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 insightful conversation, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a portfolio analyst at a private credit fund, tracing their journey from the Big 4 after qualifying as an accountant. Offering a glimpse into the intricacies of transitioning into a portfolio role, we explore the day-to-day aspects of their current position. Additionally, our guest shares valuable advice tailored for qualified accountants contemplating a career shift into portfolio analysis within the realm of alternatives.
1. Talk me through your background and why you decided to undertake an accountancy qualification
I studied finance at university and always knew this was the direction I was looking to head down. After graduating, I joined a PwC as part of a split graduate program in Audit and Advisory. In this role, I undertook rotations involving audit assignments (mostly with UK and Nordic Private Equity firms, as well as various other financial institutions). The other half of the experience was spent with the Listing team, providing support to several UK-based investment trusts and companies as they navigated Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Given my international background, I made the strategic decision to pursue the ACCA qualification due to its global recognition and seamless transferability across diverse qualifications.
2. What's your current position, and what made you choose this as your next career move?
Shortly after obtaining my qualification, I joined the Private Credit/Finance team of a global asset manager in London as a Portfolio Analyst. In this role, my primary focus lies in portfolio monitoring and analysis, encompassing the reporting of asset performance. Additionally, I play a crucial role in supporting the deal team during add-on transactions or any ad-hoc activities related to my portfolio companies. My responsibilities extend to the preparation of quarterly portfolio performance analyses for Europe, contributing to activities such as fund raising, risk management, and addressing ad-hoc investor queries.
Since I joined in June 2022, I've had the opportunity to engage in numerous add-on investments. In these instances, my responsibilities have included preparing investment memos and presenting our findings to the investment committee.
The appeal lies in the diverse and commercially-oriented nature of the work, offering a departure from the predominantly retrospective focus inherent in audit.
I considered roles in fund accounting for similar reasons, yet found them less appealing due to the accounting-centric aspect. Exploring a transition into a deals advisory role within the Big 4 was also on the table, but I ultimately sought a clean break from client-facing responsibilities.
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 primarily conducted my job search through LinkedIn. I identified job advertisements that facilitated connections with different recruiters. My approach was focused on this avenue, and the search was predominantly led by various recruiters.
Navigating through advice received was diverse, and engaging with recruiters proved to be a nuanced experience. However, once I identified those aligned with the markets I was exploring, valuable insights became available.
4. Has the role you’ve moved into lived up to expectations?
I believe that portfolio positions present an excellent alternative for individuals transitioning from practice. One particularly valuable aspect is the chance to establish a foothold in a commercial role, creating a foundation for various future opportunities.
These roles also offer a better work-life balance compared to what I've heard from friends who ventured into investment roles. This means you get to immerse yourself in the commercial aspects of the deals process without the relentless hours often associated with front-office positions.
Now, a year and a half into this journey, I can confidently express my satisfaction with the move. The experience has been enriching, providing me with valuable learning opportunities and exciting responsibilities that align, if not surpass, the expectations set during the recruitment process.
5. From a progression/development perspective – has your role changed much since you joined?
I have progressively been involved in more transaction-based tasks as some of my portfolio companies required additional financing or went through a refinancing, giving me the opportunity to go through a complete deal process.
6. How did you find the adjustment to life outside of the Big 4?
Moving from my position at the Big Four to my current role has been a seamless transition, thankfully with minimal hurdles along the way. Despite the size of the firm I've joined still being quite substantial, the organisational culture resonates with my past experiences. There's a strong international focus, with a friendly and collaborative work environment. The flexibility I've enjoyed in my work continues, and it's been particularly beneficial to integrate into a team with similar backgrounds from the Big Four.
7. What were the key challenges you faced throughout your job search and with leaving the Big 4?
The challenges I mentioned earlier are certainly noteworthy, especially when it comes to identifying pertinent recruiters.
The interview process itself presented another learning curve, particularly challenging for someone who hasn't undergone interviews for three or four years. Portfolio roles pose a significant difficulty as they often require candidates to navigate a case study during the interview, which can be quite challenging to grasp initially.
8. Is there any key advice you’d give to people who are looking to make the move into industry into a role like yours?
Gaining advisory experience played a pivotal role in facilitating my entry into a portfolio role. Although my primary background was in audit, the exposure to deals proved instrumental in navigating case studies and interviews with greater ease.
I’d also recommend anyone with front-office aspirations need to think very carefully about how they interview, as I had various interviews shut down when I articulated an interest in moving into an investment role!
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 email@example.com