Turn on thread page Beta
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    4
    ReputationRep:
    I am an Oxford modern languages graduate.

    I have been working in accountancy for coming up to two years now. I first learnt my debits and credits on the job as a finance assistant in a fintech company based in the City of London; I then left that company after about a year as I felt I was not in the right environment in which to qualify.

    I now work in a small two partner firm just outside of London (ie zone 4) where I am studying for the ACA. We are seven people in total. The work is fairly broad as I am the only full time trainee accountant in the office (in addition to the two partners, there is a second trainee who works part time and an AAT school leaver who does largely secretarial work; then there is a tax expert and an ACA qualified associate). This means that I do a lot of accounts preparation with minimal supervision, and am very comfortable preparing statutory accounts from source to statements (all UK GAAP though). I prepare payrolls and do tax work for sole traders (computations and compliance); I undertake all the company secretarial work. I also do some slightly more management-accountsy stuff where required. Our clients use a real mix of software, so there's plenty of Sage, Xero and Quickbooks in the mix too. We don't do any audit (the firm used to, but most of our clients don't require an audit and neither of the partners enjoys the work).

    Realistically, how does my experience compare to that of other trainees in terms of preparing me for the jobs market? Upon qualifying, I would like to take a number of short-term contract roles in larger commercial organisations to build my experience - preferably in a management accountant type role, and ideally one in which I can use my languages (French & Spanish) - but I am worried that zero exposure to audit might be a red flag for potential employers. I do not intend to work in banking or insurance.

    The other factor is the working culture at my firm. It is very much a heads-down, don't-ask-questions, look-at-the-file environment. There is zero chit chat. This is not only soul destroying, but it's also terrible for my professional development.

    Finally, there's the issue of ungenerous study support arrangements. The Certificate stage is going fine, especially since I had a head start with some of the technical stuff in my industry role, but I am worried that the work at my firm and the working patterns will not fit well with the professional/advanced exams.

    What would do if you were me? Slog it all out? I have a vague idea that I might get through the professional stage with them and jump ship to a different firm for the advanced stage.
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by elsie_davies)
    I am an Oxford modern languages graduate.

    I have been working in accountancy for coming up to two years now. I first learnt my debits and credits on the job as a finance assistant in a fintech company based in the City of London; I then left that company after about a year as I felt I was not in the right environment in which to qualify.

    I now work in a small two partner firm just outside of London (ie zone 4) where I am studying for the ACA. We are seven people in total. The work is fairly broad as I am the only full time trainee accountant in the office (in addition to the two partners, there is a second trainee who works part time and an AAT school leaver who does largely secretarial work; then there is a tax expert and an ACA qualified associate). This means that I do a lot of accounts preparation with minimal supervision, and am very comfortable preparing statutory accounts from source to statements (all UK GAAP though). I prepare payrolls and do tax work for sole traders (computations and compliance); I undertake all the company secretarial work. I also do some slightly more management-accountsy stuff where required. Our clients use a real mix of software, so there's plenty of Sage, Xero and Quickbooks in the mix too. We don't do any audit (the firm used to, but most of our clients don't require an audit and neither of the partners enjoys the work).

    Realistically, how does my experience compare to that of other trainees in terms of preparing me for the jobs market? Upon qualifying, I would like to take a number of short-term contract roles in larger commercial organisations to build my experience - preferably in a management accountant type role, and ideally one in which I can use my languages (French & Spanish) - but I am worried that zero exposure to audit might be a red flag for potential employers. I do not intend to work in banking or insurance.

    The other factor is the working culture at my firm. It is very much a heads-down, don't-ask-questions, look-at-the-file environment. There is zero chit chat. This is not only soul destroying, but it's also terrible for my professional development.

    Finally, there's the issue of ungenerous study support arrangements. The Certificate stage is going fine, especially since I had a head start with some of the technical stuff in my industry role, but I am worried that the work at my firm and the working patterns will not fit well with the professional/advanced exams.

    What would do if you were me? Slog it all out? I have a vague idea that I might get through the professional stage with them and jump ship to a different firm for the advanced stage.
    Hey

    Couple of queries:
    - what study support do you receive and does this change as you pass exams?
    - does the firm you work for give pay rises as you gain experience and qualifications?
    - what hours do you work? Some smaller firms are pretty low working hours (35 per week for example) which is a bit of compensation for lower study support

    Realistically, how does my experience compare to that of other trainees in terms of preparing me for the jobs market?

