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Went from Big 4 Audit to a high paying Commercial Strategy role - Ask me anything! Watch

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    I know the feeling you may be having, that you may be trapped in audit (or an equivalent accounting role) for the foreseeable and utterly dire future! But there are plenty of interesting roles/careers out there and no matter if a recruiter tells you otherwise, YOU CAN get them!

    I DOUBLED my salary in doing so and it's absolutely possible for you to do the same.

    I want to share some of the knowledge and tricks I learnt on my way out, so please feel free to ask me anything that will help you get out of audit.
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    (Original post by theswiftexit)
    I know the feeling you may be having, that you may be trapped in audit (or an equivalent accounting role) for the foreseeable and utterly dire future! But there are plenty of interesting roles/careers out there and no matter if a recruiter tells you otherwise, YOU CAN get them!

    I DOUBLED my salary in doing so and it's absolutely possible for you to do the same.

    I want to share some of the knowledge and tricks I learnt on my way out, so please feel free to ask me anything that will help you get out of audit.
    What was your degree/ university and 'A' level grades? Did these help you get the new role or was the Big 4 Audit experience/ qualification all that mattered?

    Did the department you worked in/ client base matter in applying for the new role?
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    Which Uni did you go?
    What course did you do?
    Anything extra you did to put into your CV which has helped you later on in getting into the big 4?
    Was it difficult getting into a big 4? How competitive was it? What was the deciding factor between you and other candidates?

    I feel like I'm asking way too much but seeing how I want to do accountancy and finance in uni, get into one of the big 4 (preferably KPMG) and then become a chartered accountant.....I MUST KNOWWW!
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    ajj2000,

    I did Business at a fairly decent University, nothing fancy. Rarely did anyone ask about my A-Levels, once you have a CA qualification under your belt and some work experience, you shouldn't need to worry about them so much (depending on what you want to go into next).

    Being a qualified accountant at a Big 4 helps, but if you qualify outside of the Big 4 it's completely possible to make a similar move, you just have to play your cards differently. For example, if you're from outside of the Big 4, focus your pitch to recruiters/employers much more heavily on your experiences rather than the prestigious client names that come with a role at the Big 4.

    You've got to remember that there are a whole bunch of accountants qualifying every year from all types and sizes of companies (all over the world!) so you NEED TO NAIL YOUR PITCH and be able to differentiate yourself.

    I actually switched to a completely new industry too (from Financial Services to FMCG), so my industry background was of no relevance whatsoever. If you stay in a relevant industry this does make the move out of audit into commercial & strategy roles easier, however, I was determined to move into an industry I was more passionate about and this shows it's possible to shake things up if you really want to.

    Are you newly qualified? Are you at a Big 4?

    Check out my blog at theswiftexit for other tips that might also be helpful.
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    (Original post by JDieMstr)
    Which Uni did you go?
    What course did you do?
    Anything extra you did to put into your CV which has helped you later on in getting into the big 4?
    Was it difficult getting into a big 4? How competitive was it? What was the deciding factor between you and other candidates?

    I feel like I'm asking way too much but seeing how I want to do accountancy and finance in uni, get into one of the big 4 (preferably KPMG) and then become a chartered accountant.....I MUST KNOWWW!
    Hi there,

    I did business at University, and to be honest you can do pretty much any subject you like at University and still get into Audit at the Big 4. You just need to show you are clever enough to be able to pass the CA exams. It is competitive to get into the BIg 4 but prepare well for the interviews/assessment days and you will do just fine. Besides, it sounds like you have plenty of time before you get there.

    If you wanted to increase your chances of getting into the Big 4 I would suggest getting some work experience in bookkeeping or some equivalent role in finance dept whilst at University. Any experience at all will give you something to talk about at the interview.

    Hope that helps and good luck!
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    (Original post by theswiftexit)
    I know the feeling you may be having, that you may be trapped in audit (or an equivalent accounting role) for the foreseeable and utterly dire future! But there are plenty of interesting roles/careers out there and no matter if a recruiter tells you otherwise, YOU CAN get them!

    I DOUBLED my salary in doing so and it's absolutely possible for you to do the same.

    I want to share some of the knowledge and tricks I learnt on my way out, so please feel free to ask me anything that will help you get out of audit.
    Did you qualify as a chartered accountant? What made you decide to leave accounting? Or are you still in accounting just working in a more specific industry role? What did you hate about Auditing?
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    How long were you with one of the big 4 for? What specifically did you not like, or was it mainly just the repetitiveness of the work?
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    (Original post by theswiftexit)
    ajj2000,

    I did Business at a fairly decent University, nothing fancy. Rarely did anyone ask about my A-Levels, once you have a CA qualification under your belt and some work experience, you shouldn't need to worry about them so much (depending on what you want to go into next).

