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You are now a Chartered Accountant! What's next?

25 Oct 2017

Stephen Turkington

You are now a Chartered Accountant! What's next? Brightwater's Stephen Turkington looks at the options available to newly qualified ACA members as they make the transition into a world class business profession.

This past week I was delighted to be present in the Hilton, Belfast as the latest batch of graduates from the Chartered Accountants of Ireland were officially conferred with their ACA qualifications. It was a privilege to watch as some of the country’s best and brightest were officially recognised for all the graft of the past number of years and awarded a qualification that has always and will always open multiple doors along the course of an individual’s career. With the room packed with proud friends and family the sense of pride and achievement was absolutely clear and yet, in many ways this moment is just the beginning.

The route to qualification can be tough.  “Late nights” take on a whole new meaning when you’ve been sat on audit teams for major corporate entities, “social life” a now foreign concept for those who have spent the past three years living out of hotels and there are probably a few bridges burned with those “friends” of yours who have enjoyed reminding you that they haven’t sat an exam since leaving university. The good news is, the world really is your oyster now, so let’s take a look at some of the options available:

Remaining in practice – You’ve put a shift in to get here and as a result, a large percentage of qualifiers will take this opportunity to break ranks and move to pastures new.  What that means is that there is ample progression available within practice for those who choose to remain, especially in practice.  The life of an Assistant Manager or Manager in practice, even amongst the Big 4, can have a much better balance than you experienced on the way up and bring with it a raft of perks.  If you can’t see the headroom in your own firm, be sure it exists in another one close by and don’t rule out exploring this option.

Diversifying in practice – You may have decided that continuing down the practice route you have been on isn’t for you but before you go anywhere, consider the alternative paths available.  If practice works for you but the larger corporate life doesn’t, there may be a smaller firm ideally suited to your needs.  If you’re sick of audit you may find that something in forensics, tax or the deals team ticks your boxes.  Remember, that qualification opens doors.

Internal Audit in industry – A large percentage of chartered accountants will find themselves in industry and moving to an IA function can be a great way to do it.  You get exposure to the full breadth of your new business, can continue to use your auditing skills but this time under one roof.  The opportunities within in-house internal audit are limited in Northern Ireland but do exist, so don’t rule this out.

In-house tax teams – For those who have come up through the taxation route, as with IA teams, moving into industry into a tax team can be a great way to cross the divide.  Again, it’s true that in Northern Ireland the opportunities do exist but aren’t vast (though there is nothing to say you need to remain in NI) but those who do break into in-house tax can carve out a niche for themselves that will keep them very well remunerated for the remainder of their career.  If it’s an option for you, be slow to rule it out!

Core finance role in industry – This is the path most commonly taken and for good reason.  Making that first move into industry can be daunting but your stock is high and there will be plenty of suitors keen to bring you on board.  Typical moves would be into financial reporting roles, technical analytical posts, financial control roles and even management reporting.  For those able to demonstrate more of a commercial nous and perhaps utilise a secondment, there may even be a move straight into a commercial finance or strategic role.  The good news is whichever industry route you move into, your career prospects are great – don’t forget that for any aspiring Finance Directors out there, you’ll need to gather experience across reporting, commercial and operations focused roles within finance before you get there.  Focus on making sure that you move to a company that will give you the best exposure and offer the greatest development potential.

The market is booming at the moment.  The latest forecasts predict Belfast will become one of the UK’s leading centres for Financial Services behind London. The increase in infrastructure and construction projects across our city brings with it a wealth of opportunity.  At the centre of all of this are finance, tax and audit teams all helping to make the accountancy profession the number one choice for young professionals; which makes the market more competitive than ever.

Whilst your prospects are fantastic at this stage you will need to stand out against your competition.  Getting the inside scoop on your potential next employer, refining your CV and preparing properly for interview are all important.  That’s why making sure you work with a recruitment partner that is a true expert in your market and that you can trust, is essential to giving yourself the best chance of making that first move post-qualification the best one it can possibly be.

If you would like to discuss your own circumstances in more detail and explore some of the options that may be available to you at this point, we would be delighted to have a consultation with you.  All our services are absolutely free to our candidates and as a consultancy with a long-term outlook, our advice will always be impartial.  We have a team of dedicated consultants that cover all pathways available to newly ACA qualified accountants and we would love to help.

Stephen Turkington works in Brightwater’s Accountancy & Finance division as a specialist in part and newly qualified career moves. For further information and a confidential discussion about your career please contact our Brightwater team below on 02890325325 or email: s.turkington@brightwaterni.com.