    Your experience looks in line with small professional practice trainees. Far more hands on experience, use of GL systems and taxation than larger audit firm audit trainees gain. Preparing statutory accounts can be of real value. Probably rather different than a trainee in business - partly as its less common to change jobs while training.and studying ACA.

    You mentioned a wish to work in larger commercial organisations in management accounting roles. Do you mean something specific by management accounting? - the job description seems to mean different things in different sectors. As I'm sure you know a lot of large businesses recruit qualified ACAs at the newly qualified type level as a sort of graduate entry fast stream to bring people into their organisations. You may find yourself somewhat disadvantaged in this. This is not necessarily through not having audit experience but because they like the cultural fit of people who have worked in larger corporate environments with the associated politics etc. and seen companies of their size and how they operate (which audit experience is pretty good for).

    I'd suggest that you keep in contact with anyone you know who works in such organisations so in interviews you can explain what you understand about the culture, working styles and career paths of accountants in industry/ blue chips/ etc. Your languages are bound to be a real plus at some point and I'm sure you can stress your hands on skills and experience in dealing with business owners. As a general warning small firm trained accountants do seem to have a harder time getting a break into commercial organisations - you need to be willing to work hard and be a bit flexible to find the right job. On the other hand smaller businesses (say in the £20 million - £100 million turnover range) would be very interested in your experience of practical accounting coupled with technical qualifications.

    The other factor is the working culture at my firm. It is very much a heads-down, don't-ask-questions, look-at-the-file environment. There is zero chit chat. This is not only soul destroying, but it's also terrible for my professional development.

    That doesn't sound a great environment for a young person, and zone 4 not ideal for going drinking with friends after work. If you are doing lots of home study I'd imagine that's a real drag.

    Finally, there's the issue of ungenerous study support arrangements.

    I think you've correctly identified that this may be an issue as the exams get harder to pass.

    What would do if you were me? Slog it all out?

    Tough one - what kind of tie ins do you have for repayment of training costs if you look to leave? If I were you I'd identify two or three agencies in central London who specialise in recruiting for the accounting profession, call them and chat to a recruiter who places PQs into top 30ish firms, and arrange to meet 2 or 3 on a day off. Stress that you are just looking to meet over a coffee to see what advice they may have and get their feedback as to how firms recruit. I would look at firms which are large in London and offer proper funded training - you could get a list of the top 50 Chartered firms and check the size of the London offices. Also worth keeping an eye on their websites to see if they have any particular specialisms which may be of interest. I found this with a minute on google for example:

    https://www.moorestephenscareers.co....qyzaBt0oxXWazs

    Look for:
    ACA Graduate intake September 2018 - International Institutions and Donor Assurance, LondonInternational Institutions and Donor Assurance

    How far through exams are you? How fixed on working in the commercial world?
    Offline

    4
    ReputationRep:
    I can answer some of these questions. I'm an ACA with 10 years working experience, who also started in a small firm. Your concerns are generally valid, and it's good that you are already thinking about these things (career development, CV/skills where you need improving).

    As far as your situation of working in a small firm:

    Pros:

    You get a wide range of experience, and accounts prep, tax cosec are all useful skills. You are not just a box ticking monkey for the first 1.5 years of your life in the firm. Having basic knowledge of all these areas will be helpful throughout your finance career.

    You get to see a wide range of businesses, with various degrees of controls/best practice. Hopefully you have some clients who are very good, as well as some who are shambolic (i.e. what to avoid in the future).

    You likely don't work yourselves to death vs being in Big 4.

    Cons:

    No audit experience is definitely a minus. As dull as audit is, being able to go to big companies, ask questions about their processes and balances is great experience, and gives you a reference point of what is good practice vs bad practice.

    Smaller clients are likely to be less professional than major firms (but on the flip side may be more entrepreneurial), so you may not see what is best practice/best in class in terms of processes/operations/systems.


    You're first step out post-qualification is important. Figure out what you want and work your way towards that direction. It may help getting a year or two at a top 10 firm to get that experience (audit, big client exposure, IFRS/Group consol).

    Alternative you may be able to jump directly to industry looking for a new qual. May be slightly more difficult but definitely not impossible, as I did the same myself.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    4
    ReputationRep:
    Thank you both very much. I am very grateful that you took the time to respond in such detail; it's given me a lot to think about and has been really useful.

