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ICAS in England - what to do after being fired??

Hi Guys,

This is my first post so please bear with me if I have got smth wrong in terms of protocol.

I am currently training in London with one of the Big 4 in FS audit. To put it lightly I have struggled a lot, and Idk if it is for me.

A big problem I have is that we are sitting ICAS instead of ICAEW. I have recently been preparing for the professional exams and have been struggling loads.

If I were to let go, I cannot see how I would finish the qualification as pretty much every firm in London follows ICAEW. Moreover, having passed the ICAS certificate exams would grant me no exemptions from the certificate exams in the ICAEW route (checked this with ICAEW myself).

Does anyone have any advice re this situation, as unfortunately it's looking like there's a non-zero chance of this scenario playing out.

Thanks
Reply 1
Which exams do you have left to do, and how far are you from completing your log book competencies/required work experience days?

Usually 2 of the Big 4 do ICAS and the other two ICAEW. I want to say EY and KPMG are the ICAS firms, so if you're about to get fired from one, you could apply for a job at the other as an 'experienced hire'.

As another option, it looks like ACCA might give you some exemptions: https://www.accaglobal.com/ie/en/help/exemptions-calculator.html

You said you'd spoken to ICAEW - have you hit up ACCA? You should be able to get some exemptions from their Foundations in Accountancy qualification (as a minimum, if you decide you want to finish up with something and then switch careers) or the main ACCA qualification.
(edited 2 years ago)
Original post by fossie
Which exams do you have left to do, and how far are you from completing your log book competencies/required work experience days?

Usually 2 of the Big 4 do ICAS and the other two ICAEW. I want to say EY and KPMG are the ICAS firms, so if you're about to get fired from one, you could apply for a job at the other as an 'experienced hire'.

As another option, it looks like ACCA might give you some exemptions: https://www.accaglobal.com/ie/en/help/exemptions-calculator.html

You said you'd spoken to ICAEW - have you hit up ACCA? You should be able to get some exemptions from their Foundations in Accountancy qualification (as a minimum, if you decide you want to finish up with something and then switch careers) or the main ACCA qualification.

I have no idea re work experience days but I have been here for a year pretty much so I guess 1/3 of the required amount. If I was to switch to the other big 4 which does it, I would suck just as bad due to workload.

I wonder if the workload is less intense at smaller firms? I have some serious problems in my personal life and it's very hard to work on given how badly I cope with the workload.

As an aside, I do feel as though ACA is way more common in London, and as a result is easier in terms of finding support.

Thank you for commenting your advice, I will take a look at ACCA.
Reply 3
I wondered how far in you were, because there are some secret options if you are very, very close to the end. It sounds like that's not you though.

Remember, you didn't get on with FS audit. There are other types of audit, and there's also tax. The Big 4 do train their tax staff to be CAs, so if audit itself is the thing that's crappiest, there is other work out there. Moving from audit to tax (especially corporate tax) is not uncommon.

Workload in audit is a killer everywhere you go. I'd strongly advocate tax over audit for worklife balance, but of course, the work is different and it may not be to your taste.

What did you/didn't you enjoy?

ACA is more common than CA in London, but you have to remember, you only need an authorised training office for ACA and CA. Some people join firms that don't normally put trainees through ACCA, and they still get to complete their ACCA there, because the faff is minimal. The portability aspect of ACCA can be helpful in moving mid-contract.

More importantly... people get chucked out of the Big 4 for failing exams all the time. It may feel like the end of the world, but I promise you, people do bounce back from this.
Original post by fossie
I wondered how far in you were, because there are some secret options if you are very, very close to the end. It sounds like that's not you though.

Remember, you didn't get on with FS audit. There are other types of audit, and there's also tax. The Big 4 do train their tax staff to be CAs, so if audit itself is the thing that's crappiest, there is other work out there. Moving from audit to tax (especially corporate tax) is not uncommon.

