The B4&After event has been hosted, annually since 2011 by the Finance Accounting and Managerial Economics (FAME) track at the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business, co-coordinated by Sana El Hajj and Rania Uwaydah Mardini with the assistance of student body representatives, and sponsored by EY and PwC, two of the Big Four multi-national accounting firms worldwide. The event objective is to introduce students to the nature of the accounting profession in a fun and engaging manner and to demonstrate—rather than tell—students what the accounting profession is all about, and to address common misconceptions that typically drive them away from the accounting concentration. Accounting goes beyond boring, number crunching. To this end, B4&After is a student-centered competition that is played in teams of four, where the main competition is a very exciting treasure hunt that takes place across the AUB campus and the activities and assessment criteria are carefully designed to feature the main characteristics of the accounting profession: team work, resourcefulness, time management, continuous fast-paced learning, working under pressure, logic, well-roundedness, and of course some accounting! It's challenging, but thrilling and rewarding too – just like the B4&After competition!
Owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, B4&After could not be held in 2020. In 2021, in an effort to rekindle the spirit of campus life for students, maintain ties to the industry, and after months of preparations and huge collaboration amongst the organizing team, the event was transformed to a fully virtual and green format, and hence became a special edition of the traditional B4&After event, owing to the wonderful collaboration between the FAME track, represented by Rania Uwaydah Mardini and Sana El Hajj, EY and PwC, represented by Dima El Halabi and Reine Nemnoum respectively, OSB's Business Integrity Network represented by Mohamad Abdel Baki; Noor Danash, Reem El-Haj, Nour Abadi, and Yasmin Fadlallah, AUB's Moodle team represented by Ghassan Khalifeh and Anis Jradeh, and last but certainly not least OSB's IT team represented by Dania El Ashi and Hani Chehabeddine.
This year's event created four internship and four mentorship opportunities at two of the Big 4 accounting firms globally, at a time when unemployment rates among Arab youth are among the highest worldwide. They are even higher for females (reaching 45 to 50% in some areas). The event also offered a number of other valuable prizes, such as a one-week workshop with the Big 4, monetary, and otherwise. As such, this event positively impacted the OSB community, in particular, and the AUB community, in general, at a time when positive impact is desperately needed.
Sixteen teams participated and 64 students were engaged in the 2021 special edition that spanned three different phases/activities from May 17-28:
- Phase one. Focus Area: VALUE OF A CAREER IN ACCOUNTING
- Features the value of the (a) accounting profession, (b) teamwork, (c) creativity, and (d) adaptability to different teams and environments while maintaining core values.
- ·Each team uploaded a 3-minute creative video by May 23rd, pitching the accounting and audit profession to the Organizing Committee, which assessed each of the 16 videos, and snippets from the different videos were featured in phase III.
- Phase two. Focus Area: ACCOUNTANTS' TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE
- Features the importance of (a) the different areas of knowledge that the accountant draws on, (b) time management, (c) resourcefulness, (d) teamwork, and (e) adaptability to different teams and environments while maintaining core values.
- On May 27, participants sat for Moodle-based assessments, testing their technical knowledge in accounting, finance, economics, and business management. They solved riddles and moved between virtual locations in a digital treasure hunt format.
- Four finalist teams were identified based on video points and Moodle assessment results.
- Phase three (go phase). Focus Area: INTEGRITY
- Features the importance of (a) integrity, (b) general knowledge, (c) teamwork, (d) presentation skills and communicating style, and (c) adaptability to different teams and environments while maintaining core values.
- Engaged students with accounting professionals.
- The four finalist teams were assigned a case relating to integrity in Lebanon, How can you fight corruption in the Lebanese business ecosystem? sent to them on May 27 - (after phase II results were in). On May 28, they presented their solution before a high-level panel of jurors, consisting of Mr Andre Rohayem, Country Senior Partner and Assurance Leader at PwC Lebanon, Nadim Dimashkieh, Audit Partner at EY Lebanon, Natacha Sarkis, Manager of UNDP Anti-Corruption for Trust in Lebanon project, Dr Lama Moussawi, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, Dr Ibrahim Jamali, Convener (chair) of the FAME track at OSB.
- Eighty-four attendees were present during phase III. The highest scoring team, team 2 (Mohammad Wahab, Diana Farhat, Sara Okaily, and Omar Sidani), was announced as the winner of the competition, and gained an internship with the Big 4, in addition to a monetary prize; and team 1 (Sara Mardini, Jana Mourad, Nabil Mneimne, and Aren Sassounian), received the first runner up position, winning a mentorship with the Big 4, in addition to a monetary prize.
The participants greatly enjoyed the competition and learned a great deal from it about the accounting profession in general, how it is fundamentally related to integrity, and its relevance to our beloved Lebanon –as evidenced by the student testimonials below:
“Fantastic opportunity that we shall always remember…We all had a lot of fun and got to know each other more…The best part
was actually winning our race against the clock and leveling up to Phase III!...We are extremely happy that our joint efforts were fruitful
and there is nothing we would change about the competition. It was great in every way!" says Diana Farhat, team 2.
“Although we lost, it was a great experience to all of us," said Rim Dia, team 25.
“The Big 4 & After event was an amazing mix of education and fun. It helped me develop a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the accounting profession. I never realized a virtual competition could be so enjoyable! I can only imagine what the on-campus experience would be like!" added Sara Mardini, team 1.
“On behalf of the team, we cannot thank you enough for making this event such a fruitful and fun experience for all of us. The effort exerted into planning and organizing while keeping the participants overall experience in consideration was very obvious…Although we were behind our computer screens, we really felt the 'treasure hunting' aspect of the phase, as if we were chasing something physically. Jumping from a riddle master to another and doing our best to crack each riddle at every stop made it a very fun virtual treasure hunt…We believe the way the highlights and results were presented, and the draw and including small transitions like a drumroll really kept the 'fun' aspect in it to combat the event being virtual…thank you for all your efforts in coming up with such a fun and smooth virtual edition, and we hope this will always be a tradition at OSB for students to create such memorable experiences like we have!" said Mohamad El Ayoubi, team 3.
“Phase II was definitely special, as we really loved the riddles and the letters. As for phase III, even though we did not qualify for it, it was interesting learning about the topic of integrity and corruption in the different sectors in Lebanon. It was also nice to have different prizes at the end. So overall, thank you for making it happen even though it was challenging with the current times. Although it was virtual, we had a blast and learned a lot as well," expressed Rawan Bou Hassan, team 5.
“I am a sophomore student, and this is my first time participating in the Big4&After event. I have got the chance to know more about Accounting and Auditing during the online Treasure Hunt while solving the questions, and overall, it was a great experience working with the other group members! I am looking forward to participating in the 10th edition next year," added Bilal Shatila, team 18.
“It was one of the most beneficial events that someone might experience. We as a team enjoyed a lot in phase 1 and 2 even though we did not make it to reach phase III but as it seemed, it looked amazin." Zein El Abidine Moussa, team 8
“Although the competition was virtual, it was an amazing experience to each one of us. We enjoyed it a lot, and we can't deny that it had important impact on our knowledge, teamwork, thinking outside the box, and ability to apply our accounting knowledge when it is needed. Thank you again for your effort and kindness throughout the competition." Nazek Baytieh, team 6. “Big 4 is an enjoyable experience that I would recommend to my fellow colleagues! Looking forward to competing on campus next year! Thanks for organizing such event!" Mohammad A. Assad, team 6.