    Being a qualified accountant at a Big 4 helps, but if you qualify outside of the Big 4 it's completely possible to make a similar move, you just have to play your cards differently. For example, if you're from outside of the Big 4, focus your pitch to recruiters/employers much more heavily on your experiences rather than the prestigious client names that come with a role at the Big 4.

    You've got to remember that there are a whole bunch of accountants qualifying every year from all types and sizes of companies (all over the world!) so you NEED TO NAIL YOUR PITCH and be able to differentiate yourself.

    I actually switched to a completely new industry too (from Financial Services to FMCG), so my industry background was of no relevance whatsoever. If you stay in a relevant industry this does make the move out of audit into commercial & strategy roles easier, however, I was determined to move into an industry I was more passionate about and this shows it's possible to shake things up if you really want to.

    Are you newly qualified? Are you at a Big 4?

    Check out my blog at theswiftexit for other tips that might also be helpful.
    Hi

    Thanks for your response. I'm Big 4 qualified - I qualified about 20 years ago. I was looking through this site as I noticed a real lack of decent advise for people looking to enter or progress with accountancy exams and careers.

    I love your blog! Just had a quick look at it. You write some great stuff - lots I agree with. I think I've made most of the mistakes you write about!
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    I would rather work at the local council on 18k a year than soul destroying audit
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    (Original post by theswiftexit)
    I know the feeling you may be having, that you may be trapped in audit (or an equivalent accounting role) for the foreseeable and utterly dire future! But there are plenty of interesting roles/careers out there and no matter if a recruiter tells you otherwise, YOU CAN get them!

    I DOUBLED my salary in doing so and it's absolutely possible for you to do the same.

    I want to share some of the knowledge and tricks I learnt on my way out, so please feel free to ask me anything that will help you get out of audit.
    What should I do while at the Big 4 to make the exit easier?
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    (Original post by ajj2000)
    Hi

    Thanks for your response. I'm Big 4 qualified - I qualified about 20 years ago. I was looking through this site as I noticed a real lack of decent advise for people looking to enter or progress with accountancy exams and careers.

    I love your blog! Just had a quick look at it. You write some great stuff - lots I agree with. I think I've made most of the mistakes you write about!
    Thank you very much for your kind words! I do hope theswiftexit comes in handy for those looking to shape their accounting & audit careers outside of the traditional reporting routes.
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    (Original post by Philip-flop)
    Did you qualify as a chartered accountant? What made you decide to leave accounting? Or are you still in accounting just working in a more specific industry role? What did you hate about Auditing?
    Yes, I qualified as a chartered accountant on a 3-year graduate programme in audit.

    I no longer work as an accountant at all actually (Except to do the finances for my own businesses).

    Accounting and audit can be repetitive at times, especially when you start out. Although, like any grad role though you generally start from the bottom and have to earn trust before you gain more interesting and advanced pieces of work. The boring tasks generally relate to tasks you may do in your first year but they do have a purpose, and if you stay curious you can take your understanding of business to the next level.

    The issue with audit (and accounting generally) is the long road to getting a senior position in a business if you remain solely the "finance guy/gal", there are much more efficient and exciting routes for you. Furthermore, there are long hours, low pay and a lack of street cred that come with it. There is a high amount of pressure on you to pass your exams and at the firm I worked at if you failed them you got the boot! The environment was fairly toxic (it's not always the case but there are many(!) who experience this and would agree) as colleagues would come and go due to either failed exams or having a real distaste for the work/lifestyle.

    Audit (and accounting generally) can be a very useful stepping stone to getting a top dog role in the future (circa 50% of CEOs start out in Finance). The reason being that you can learn an incredible amount about how a successful business is run if you stay proactive in your job. However, you have to hustle your way out into something more strategic or operational to help you get to the top.
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    (Original post by Kash24411)
    How long were you with one of the big 4 for? What specifically did you not like, or was it mainly just the repetitiveness of the work?
    I was at the Big 4 for just under 3 years. Please see my post above about the work, role and inventive for leaving.

    I always advise for auditors/accountants to move out of the role as soon as possible after qualifying to make the transition easier for you. There does seem to be a sweet spot of 0-2 years post qualifying where there are a greater number of opportunities available to you, but it's not the end of the world if not, it's always possible!
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    how much work experience did you have before applying to the big 4did you do any internships?how likely do you think a 3rd year chemistry student who has a part time job (irrelevant to accounting, but has transferrable skills) but no accounting experience or history is able to get a training contract
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    (Original post by Skyewoods)
    What should I do while at the Big 4 to make the exit easier?
    Hi there,

    I take it you are at a Big 4 now then, are you in audit specifically? What sector are you currently working in, type of clients and what are you hoping to go into?

