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    Hi all,

    I've been meaning to write this up as a source of information for anyone who may have to leave the big 4 due to exams or any other reason. I found it very challenging looking for information on what associates ended up doing after leaving. It may also prove useful for anyone wanting to join the big 4 but by no means should put you off. It's a bit of rant as well

    So here's what happened I joined a big 4 firm in the graduate scheme. I worked two full busy seasons. 12-14 hour days for a full five months each. I never really had a problem with the work, most people found it dull and boring. For whatever reason I didn't mind, I learnt a lot about audit and my client during my time there. Got on great with my intake and my team. I got to know many of seniors very well, things were looking good as I was heading towards for my final year of the graduate scheme, potentially looking to stay after.

    I was never really looking forward to the exams. For the first three professional level, unfortunately I bottled them. Despite doing fine in college and mocks, during the exams itself I panicked and messed up my timing and answers. I failed two out of three on my first attempt. One of the exams I was off by just one mark, it didn't matter of course. Policy is policy( they had the harshest), four weeks later I was out of a job despite the close result and support from senior managers on my team. I was absolutely heart broken after giving the firm almost all my time for the last two years they couldn't make an exception being just one mark off. Make things worse it was just before Christmas, job market was slow and new opportunities were hard to come by.

    There was also as mentioned a lack of information here, I reached out to colleagues and recruiters for ideas. I finally took up a role at a small firm for two months before finally managing an internal auditor role at a major bank. It was a real struggle, but I now feel I'm finally back on track.

    My advice to anyone who may go through this, just don't panic. It may take weeks or a few months but eventually you'll find a suitable vacancy. I could have stayed and finished my qualification at a smaller firm but I was ambitious wanting to remain at a large company. Reach out to recruiters on efinancial and linkedin, after speaking to a few you'll find just how common this situation is. Eg( 20% of my intake have been fired or left within two years) Register with two and three and keep in touch with them. There are plenty of vacancies in practice, I even had a chance to go to another big 4 firm on a six month contract which may have turned permanent( but would not have counted towards time). You will find industry roles hard to come by especially if you want to complete your ACA. If you want to switch to ACCA, which I would not recommend there could be more opportunities there. I thankfully managed to find a company who were happy for me to complete ACA.

    I'm still hurting from having to leave my big 4 firm, but I know I would never have got this new job without it. They gave me excellent training and I learnt so much from my time there. If I did ever leave it would have been to a role in a major bank. In that sense maybe it was for the best. I've straight away seen the difference between industry and big 4 which is already well documented. The hours and culture are much more relaxed, exam policy is very lenient as well and the pay is better as well with a bonus too! Trade off is of course not many young people around, you loose that band of brother feeling that joining in an intake gives you and of course the same office, desk and client everyday, all year round.

    Anyway, I'm not sure if this will help anyone or not. I just thought I would post it, incase someone needs help in the future. If anyone has any questions on the big 4 in general or looking for jobs after, I'm happy to help.


    TLDR - Got fired after two years, eventually found a good job and I'm now so much happier!( but still hurting)
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    Which bank?
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    (Original post by Terry Tibbs)
    Which bank?
    Rather not say in order to stay anonymous. It's in the top 5.
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    (Original post by boringaccountant)
    Rather not say in order to stay anonymous. It's in the top 5.
    What so a BB investment bank or a retail bank?
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    (Original post by Terry Tibbs)
    What so a BB investment bank or a retail bank?
    Sounds like retail.

    Top 5 are HSBC, RBS LBG, Barclays and Standard Chartered.

    Only LBG and RBS offer internal audit at grad intake level from my experience though.
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    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It gives me hope. The big 4 culture is relentless and for me the work life balance is too much. Working long hours even outside busy season takes its toll plus the never ending exams. You are right there does not seem to be any leniency or support with exams especially if it is only out by a few marks. Would love to leave but can't afford to pay back the fees and also scared if that i won't find anything else.

    How did you get your job at the bank? Did you have to go through loads of tests and assessments. That too is another stress for me.

    Do you enjoy your new role?
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    (Original post by Kutie Karen)
    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It gives me hope. The big 4 culture is relentless and for me the work life balance is too much. Working long hours even outside busy season takes its toll plus the never ending exams. You are right there does not seem to be any leniency or support with exams especially if it is only out by a few marks. Would love to leave but can't afford to pay back the fees and also scared if that i won't find anything else.

    How did you get your job at the bank? Did you have to go through loads of tests and assessments. That too is another stress for me.

    Do you enjoy your new role?
    Fees are not as bad as they make out. You can always go to HR anonymously and get them to give you a number.
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    (Original post by M1011)
    Fees are not as bad as they make out. You can always go to HR anonymously and get them to give you a number.

    Not sure how I can go to them anonymously. Even simple general enquiry require so much personal info before they answer it. Everything is changing all the time and to me it makes sense if they just address the work life balance and give enough support to help pass exams.

    What percentages of our fees do we need to pay back?
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    (Original post by Kutie Karen)
    Not sure how I can go to them anonymously. Even simple general enquiry require so much personal info before they answer it. Everything is changing all the time and to me it makes sense if they just address the work life balance and give enough support to help pass exams.

    What percentages of our fees do we need to pay back?
    Sorry, I said anonymously but I meant confidentially. As in if you go to HR and ask for a confidential conversation, they can't then go and tell your partners about it.

    At Deloitte it was based on the cost of exams undertaken in the last 12 months, multiplied as a % of the time left on your contract. So if you've done 9 exams and are looking to go at the end of your first year it's quite expensive (2/3 of the cost of 9 exams), whereas if you did 12 by the end of second year it's quite cheap (1/3 of the cost of 3 exams taken in qualifying period). So all comes down to your circumstances, but no idea if these rules are universal so you'd have to check with HR. When I left I paid like £400 in fees, which I made back within a month on the new jobs higher salary.. worth considering if you want a career change, but I wouldn't move if you still want the ACA.

    Of course the other option is to just throw an exam and get booted. Can be tricky to make the timing work though, and could cause trouble down the way so perhaps not a safe choice. I wouldn't risk it.
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    Thanks for posting this. I really cannot imagine how I would cope working 12-14 hour days... this has certainly put me off working for the big 4.
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    (Original post by HrryWJns)
    Thanks for posting this. I really cannot imagine how I would cope working 12-14 hour days... this has certainly put me off working for the big 4.
    Worth saying the big 4 hire a huge number of grads, and everyone gets a different experience. There's plenty of people that'll go through a big 4 training contract without ever touching 12 hour days. Personally while I was there I had one client (about 4 weeks a year) where I'd be doing 14 hour days Mon-Thurs, but the rest of the year my hours were very reasonable. Some others get absolutely rinsed on hours year round. It's mostly luck of the draw depending on which clients you get put on.
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    (Original post by M1011)
    Worth saying the big 4 hire a huge number of grads, and everyone gets a different experience. There's plenty of people that'll go through a big 4 training contract without ever touching 12 hour days. Personally while I was there I had one client (about 4 weeks a year) where I'd be doing 14 hour days Mon-Thurs, but the rest of the year my hours were very reasonable. Some others get absolutely rinsed on hours year round. It's mostly luck of the draw depending on which clients you get put on.
    I'd second this. I work in a regional big 4 office in audit and have only had one client where I was doing 11 hour days, 3/4 days of the week for 2 weeks. This wasn't even in 'busy season'. The rest of the time I've been doing just over my contracted hours every week (realistically, you'll almost always charge more than your contracted hours for the week- but only by 3/4/5 hours. The horror stories seem to come from London financial services audit. Outside of that it's pretty vanilla...
 
 
 
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