Deciding between two graduate schemes - audit or FCA Watch

Xylophone
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Hi guys,

I have been lucky enough to receive a big 4 audit offer and an offer from the Financial Conduct Authority (graduate scheme). Currently deciding between both and would appreciate advice.

Clearly, these are two very different graduate schemes. With the big 4 audit scheme you get the ACA qualification, and after qualifying you can work in any industry anywhere in the world, and have a good amount of career flexibility. With the FCA you work on policy and regulation of financial markets which is probably more interesting that audit. However, am not sure what the long term prospects are with FCA experience. I believe most FCA guys move to compliance roles with banks and am not sure this is where I want to take my career. I also think the FCA could pigeon hole you to regulatory / compliance roles at banks - whereas with the big 4 ACA you can work in any industry, as an accountant or even in more commercial / strategic finance roles. But on the other hand a lot of big 4 auditors appear to intensely dislike their jobs. So it is a bit of a difficult decision - should I go for the more interesting role with perhaps worse long term prospects or the less interesting role but with potentially better long term prospects?

Any thoughts / advice would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Xylophone
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Xylophone
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Any thoughts from anyone?
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ACA2014
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Congrats on your offers!

Personally, Id take up the Graduate role with a big 4 firm, the ACA has lots of advantages and you can pretty much move into any industry once you qualify. As an example a friend of mine trained with PWC and now works for the FCA, so there are many opportunities for you to explore once you qualify.

Nevertheless, you must make the decision which is right for you. Do you think you could juggle work/Study?
Also I always think you should go for the option which you find more interesting as you are more likely to succeed.
My moto is follow your heart

Best of luck
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Pipsico
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If you're fine with being miserable for the first 3 years of your working life: go for the audit job! It will all be worth it in the end.


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Xylophone
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(Original post by Pipsico)
If you're fine with being miserable for the first 3 years of your working life: go for the audit job! It will all be worth it in the end.


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Is it really that bad? Hours seem quite reasonable (especially compared to investment banking). And yeah the work is dull, but most entry level jobs are...

I am now leaning significantly towards audit. It seems (that unless you plan on becoming an economist) the main exit option from the FCA is compliance at a bank, which is an awful job, way worse job than doing finance in industry. Plus after qualifying from big 4 audit you can switch departments to something like transaction services or business recovery services, and then you can get some really interesting jobs afterwards (including private equity / venture capital type jobs).
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Pipsico
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I was trained in industry so I can only repeat what I have heard from my colleagues who have joined from practice. They said a vast majority leave audit soon after qualifying, industry pays better and you work less hours in comparison.

Apparently external audit is like a huge pressure cooker. You are constantly travelling, working long hours, face hostility in many cases with difficult clients who don't prepare anything for you so you end up working to meet impossible deadlines as you have other audits lined up...

On top of that, what you learn isn't really that interesting and can get really repetitive. You are just doing a lot of testing and you don't learn anything new after a while.

And god forbid if you have to audit any clients with American subsidiaries or parents... Sarbanes-Oxley sounds unbelievably tedious and time consuming.

On the other hand, they speak of it as a real experience, making great friends and contacts on the way. You are richer for the experience and have good knowledge of the financial accounts obviously, if you want to go down that route. And obviously having a big name on your CV is helpful in securing other jobs!

This is of course just me relaying back to you the opinions from 3 people I know at work (BDO, Deloitte & PWC trained)

That, and the fact that our external auditors (KPMG) pitch up and live in one of our smaller meeting rooms 5-6 months of the year, often in there from 7.30am to 9pm, many of those nights taking their work home with them I'm sure. Not that I ever stay that late, but on every occasion that I do, they are without fail still there. It doesn't look like much fun.

I don't mean to sound so negative.. As I said this is purely just a collection of opinions of people now working in industry, so hopefully someone in practice currently who enjoys their job has a different view to provide more balance.