    In all honesty, breaking out of accounting and audit into something more commercial and strategic wasn't easy and required a lot of work and practice. In particular, I had to work hard on my pitch as an "accountant" - as I'm sure you know already, accountants have the unfortunate reputation of a boring bean counter. You need a game plan to be able to wipe this stereotype off of your forehead when talking to recruiters so that they put you forward for more strategic and high profile roles. They are the gatekeepers for a lot of roles. If you can impress them then they will recommend you and so forth. I've written about this exact topic on my blog theswiftexit.When deciding on what exactly you should be doing now, it really depends on what your current position is and what you want to go into. Then, of course, you take advantage of the opportunities you have around you and use them in a way that's beneficial for making your next transition.
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    (Original post by faith 101)
    how much work experience did you have before applying to the big 4did you do any internships?how likely do you think a 3rd year chemistry student who has a part time job (irrelevant to accounting, but has transferrable skills) but no accounting experience or history is able to get a training contract
    We had people from all walks of life and ages on our grad scheme. Some had a Masters degree, some had no work experience and some had up to 5 years work experience.

    What you study at uni can help you get in, but you can do absolutely anything you like and still have a chance. If you had done business or economics, for example, it would show an interest and natural progression onto something like accounting. Yet, doing something like chemistry shows you are bright and can learn large quantities of information which is what they need from you. The Big 4 and others want to know you can pass the exams which are notorious for being difficult.

    People who studied a language or music at uni got onto the training contract and some of them enjoyed it enough to go on and set up their own private accounting practice after qualifying. The only concern they might have is that you'll not be committed to a full 3-year contract and/or interested enough in business/accounting to study hard for all of the exams.

    If you can show them you can learn quickly, you are an amiable human being and that you have some incentive for wanting to do accounting or audit, you will be just fine.
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    Do you think working in audit at Big 4 would help you move into an analyst position at an asset management firm?

    If so, would you recommend completing your ACA first, even though you'll likely have to start from the bottom and complete the CFA anyway?
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    (Original post by MaisieDaisie)
    Do you think working in audit at Big 4 would help you move into an analyst position at an asset management firm?

    If so, would you recommend completing your ACA first, even though you'll likely have to start from the bottom and complete the CFA anyway?
    I've seen colleagues move into asset management post-qualifying in audit.

    In terms of the skills required for asset management, you need to have an analytical & financial modelling skillset which you may or may not get a huge chance to build in audit. It will depend on what projects you manage to get onto and how you can prove you have built these skills. You can, however, put yourself forward as much as possible for opportunities (make it known to those around you that this is what you are looking for!) and/or start learning financial modelling in your own time. If asset management is what you know you want to do, I would recommend you go straight for it. You don't need an accounting qualification to do it but will need to have some sort of financial degree. Are you set on doing audit or do have an offer already? If you are not set on audit but want an ACA/CA qualification before heading to asset management, then I would suggest trying to get into transaction services/corporate finance at the Big 4 instead. You will have more opportunities to get involved in financial modelling, analysing companies through due diligence and some exposure to the client sales cycles, all of which will be sought after in asset management.

    Another option for you, which I would only recommend if you are happy to study hard, would be to do CFA level 1 after having completed the ACA/CA exams and whilst biding your last 6-12 months of Big 4 employment contract. This will show your genuine interest and commitment. A few of my colleagues did the same to give them some leverage in the recruitment process.

    Another simple way to give yourself a better chance of getting into asset management is to audit asset management firms. You will understand how their business is run, have shown an interest in the sector and also make some contacts. Request this BEFORE you start working at the Big 4 as it's much harder to move once you are already booked on to clients in a certain sector.
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    (Original post by theswiftexit)
    I've seen colleagues move into asset management post-qualifying in audit.

    In terms of the skills required for asset management, you need to have an analytical & financial modelling skillset which you may or may not get a huge chance to build in audit. It will depend on what projects you manage to get onto and how you can prove you have built these skills. You can, however, put yourself forward as much as possible for opportunities (make it known to those around you that this is what you are looking for!) and/or start learning financial modelling in your own time. If asset management is what you know you want to do, I would recommend you go straight for it. You don't need an accounting qualification to do it but will need to have some sort of financial degree. Are you set on doing audit or do have an offer already? If you are not set on audit but want an ACA/CA qualification before heading to asset management, then I would suggest trying to get into transaction services/corporate finance at the Big 4 instead. You will have more opportunities to get involved in financial modelling, analysing companies through due diligence and some exposure to the client sales cycles, all of which will be sought after in asset management.

