In this interview series, I’ve delved into the journeys of various candidates who have successfully transitioned from a role in audit into a finance or portfolio position within private equity and the wider alternatives space. The series looks to illuminate various paths, challenges and triumphs of individuals who have made the move away from audit post-ACA/ACCA qualification. The conversations aim to provide invaluable insights into the diverse roles available to newly qualified ACAs, the intricacies of these positions and how they’ve developed over time. Furthermore, there’s first-hand advice on picking up the job search and how best to navigate the market to secure a role in the investment management industry.
In this interview, we explore the career journey of a professional who started as a Big 4 trained accountant and has established a role in fund finance within the alternative asset management industry. This individual exemplifies a successful transition out of practice into industry. The interview sheds light on their unique perspective on career progression in this specialised field, providing insights into the challenges of entering fund finance and the nuanced aspects of the job search. It's a valuable resource for those considering a similar career trajectory.
1. Talk me through your background and why you decided to join the Big 4
I studied Philosophy at University and then went on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Law before moving into the Big 4. So, nothing related to accounting! During my time in audit, I worked on a huge range of clients, from small companies to large, listed ones across financial services, technology and telecommunications industries.
2. What is your current position, and what made you choose this as your next career move?
I now work in the alternative asset management industry in fund finance. I didn’t spend too much time reviewing different options as I knew this was a great career option. In fund finance, the work is highly analytical, commercial, and there are plenty of opportunities to progress and diversify your career. There is a lot of exposure to senior internal and external stakeholders from a reasonably early stage, so there are good opportunities to take on responsibility and learn.
In terms of what attracted me to this job, the key point was the people. I really enjoy working with my colleagues and the CFO, who is my boss. I think it’s always important to aim for a role where the people are supportive of your career goals and where you will get on with them. After all, you will be spending most of your time with them during the working week!
3. How did you go about exploring the job market once you qualified? What advice were you given, and by whom, and was there anything you’d highlight to others who are about to undertake a similar job search?
I basically only used recruiters! When I first started looking for a job after coming back from travelling, I realised very quickly that job descriptions can be very misleading, and I ended up going to interviews for positions I was overqualified for. That’s when I reached out to a recruiter who had contacted me before I went travelling, and I started getting into the right interviews.
I was given advice by a lot of people! Friends, family, ex-colleagues, recruiters – there was a lot of advice that was not worthwhile ha! I received advice from recruiters who weren’t looking to build a long-term relationship with me, but were only interested in the role they were promoting. I found with ex-colleagues that, whilst intentions were good, sometimes the advice given is the advice they would give themselves if they were at that point in their career again, rather than giving advice which is tailored to your objectives.
Remember, even though all advice is important to listen to, sometimes it’s not tailored to your own goals and objectives (even if the intentions of the people giving it are good). In the end, you must balance all the advice you receive and decide what is good advice and what is bad advice – getting advice is a wise idea, but at the end of the day you make the decision.
4. Has the role you’ve moved into lived up to expectations?
Yes, exceeded expectations. I work with great people and was promoted after my first full year at the company. I’ve been given the opportunity to work on deals, work closely with the investor relations team in fundraising and work on strategic projects. It seems like each day goes by, I do less and less of the fund accounting role I applied for and only get involved in a review capacity or in complex areas!
5. From a progression/development perspective – has your role changed much since you joined?
I joined as a fund accountant, and now I work supporting the investment and investor relations teams, so my role is far broader these days. I was promoted in last year’s review to recognise this.
6. How did you find the adjustment to life outside of the Big 4?
Absolutely fine. I often look back and think of my training at the Big 4 as those hard yards that we all go through to set us up for our careers. I definitely had all the tools by the time I left the Big 4.
I think the biggest difference that is worth noting is the culture shift. When you work in the Big 4, you work mostly with accountants who have had the same training as you in the same or similar organisations as you. When you transition out of the Big 4, you work with everyone, from all professional backgrounds and there are different expectations that come with that.
7. Is there any key advice you’d give to people who are looking to make the move into industry into a role like yours?
Have a conversation with some people in the industry, find out what the roles you are applying for are really like and what is really required. That will give you every chance of success in this space! Good luck!
If you are interested in speaking further on these topics or you would like to have a confidential chat about your next career move or business objectives, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org