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 particular conversation, I spoke with an ex-auditor who qualified at a mid-tier practice and successfully transitioned into a fund accounting role at a reputable mid-market firm. If you’re thinking of fund finance as an option but haven’t necessarily audited or worked with funds before – this conversation is for you.
1. Talk me through your background prior to the current position and why you decided to pursue the ACA
I studied finance and accounting at university and joined a mid-tier accountancy practice after graduating. I knew I’d always wanted to get into finance even before university, and I decided to do the ACA as I knew it was a solid place to start that could open doors after I qualified.
While undertaking my ACA, I worked on a mixture of clients, which included financial services and wider commerce and industry. The financial services clients were always the preferred engagements I worked on, and I tried to push internally as much as possible to ensure I got as much exposure as possible. Examples included small private equity houses with work focused around the corporate entities. The Big 4 tend to audit and own most of the relationships for fund entities.
2. What is your current position, and what made you choose this as your next career move?
I moved from practice a couple of years back and now work at a mid-market private equity fund in the funds finance team as a senior fund accountant.
Fund finance was an option I’d always considered on the back of the audit work I’d done. The investment management clients were always more interesting, and the roles the fund accountants performed appealed because of the variety in the day-to-day. The appeal of being involved in the deal process was a big pull factor coupled with the analytics and value add input associated with the role.
An area I’d still love to pick up that I know is available in some fund finance roles in other PE houses is the valuations process. I struggled when moving out of practice interviewing for these kinds of roles as I lacked any valuations testing experience in audit.
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?
LinkedIn was the main tool I utilised to identify relevant recruiters early on. Going down the recruiter route was hit-and-miss, to begin with, and it took a while to filter out who is relevant to your search, and those who are just trying to sell you all their live mandates.
I had already done a lot of research into the private equity industry and had spoken with clients who were in similar roles during my time in audit, which is something I’d advise to anyone picking up the search as the advice is genuine and you can get a first-hand account of what these kinds of roles will look like from someone who has been in a similar position to you.
The challenges I faced during the search were largely around the interview process itself. It’s a big learning curve, and it takes time to get your head around what’s expected of you.
4. Has the role you’ve moved into lived up to expectations?
I would certainly say it’s lived up to expectations for the most part, and I’m still here enjoying my work. I have great exposure into different parts of the fund lifecycle and have built rapport with senior stakeholders both internally and externally. My role is crucial for the PE house, and the work continues to be both interesting and challenging on a daily basis.
5. From a progression/development perspective – has your role changed much since you joined?
Yes. Key examples would include working on bigger and complex fund structures at different stages of the life cycle and supporting with the fundraising process.
As I’ve become a more senior member of the team, I’m now more involved in decision making processes, and the role has developed to be more analytically focused. I’ve also been involved with various financial modelling projects for the funds, which has always been an area I’ve wanted to develop.
6. How did you find the adjustment to life outside of practice?
There’s certainly a steep learning curve after leaving practice, which takes time to get to grips with. The key difference with a role in PE/industry is the immediate increase in the level of responsibility and expectation. In audit, you’re usually one of around forty people in a graduate intake, and it has a university feel to it, whereas the team in a fund (or the fund I work at) is considerably smaller, and you’re a bigger cog in a smaller machine.
Also, the role in practice becomes very comfortable quickly as you’re only ever focusing on historical information, which includes a totally different mindset. Moving into PE, the focus quickly shifts to what’s going on now and what might happen in the future, which requires a more analytical/commercial outlook.
I was fortunate enough to join a business that had a history of bringing people in from an audit background, so there was a decent level of support to help move through the learning curve quickly, but it still felt like a huge adjustment.
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?
Keep the job search narrow – focus on an area you’re interested in and put plenty of research into how you’re going to get there. Network with the right people who can help you and be as proactive as possible in preparing for interviews.
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