Deciding between two graduate schemes - Big 4 audit or Financial Conduct Authority

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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. You can even transfer to the other big 4 service lines (such as corporate finance or consulting) and have extremely strong exit options (probably very hard to switch though...).

With the FCA you work on policy and regulation of financial markets which is sounds a lot more interesting than audit. However, am not sure what the long term prospects are with FCA experience. I believe most FCA guys move to compliance and regulatory type 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 about a billion ACAs qualify each year, so competition for good roles post qualification must be very high.

So it is a bit of a difficult decision.


Any thoughts / advice would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Xylophone


Note to moderators: I realise I have posted this exact question in the "Finance and Accountancy" forum but thought I would also post it here as I would get less biased answers. Thanks.
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Xylophone
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No one has any opinions?
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Xylophone
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Maybe simplifying will help. Ignore everything I wrote in my first post.
If you had two offers - one from big 4 audit and one from Financial Conduct Authority / Bank of England - which one would you take?
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DeeDub
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The FCA has limited resources and hence it means that graduates can pick up responsibility quite quickly. The exit opportunities are good but like you say potentially narrow.

Big 4 will give you a broader set of exit opportunities but it will also give you a more common skill set (there is something like 1000 people completing ACA at Big 4 each year).
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F4N
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Personally, I would pick the Big 4. I feel like the exit opportunities from that are better (I know people who have moved into roles like MM IBD and MM ER from it). They also take a lot of graduates so you get a large network.

I don't know too much about the FCA.

Congrats on your offers!
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Xylophone
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(Original post by F4N)
Personally, I would pick the Big 4. I feel like the exit opportunities from that are better (I know people who have moved into roles like MM IBD and MM ER from it). They also take a lot of graduates so you get a large network.

I don't know too much about the FCA.

Congrats on your offers!
Thanks! Were the people you know that made the transition to MM ER from audit though?
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AN0128
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(Original post by Xylophone)
Thanks! Were the people you know that made the transition to MM ER from audit though?
Hi, I was wondering what did you end up choosing and how did it go? Any regrets? Would you do it differently this time?
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Xylophone
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(Original post by AN0128)
Hi, I was wondering what did you end up choosing and how did it go? Any regrets? Would you do it differently this time?
Hi I went to big 4 and got the ACA. I'm now qualified, have left big 4 and work in a commercial finance role in the transport industry. I'm happy with my decision - ACA opens a lot of doors and think working at the FCA could have pigeon holed me to financial services / compliance. Also ACAs end up in all sorts of places - it gives you so much career flexibility. I could still even do what I could have done after leaving the FCA and get a really high paid job at a bank if I had wanted to (some of the guys I qualified with got extremely well paid internal audit jobs at banks). Only disadvantage I would say is that most junior accounting roles can be dull - especially reporting type roles - but you can move out of these into more commercial roles. There's a risk I think that with the FCA (I could be wrong) that you'd be in financial services compliance role forever which would be pretty horrible if it wasn't your cup of tea! At least with ACA you have the flexibility to change sectors and then get more commercial role within that industry.
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natninja
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(Original post by Xylophone)
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. You can even transfer to the other big 4 service lines (such as corporate finance or consulting) and have extremely strong exit options (probably very hard to switch though...).

With the FCA you work on policy and regulation of financial markets which is sounds a lot more interesting than audit. However, am not sure what the long term prospects are with FCA experience. I believe most FCA guys move to compliance and regulatory type 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 about a billion ACAs qualify each year, so competition for good roles post qualification must be very high.

So it is a bit of a difficult decision.


Any thoughts / advice would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Xylophone


Note to moderators: I realise I have posted this exact question in the "Finance and Accountancy" forum but thought I would also post it here as I would get less biased answers. Thanks.
Big 4 any day of the week. If you go into FS audit you may find that all of the exit ops available if you took the FCA route are still open to you as well though a slightly longer path to get to some of them. Big 4 and bank compliance teams are big exits for FCA, the big 4 roles (you can lateral quite easily if you know the right people) tend to both be lower paid and more competitive as they tend to be more "strategy" focused than compliance. Would note that regulatory strategy at banks tends to sit in CRO remit and full of risk/ALM people, many ex-B4 and few ex-FCA, as capital and liquidity management are key. FCA tends to be an endgame in itself with high salaries and defined benefit pension.

I would note that it is more common for banking roles to be ex-PRA rather than FCA and the ex-PRA person would almost always get the job at a bank. Other firms without a banking licence are more open to ex-FCA people.

Edit: just realised thread is six years old...
Last edited by natninja; 4 months ago
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