Workload in audit is a killer everywhere you go. I'd strongly advocate tax over audit for worklife balance, but of course, the work is different and it may not be to your taste.

What did you/didn't you enjoy?

ACA is more common than CA in London, but you have to remember, you only need an authorised training office for ACA and CA. Some people join firms that don't normally put trainees through ACCA, and they still get to complete their ACCA there, because the faff is minimal. The portability aspect of ACCA can be helpful in moving mid-contract.

More importantly... people get chucked out of the Big 4 for failing exams all the time. It may feel like the end of the world, but I promise you, people do bounce back from this.

I'm rlly curious as to what these secret options are? Just bc I'm curious haha.

Oh so it's not the size of the practice, rather that is the nature of FS audit generally speaking? What about non FS? (say tech)

I liked substantive testing, and hated documentation. I also hate that I got somewhat limited support on how to do tasks, and when I was told to refer to PY workpapers, I would still have a ton of questions, and then the seniors inevitably end up having to do my work for me and it's a bit humiliating. I had noo idea how to do board minutes summaries either.

Do you think if I offered to front the tuition costs myself (I have been living with parents so have saved up some money), that I could convince another firm to let me continue doing ICAS, and to ask them to sign up to become an ICAS ATO? Also, is it not the case that ACCA has loads more exams?

Thank you very much for your time, it's really is helpful because I am in a fairly bleak situation atm.

Edit: I have just seen that ACCA offer some exemptions for ICAS exams which is encuoraging. Do you think they would allow me to complete studying for my exams whilst out of work, or can it only be done while working?
(edited 2 years ago)
Reply 5
Trying to persuade a firm that isn't already an ICAS ATO to become an ATO just for one person is a non-starter. Ditch that idea.

If you can find a firm that puts students through ICAS - even if not students in your department - you could persuade them to take you on and give you a new training contract. For example, if a firm puts auditors through ACA and tax people through CA and you want to work there as an auditor, you could probably still land a job as an auditor and finish your CA. But if they have no CA trainees, they won't take you on to finish your CA.

Any firm that wants you will let you do ACCA because they have no zero hoops. As far as I'm aware, you can even study ACCA without an employer - it's the most flexible qualification in that regard. I think they have more exams, but right now, you're trying to salvage as much of your ICAS qualification rather than starting from scratch. Do that, and one day this will make a great anecdote you can use in a competency based interview when you're explaining how resilient you are, and how you can adapt to change.

FS is one of the... I guess more traditional and demanding sectors? With tech, none of your clients will wear a suit, and they'll be distinctly more laid back. I like tech as a sector a lot.

Btw, if the seniors ended up just doing your work, whoever was supposed to be supervising you has failed you. Remember that. You're there to do a job, and to make money, but you're also there to be taught. It's called a training contract for a reason.

Re secret options, there are very limited scenarios (they don't apply to you) but the short story is some people can finish their CA qualification out of contract. It's not something people talk about.

Honestly, I think your best plan of action is as follows:

- Reflect on why things have gone wrong, and whether you want to continue as an accountant of some sort. This could be a minor road bump, or it could be accountancy wasn't for you. There's no right or wrong answer here. The important thing is to decide what you personally want, before you go out and hunt for it.
- Assuming you want to continue with it all, speak to ACCA and confirm exactly which exemptions you can get, the costs of joining/getting those exemptions, and what you would need to do to complete your ACCA.
- Make a list of ICAS ATOs in your part of the world/anywhere you would be prepared to relocate to. You may well end up finding it's just one other Big 4 firm, but try to make a list anyway.
- Write at least two versions of your CV. One for continuing with ICAS, one for transferring to ACCA. The latter can explain which exams you would be exempt from, i.e. how far through your ACCA you could be.
- If you're interested in changing specialism, that's another version of your CV.
- Hit up your list of professional contacts and see if you know anyone at the ICAS firm(s) because they might get a finders fee (paying staff to find people is cheaper than paying recruitment agencies). If they could get a little bonus for placing you, your mates will be motivated to help.
- Decide on a couple, tops, of recruitment agents you want to work with. For the love of all that is holy, do not register with every single one of them. Pick a few (ideally based on local recommendations) and go with them only.
Original post by fossie
Trying to persuade a firm that isn't already an ICAS ATO to become an ATO just for one person is a non-starter. Ditch that idea.