    Another option for you, which I would only recommend if you are happy to study hard, would be to do CFA level 1 after having completed the ACA/CA exams and whilst biding your last 6-12 months of Big 4 employment contract. This will show your genuine interest and commitment. A few of my colleagues did the same to give them some leverage in the recruitment process.

    Another simple way to give yourself a better chance of getting into asset management is to audit asset management firms. You will understand how their business is run, have shown an interest in the sector and also make some contacts. Request this BEFORE you start working at the Big 4 as it's much harder to move once you are already booked on to clients in a certain sector.
    I'm currently half way through my ACA exams at a Big 4 in London. I'd like to apply to graduate schemes beginning next September, which will be after I've completed 2 years of my graduate scheme.

    Unfortunately my degree isn't finance related, I have a masters in chemical engineering. I do, however, audit asset management clients (mostly their fund administrators, rather than the entity itself).

    There is absolutely no opportunity for someone at my grade to learn financial modelling in work, but this could be something I do in my own time. I don't think I'd have much time before interviews for schemes starting next year, however.

    What else do you think I could do to make myself a worthwhile candidate? So far, an engineering degree and an auditing background doesn't feel like it'd give me much of a leg to stand on by comparison to the people who appear to be applying in these threads. Especially considering how easy and mind numbing auditing as an associate actually is!
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    (Original post by MaisieDaisie)
    I'm currently half way through my ACA exams at a Big 4 in London. I'd like to apply to graduate schemes beginning next September, which will be after I've completed 2 years of my graduate scheme.

    Unfortunately my degree isn't finance related, I have a masters in chemical engineering. I do, however, audit asset management clients (mostly their fund administrators, rather than the entity itself).

    There is absolutely no opportunity for someone at my grade to learn financial modelling in work, but this could be something I do in my own time. I don't think I'd have much time before interviews for schemes starting next year, however.

    What else do you think I could do to make myself a worthwhile candidate? So far, an engineering degree and an auditing background doesn't feel like it'd give me much of a leg to stand on by comparison to the people who appear to be applying in these threads. Especially considering how easy and mind numbing auditing as an associate actually is!

    Leaving Big 4 before fully qualified

    By leaving the Big 4 now rather than waiting until you qualify, would likely mean you’ll be going through all the pain of doing your exams and getting past the lower level associate work, only to leave before you fully time qualify and miss out on any real managerial experience.

    I would suggest that if you are going to do 2 years in audit, you may as well do the third year, get the full qualification and some of the more interesting/advanced experience under your belt. I know the thought is painful…trust me I went through exactly the same thing. I wanted out ASAP!

    By sticking around that extra year you would give yourself time to secure some financial modelling experience (ask around in a different dept. internally and do it in your own time if you have to. It’s up to you to set your own priorities and if learning financial modelling skills is one of them, you should make the time in whatever way you can) and network your way in.

    Skills you have/can build now

    Other than financial modelling listed above...

    Asset Mgt: Take a step back and ask yourself, what actually is asset management? It’s about administering the investment money of wealthy clients through means such as equity, derivatives or bonds. So, your best bet is to literally show your money is where your mouth is and start investing. Learn one of these financial vehicles in detail so that you can talk to anyone about them and the trends that affect them. Get it on your CV.

    A lot of people say they invest in stocks, gold, etc. but they don’t have a Scooby how they actually work! They wouldn’t stand a chance in an interview if asked to explain in detail why they invested in something. I know this because I got to the interview stage at a hedge fund to be a junior portfolio manager. I’d rehearsed my pitch down to a T and the guy was loving it (all whilst in this cigar filled basement of a member’s club in central London). I fell down on getting the job only because I wanted to leave after 2 years in audit (just like you) and required them to sign off the last year of my time qualification, which they couldn’t do.

    CFA:As I mentioned before, you could start doing the CFA in your last year. Just put “CFA Level X in progress” on your CV whilst you are applying.

    ACA: An advantage you will have over a lot of others going for a junior asset management role, is that you have an ACA under your belt through audit. It shows a solid understanding of financials and performance of companies, and (perhaps unfortunately) also shows you can handle terrible hours and stressful situations/clients. You are fortunate to be involved in the audits of asset mgt companies already and have an opportunity to network with your clients (network hard and make friends).

    Conclusion

    Without knowing the detail and what opportunities are available in your current role, it’s hard to say what you can leverage, and these are just a few of my high-level thoughts. There will be plenty you can do over your audit grad scheme to help you make the move. You just need to know what to emphasise and work on your pitch.

    Hopefully this gives you something to work with. I’ve also written a ton of useful stuff that you’ll find relevant on my blogtheswiftexit.

    Check it out.
 
 
 
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