association such as Asset can be of great value here. You can build up a network, which you can benefit from during your career. A tip I would like to give you is to use LinkedIn. This is a social media platform to maintain your business contacts/network. 

You just told me that you are an ambassador of the NBA, can you tell me something about the NBA?

The NBA is the Dutch Professional Organization of Auditors. There are currently more than 22,000 chartered accountants in the Netherlands. These are both Auditors (RA) and Accountant-administration consultants (AA). They are all registered in the register of the NBA. This organization promotes the professional practice of the accountant. They do this by, among other things, drawing up rules of conduct, testing the accountants’ knowledge, and providing education. At the end of the practical training, there is a final exam in which the ability to act as a novice professional is tested. However, before you can complete the practical training to become an auditor, you first need to complete your theoretical training as a Chartered Accountant. 

With our ambassadorship, we try to make the profession attractive for students of higher vocational education (HAVO/VWO) and students of higher vocational education (HBO/WO) in their first or second year. We try to introduce students to the accountancy profession at an early age. As ambassadors of the NBA, I have given guest lectures and made promotional videos. 

We do this with the NBA Impact Challenge: a case in which the young people will advise a starting DJ as an auditor. Furthermore, I expect the profession to look completely different again in 10 years’ time, especially looking at current technologies and developments. The field of accountancy is very broad, which allows you to grow in all directions in the financial world. This is also something we want to demonstrate with the NBA Impact Challenge. 

You don’t often see that people of immigrant background are engaged in the accountancy profession, then it’s certainly nice that you volunteer with the NBA to show that side of things.

That is (still) true. Nowadays you notice that, especially in the suburbs, the target group of immigration background is getting bigger and bigger. There is a new generation emerging with many different backgrounds. But regardless of background or origin, applies to everyone: you just have to do your stinking best, and then you’ll get there. Personally, you will never see me use my background as an excuse. I will always do my best and this can only work to your advantage.

To what extent does the NBA give you the freedom to fill in the ambassadorship?

We get a lot of freedom. The general idea from the NBA is: ‘you have been students and know what students think and want to know, so engage in dialogue with the students and show them what you think of the accounting profession. The NBA thinks along with you about the activities in an advisory role, but apart from that, we have the freedom to fill in the ambassadorship. 

Our goal is to give a clear and honest opinion about a day in the life of the auditor. 

Do you think the NBA has an essential role in sketching an accurate picture of the accountancy profession, or do you think the Big4 should play a greater role in this?

Of course the NBA, as the professional organization of accountants and auditors, is indispensable to the profession. However, every auditor, whether registered or working, has to some extent the responsibility to disprove the stereotypical image of the profession. There is not one specific party responsible for this, we have to do it together. What you do see is that the NBA does enough by means of guest lectures, ambassadors, etc. In addition, the big four also play an active role in this by organizing Indoor Days, guest lectures and collaborations with colleges. Because of this, I am of the opinion that enough is done in sketching an accurate picture of the accountancy profession. 

“Being a chartered accountant in the Netherlands is an achievement. The title opens a lot of doors through all the experience you gain with it.”

If you want to go into accountancy, is it a must to take the given path to RA/Auditor?

If you start in the auditing practice at an organization, it is expected that you also have the intention to actually become RA (if you actually want to!). It is also a very select world, as there are only 22,000 registered accountants and auditors out of the 17 million inhabitants of the Netherlands. If you don’t want to be one of them, then that’s your right, and you certainly don’t have to follow the established path to RA. The most important thing is that you do what you like, then the rest doesn’t matter anymore. In the five years that I have been working as an auditor, I have served several clients and clients. I’m always looking for what makes me happy, whether it’s a big four or a smaller office.

I have to admit that the RA title has great value. To a certain extent, it gives self-confidence and appreciation. Being a chartered accountant in the Netherlands is an achievement. It gives a plus to yourself. The title opens a lot of doors through all the experience you gain with it.

What is an employer looking for in a graduate student these days?

Nowadays, an employer looks beyond degrees and grades. An employer looks at the student as a person and whether this student is eager to learn. If you are someone who says, ‘I don’t understand it, but I really want to learn and understand it’, then you are one step ahead. A tip I always give to people who are going to apply for a job; show that you are enthusiastic, dress well, show that you want to learn and that you fit within the team. That always works better than showing immediately that you know as much as possible, because you are a beginner after all. 

It is especially important that you show what your communication skills are like, since in the audit you work with a team on an assignment. Instead of just sending an application letter with your CV, I would recommend you to call the recruiter. This way you can already leave a first impression and also ask to schedule a meeting, which would be a digital coffee these days. You’ll immediately show that you’re motivated and would like to be part of their team. 

What is certainly also important is that offices organize many different activities such as in-house days to get to know the organization. This is a good example to get to know the organization and also helps the organization get to know you as a person. 

Tips for students

The bigger the better. Starting at a big four office is worth it anyway. It also turns out that the bigger the organization, the better the quality. Don’t shoot the messenger, these are several scientific studies that show that the bigger the office, the better the audit quality. Certainly in the area of training opportunities and guidance. If you can handle it, you should at least try it. If after a few years you still don’t like it? Then there are no hard feelings. Take a look at what suits you best. For some, it’s a large office, for others a smaller one. You can see that there is a huge demand for good staff in the financial sector. If you’ve worked at a big four office for a number of years, you’ll walk right into anything. It is a kind of quality stamp on your resume.