If you can find a firm that puts students through ICAS - even if not students in your department - you could persuade them to take you on and give you a new training contract. For example, if a firm puts auditors through ACA and tax people through CA and you want to work there as an auditor, you could probably still land a job as an auditor and finish your CA. But if they have no CA trainees, they won't take you on to finish your CA.

Any firm that wants you will let you do ACCA because they have no zero hoops. As far as I'm aware, you can even study ACCA without an employer - it's the most flexible qualification in that regard. I think they have more exams, but right now, you're trying to salvage as much of your ICAS qualification rather than starting from scratch. Do that, and one day this will make a great anecdote you can use in a competency based interview when you're explaining how resilient you are, and how you can adapt to change.

FS is one of the... I guess more traditional and demanding sectors? With tech, none of your clients will wear a suit, and they'll be distinctly more laid back. I like tech as a sector a lot.

Btw, if the seniors ended up just doing your work, whoever was supposed to be supervising you has failed you. Remember that. You're there to do a job, and to make money, but you're also there to be taught. It's called a training contract for a reason.

Re secret options, there are very limited scenarios (they don't apply to you) but the short story is some people can finish their CA qualification out of contract. It's not something people talk about.

Honestly, I think your best plan of action is as follows:

- Reflect on why things have gone wrong, and whether you want to continue as an accountant of some sort. This could be a minor road bump, or it could be accountancy wasn't for you. There's no right or wrong answer here. The important thing is to decide what you personally want, before you go out and hunt for it.
- Assuming you want to continue with it all, speak to ACCA and confirm exactly which exemptions you can get, the costs of joining/getting those exemptions, and what you would need to do to complete your ACCA.
- Make a list of ICAS ATOs in your part of the world/anywhere you would be prepared to relocate to. You may well end up finding it's just one other Big 4 firm, but try to make a list anyway.
- Write at least two versions of your CV. One for continuing with ICAS, one for transferring to ACCA. The latter can explain which exams you would be exempt from, i.e. how far through your ACCA you could be.
- If you're interested in changing specialism, that's another version of your CV.
- Hit up your list of professional contacts and see if you know anyone at the ICAS firm(s) because they might get a finders fee (paying staff to find people is cheaper than paying recruitment agencies). If they could get a little bonus for placing you, your mates will be motivated to help.
- Decide on a couple, tops, of recruitment agents you want to work with. For the love of all that is holy, do not register with every single one of them. Pick a few (ideally based on local recommendations) and go with them only.

Ok, noted on ICAS ATO, and about finding one.

I never saw it that way, and I like the positive way of looking at it re the ACCA and resilience. I think that is definitely a great mindset to have and as I get older I realise how important it is for my own sake.

Thank you for your point re the senior, I guess they just can really get you down when you mess up or take too long and as a new grad it rlly influences whether you feel you can make the cut.

Finally, thank you for that fantastic template I can follow for a plan of action at the end. In fact, may I ask that in the future if I have any further questions re my path that I get back in touch with you? If yes, what would be the most convenient way to get in touch?

Your advice has seriously helped me as I don't know anyone in this field, and before all this semi thought I was done for in accounting haha. Do you work in audit or tax? You seem to tout the hours being less than audit which is why I ask.
(edited 2 years ago)
Reply 7
Just as a thought - how many professional exams have/ might you have passed?

I think that larger (national/ multinational) firms with London offices might be open to an ICAS trainee depending on how many exams you have left. At least two support transfers for the South African qualification so must be somewhat used to alternatives.