    (Original post by ajj2000)

    Couple of queries:
    - what study support do you receive and does this change as you pass exams?
    - does the firm you work for give pay rises as you gain experience and qualifications?
    - what hours do you work? Some smaller firms are pretty low working hours (35 per week for example) which is a bit of compensation for lower study support
    At the Certificate stage they pay for the exams and materials; I don't get any time off (even to sit the exam).

    At the Professional/Advanced stages, they pay for tuition courses (evenings or weekends) at a well-reputed provider in the City; I get a minimal amount of study leave for the exam (I think it's the day of the exam plus one day per paper). I'm prepared to take annual leave for the purposes of studying.

    However as you say the hours are great - 37.5 on the clock and if I stay even half an hour later, I get TOIL!

    In terms of progress through the exams, I've done 4 out of the 6 Cert level papers. I'll be starting the Professional tuition in July.

    I started on 20k, got 21k after probation and will be on 22.5k once the Cert is finished. My pay continues to increase incrementally with each exam pass.

    In terms of the social aspect, as you rightly guess there's zero socialisation at work; however I'm very happily settled about 25 mins from my office in a shared house with some great friends and I have friends all over the city.

    (Original post by Gromithk)
    I can answer some of these questions. I'm an ACA with 10 years working experience, who also started in a small firm. Your concerns are generally valid, and it's good that you are already thinking about these things (career development, CV/skills where you need improving).

    You're first step out post-qualification is important. Figure out what you want and work your way towards that direction. It may help getting a year or two at a top 10 firm to get that experience (audit, big client exposure, IFRS/Group consol).

    Alternative you may be able to jump directly to industry looking for a new qual. May be slightly more difficult but definitely not impossible, as I did the same myself.
    Thank you - that clarifies things. Essentially I think I need to work out exactly what my preferred move is post-qualification and work back!

    Can I ask what sort of role you moved directly into after you qualified?

    I enjoyed my first year in industry and did have some experience of audit there (from the other side!); there were a couple of 1-2 year post-quals there who took on half finance manager/half management accountant roles which seemed pretty good.
    Offline

    4
    ReputationRep:
    I went into Corporate Treasury (as a Treasury Accountant). Really enjoy this field and pretty happy how my moves have turned out.

    For you, I would imagine the best course of action is to pass your ACA with your current firm and start looking as soon as you've done that (may be worth contacting recruiters a few months before). Not sure how common or how much of a pain it is to move before you've passed, so may be worth sucking it up for a bit longer.

    Once you have been contacted about a few roles, and interviewed at a few places, you'll start to get a sense of what your CV is able to get you at that stage. Try to get a sense of which roles fit you better (career development, firm culture, manager likability) and choose the best.

    Don't trust recruiters entirely, most of them just want to place you in any role to get their commission, or fish information out of you. Again, learn recruiter tactics and keep in contact with the best ones with the best roles.

    The best problem you have at a newly qual ACA with a smaller firm is you don't have that much leverage - there are quite a few newly quals and unfortunately some employers will prefer B4 just because of brand name.

    Once you get to the interview stage though, how you come across will be more important, so as long as you are getting interviews, use it as practice and you should find a suitable role eventually.

    A newly qual ACA isn't too dissimilar to being a new grad, there is still quite a lot of competition for industry roles, and you don't yet have the experience to distinguish you from other NQs. This will change a few years down the line if you get your career development right.

    For example in my last interview process I asked about work life balance, and implied that I will not work for an employer which does not respect that, as well as not having the culture of 'face time'. I also managed to slightly negotiate my salary higher than their initial offer.

    Your career development goal should be to learn skills and pad out your CV so you eliminate the competition in the job market for future roles.
 
 
 
Reply
Submit reply
Turn on thread page Beta
TSR Support Team

We have a brilliant team of more than 60 Support Team members looking after discussions on The Student Room, helping to make it a fun, safe and useful place to hang out.

Updated: March 7, 2018
Poll
How are you feeling in the run-up to Results Day 2018?
Useful resources

Articles:

Guide to finance and bankingGuide to accountancy

Featured recruiter profiles:

Deutsche Bank logo

Deutsche Bank is recruiting

"Thrive in an international banking environment"

ICAEW logo

ICAEW

"Choose a career journey with limitless possibilities."

Quick link:

Unanswered finance and accountancy threads

Groups associated with this forum:

View associated groups

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

Write a reply...
Reply
Hide
Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.