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Xylophone
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(Original post by Pipsico)
I was trained in industry so I can only repeat what I have heard from my colleagues who have joined from practice. They said a vast majority leave audit soon after qualifying, industry pays better and you work less hours in comparison.

Apparently external audit is like a huge pressure cooker. You are constantly travelling, working long hours, face hostility in many cases with difficult clients who don't prepare anything for you so you end up working to meet impossible deadlines as you have other audits lined up...

On top of that, what you learn isn't really that interesting and can get really repetitive. You are just doing a lot of testing and you don't learn anything new after a while.

And god forbid if you have to audit any clients with American subsidiaries or parents... Sarbanes-Oxley sounds unbelievably tedious and time consuming.

On the other hand, they speak of it as a real experience, making great friends and contacts on the way. You are richer for the experience and have good knowledge of the financial accounts obviously, if you want to go down that route. And obviously having a big name on your CV is helpful in securing other jobs!

This is of course just me relaying back to you the opinions from 3 people I know at work (BDO, Deloitte & PWC trained)

That, and the fact that our external auditors (KPMG) pitch up and live in one of our smaller meeting rooms 5-6 months of the year, often in there from 7.30am to 9pm, many of those nights taking their work home with them I'm sure. Not that I ever stay that late, but on every occasion that I do, they are without fail still there. It doesn't look like much fun.

I don't mean to sound so negative.. As I said this is purely just a collection of opinions of people now working in industry, so hopefully someone in practice currently who enjoys their job has a different view to provide more balance.


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Many thanks for the response. Yes that does sound quite bad - 7.30am to 9pm with many taking their work home as well?! Were your friends in central London? Also did the specialise in financial services firms? I have heard if you do financial services audit (at any of the big 4) in central London you work crazy hours - almost investment banking level - but without the pay! I have heard regional offices are more relaxed though.

By the way which company do you work for? What industry sector (if you don't want to reveal the name)? Am guessing you are CIMA qualified then? Do you enjoy your current role as an accountant in industry?
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Pipsico
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(Original post by Xylophone)
Many thanks for the response. Yes that does sound quite bad - 7.30am to 9pm with many taking their work home as well?! Were your friends in central London? Also did the specialise in financial services firms? I have heard if you do financial services audit (at any of the big 4) in central London you work crazy hours - almost investment banking level - but without the pay! I have heard regional offices are more relaxed though.

By the way which company do you work for? What industry sector (if you don't want to reveal the name)? Am guessing you are CIMA qualified then? Do you enjoy your current role as an accountant in industry?
One of them was based in London I think, but I guess it wasn't obvious for me to ask since they seemed to have to travel everywhere anyway!

Yep, I'm CIMA qualified, working in the utilities industry. I rotated across different finance functions as part of their graduate scheme e.g did management accounting core business, treasury, financial accounting and internal audit. I found it fairly enjoyable - you get quite integrated in the business and it's operations, develop a wide range of contacts and good all round exposure. It's more about future results and planning - cash flow, forecasts, budgeting, liquidity and most of all month end!


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Xylophone
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(Original post by Pipsico)
One of them was based in London I think, but I guess it wasn't obvious for me to ask since they seemed to have to travel everywhere anyway!

Yep, I'm CIMA qualified, working in the utilities industry. I rotated across different finance functions as part of their graduate scheme e.g did management accounting core business, treasury, financial accounting and internal audit. I found it fairly enjoyable - you get quite integrated in the business and it's operations, develop a wide range of contacts and good all round exposure. It's more about future results and planning - cash flow, forecasts, budgeting, liquidity and most of all month end!


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Thanks for the response. Treasury sounds particularly interesting. Just have two further questions if you don't mind...

1. When looking at the senior finance directors at your company, is there any bias towards ACA or CIMA qualified accountants?

2. How are accountants perceived at your company? Are they treated like back office number crunchers, or do they have a genuine input into the strategic direction of the company (at the senior levels at least)? I have heard a lot of things about accountants always playing second fiddle in industry, never making the actual decisions etc. and was wondering how true this was.
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