I'm sure there will be an advice/ counselling service with ICAS. It would be well worth contacting them to see if they have any suggestions.
Reply 8
Not going to lie, the hours can be crazy in tax, but they can be more manageable too.

With audit, there's an expectation of travel, and early starts no matter where you are, i.e. if you have to travel to a client site and it's much further away than your office, you have to suck up the longer commute. There's much less of an expectation to travel in tax, which immediately cuts down on the long hours point.

Like audit, tax has certain sectors that are more demanding. FS, as mentioned, can be tough, especially in a larger firm. It's all to do with the sort of client and their expectations, so it doesn't matter whether you're the auditor or the tax person, the same sort of people will be the same sort of (un)reasonable to the professional help.

I am indeed a tax person, although I have been trying my best not to be biased!

I think the key thing to remember is that you do have options. Being fired can send people into a right tailspin - they panic, they feel miserable, and they get too caught up in those negative emotions to notice that it happens to other trainees in accountancy too, and it really won't be the end of the world. You are so early on in your career, and there is so much more to come - you have to remember there is a long game here. You are still in the game!

I've seen people decide accountancy isn't for them, and start a new path. I've seen plenty more decide that it is what they want to do, and they've gone onto finish their qualifications elsewhere and do amazing things. Some have even levelled up, and gone from a small firm fail to finish off at a larger firm. (Not that applicable to you, seeing as you can only go sideways to another Big 4 firm, but you get the point.) If you do want to stay in accountancy, getting fired in your training contract doesn't have to dictate the rest of your career.

As for ajj2000's advice - ICAS are currently on a drive to persuade people to train to be CAs, given they're vastly outnumbered by ACAs in the UK. You might be able to tap into that sentiment by asking for help in staying with ICAS, and not having to transfer to another qualification. There is an email address for students.

I wouldn't suggest spamming LinkedIn, but some people do have things on their profiles saying that you can contact them for coffee and mentoring. If you spot anyone potentially useful in your search who is open to that sort of thing, you could send a short, polite message explaining you are a current CA student at a crossroads and you'd really appreciate it if they could spare 15 minutes for a virtual coffee.

This may have passed you by, but ICAS have recently launched a student assistance plan, which I gather is like the employee assistance programme most firms offer, but provided by ICAS to its students, i.e. you can continue to use it even after you get fired. They can help with all sorts of things - legal queries etc - but also counselling if you end up feeling in a bad place because of what's going on. It may not come in useful, but I thought I'd draw your attention to the service just in case!

I hope all this does help you refocus your efforts and figure out where you want to go with your path. It's been a long time since I was on a training contract, but I can remember how overwhelming it felt at times, and if you need a sounding board once you put together a couple of options, you're welcome to send me a PM.
I'm on an ACA grad scheme at the minute, with no previous accounting background.

My tuition starts next week, and having done an intro to bookkeeping course last week, I know just how difficult it will be.

For me, it'll be about getting my head down for the next three years. The salary after qualification is good, and remember, good things don't come easy.
Original post by TheGentry
I'm on an ACA grad scheme at the minute, with no previous accounting background.

My tuition starts next week, and having done an intro to bookkeeping course last week, I know just how difficult it will be.

For me, it'll be about getting my head down for the next three years. The salary after qualification is good, and remember, good things don't come easy.

Lol you'll wanna shoot yourself after busy season. Audit is boring, tedious, mind numbing work. Wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
How has things change for you? I am about to start my ICAS for 3 years in a Big 4. The CA final goal looks lucrative and if I succeed, it will be a good skill in my toolbox for when I switch to tech and work in the sector that I want to (not getting hires due to not being a Computer Science grad of having experience in X y z software) either by reapplying or aiming to switch departments, to the tech side after 3 years. I heard the exams aren't easy but I wonder about the job itself.

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