As part of our partnership with the ICAEW we hosted a webinar on how ACA accountants can get the most from their career, which you can view here.
It was simple back then: armed with your 300+ UCAS points and a good degree it was a simple matter of which of the Big 4 / Top 10 firms you would work for. But now there is a whole world of opportunity at your feet.
It’s over the summer months, with the final ACA exam results finally out, that we meet many soon to be qualified and recently qualified ACA’s interested in exploring the opportunities available to them. With that in mind, we’ve asked our ACA consultants in the media and technology sectors in London to share their thoughts and advice on different ACA career paths.
The first decision you are going to have to make is whether you are going to stay in practice or move into industry. For some of you, this will be an obvious choice, but many of you will still be torn. It’s now time to think about your long term plans – is it partnership within a big firm? Something of your own in years to come? Becoming an expert in a specialist area? Knowing where you want to be and thinking about the steps you need to take to get there will be critical at this stage.
But if you are going to stay in practice, do you have to stay with your current firm? Of course not – there are many opportunities to move and find the right role in the right firm.
Moving Into Industry
For many, the lure of industry is too great, and there are a few entry routes you can use to take you in this direction. When looking at entry routes, it helps to be realistic in your expectations. So often newly qualified ACA’s talk to us about their desire to take on something strategic and commercially focused, but that won’t always be an option as an entry route – though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
When moving into industry, you could end up in a range of different jobs. Here are some of your options:
Like internal audit, these roles often provide a high level view of the business and the opportunity to engage at a senior level throughout the business. This can act to smooth the way for a good second move, as this is a highly visible role in a business.
Management Accounting & Reporting
Management accountants produce daily, weekly and monthly information that is used in decision making. You would be responsible for the monthly information flow from operating units regarding the management accounts. In addition to some routine functions, such as month-end, you will also gain exposure to analysis work over budget variances and providing commercial support to non-finance managers.
Moving into an Internal Audit role as a Newly Qualified ACA will give you a broad and high level view of the business. It is also a great opportunity to build networks internally with senior stakeholders, making a high level internal move easier. Looking at our past placements, that internal move is likely to be somewhere between 18-24 months into you career.
If the internal opportunity fails to materialise then don’t fear. With solid industry experience behind you, you will have far greater opportunities available to you externally, not limited to internal audit.
Moving into Financial Accounting gives you the opportunity to apply your technical knowledge and skill in a commercial setting. Next steps internally could be into group or into a management capacity, with many Financial Controllers coming up through this path.
It is also possible to move into something more commercial at this point too.
Financial Planning & Analysis
Yes, these jobs do exist for newly qualified ACA’s, but you will be competing not only with the home grown talent internally for these posts, but also many of your contemporaries leaving practice.
The clients you’ve audited, projects you’ve undertaken or secondments you’ve had the chance to undertake can be a key differentiator for these jobs, and thus instrumental in securing these types of roles.
Start up, SME or blue chip? And what about funding structure?
We’ve talked about the type of role, but what about the size of the business or how they are funded? Long term, do you want to be a big fish in small pond or a big fish in a big pond? It’s going to be easier to down size than up size, so think about that now.
Don’t under estimate the long term value you can add if you have experience of working in a Plc environment or understand what a VC investor is going to demand from their finance team. Have a clear idea of your long term plan and think about putting the building blocks in place with your first move.
Which sector to choose?
The further up the food chain you go, the more value you are going to derive from not only your technical know how, but the sector experience you have gained. Therefore, it is a good idea to think about where your passions and interests lie. Have a think about the work you currently do or any of your current clients. Are there any for whom you have felt a great affinity for what they do? If you want your career go in the right direction within an industry you love, now is the time to start on that path.
Newly Qualified ACA salaries
In 2016 we are seeing newly-qualified ACA salaries ranging from £45,000 up to £55,000.
These salaries taken from Talentedge’s own research mirror those given by ICAEW’s own extensive research.
ACA’s and Talentedge
Talentedge are proud supporters of CASSL – the Chartered Accountant’s Student Society of London.
Talentedge specialises in placing finance people into the media, marketing services, technology and lifestyle brands sectors in London. We would be interested in talking to ACA qualified accountants interested in these sectors at any stage of your career, from newly-qualified to FD level.
You can get in touch with us directly on 020 3879 9700 or submit your CV on our Contact Us page.