Where will ACA take me??!

#1

Hi there

Does anyone know whether having the ACA qualification will help with other industries. I am currently studying for the ACA, but am having second thoughts - I just don’t know if accountancy is for me.

My other career option was PR, inparticular financial PR.

What I need to find out is how much having the ACA will help me within that industry. Should I stick ACA out, with the 24/7 studying and ridiculous exams, for 3 years as it will be a definate asset to me in whatever I do next, or do I cut my losses sooner rather than later and pursue a different path?

If the ACA is a real asset to getting a job in PR, then it is definately worth completing - if it doesn’t impact that much I am not so sure…

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks

#2

Hi there,

I used to be a recruitment consultant in this field, the main two financial PRs I worked with were Tulchan (London boutique) and Financial Dynamics (main global player). Beyond these, the other three you should definitely look at are Finsbury, Fishburn Hedges and Brunswick.

If you had come to me as a just-qualified ACA, then you would still be able to get into Financial PR. The advantages of your background would be your financial knowledge and your understanding of the technical principles which make the City function. The main barriers I would be telling you about would be the salary and responsibility level. You would probably end up leaving your ACA programme with three years experience to join a financial PR pretty close to the bottom of the pyramid, perhaps on a salary of max £30k including bonus, around people who had just finished the 18month - 2 year graduate scheme at the firm. This would put all but those desperate to get into the industry off; whilst that may sound OK now, remember that the salary once a qualified ACA at a Big 4 firm is in the £50k plus region. But for those passionate enough, it can be done - one of my old candidates moved from Deloitte to Brunswick when she finished the ACA.

It can be very tough for people to leave a company midway through an ACA as in doing so you often have to pay back the cost of your exams and training to date - many thousands of pounds. Also, if you’re any further than a third of the way through it can be worth taking the pain and completing the course: it’s a great qualification to have that will serve you well throughout your career. If it’s not too late to leave then I would consider making the move to PR now if you are convinced that you were born to be a PR mogul as opposed to an accountant, but I would always (and especially in this climate) strongly advise that you have another job lined up before leaving your current one. It could be worth making some applications and going to some interviews (I’d assume for graduate schemes) to try and find out more.

A

#3

Thanks Albatross

Your reply was really informative and answered many of the questions I had - thanks very much.

It is a tough decision for me - I really think the ACA could be a asset to me in later life, it is just a question of whether it would be an asset to financial PR, or prove more of a hinderance in that I spent 3 years after university doing it rather than pursuing a career in financial PR straight away.

As you mentioned, the current climate does not make the decision easier - I have a big rent to pay that would mean that I would have to have another job lined up before I left my current one.

If I can pick your brain a bit more…from a recruiters persepective, what sort of jobs have you placed people in once they have completed the ACA?? I know you said that you only have had one person move from Big 4 to financial PR, but what about other areas eg general PR/advertising/media. Is it the same within all of these areas - i.e that there will normally be a relatively severe pay and responsibility drop??

This is more out of general interest in what an ACA can be used for other than accounting and tax, rather than something I am definately considering myself (I still think my personal choice is between tax or financial PR) but it would be interesting to know what you have previously come across in your line of work.

Thanks

#4

ACAs are great qualifications to have for anyone planning to have a medium term future (perhaps up to 10-15 years) in a finance related industry or a business role with a financial / quantitative focus (i.e. supply chain or something with P&L responsibility). This could include investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, working in a relevant role at a corporate, accountancy etc etc. The vast majority of ACAs I met were leaving a big four company because they found the day-job boring but wanted to stay in finance - and they were gobbled up fairly quickly; the top-tier firms taking the best (for example some of my candidates went to Goldman Sachs, glg and Tesco) but - at least in the good times of 2005-2007 - there was a home somewhere in the financial industry anyone with an ACA so long as they had a clean CV, good motivations for joining the new industry and got on well with the people at the company. Times have been a bit tougher recently but I can’t see why this won’t be the case once more when things get back to normal, the ACA remains a stellar qualification and the Big Four remain good companies for people to have worked in at the start of their career.

Anyone moving from finance (whether banking, big four, or anything else) to a job out of finance always had to overcome the issue of pay discrepancy. Finance jobs pay more partly because the industry involves deals so enormous in terms of ££ / $$ that the staff get a bigger cut and also because of the hours. Examples of previous candidates of mine include:

1 - Person who had just been promoted to second year analyst at a boutique bank (salary £40k plus) moving to a supply chain role at innocent on an initial salary of around £25k

2 - Person who left PwC having just completed his ACA moving to Tesco to do a pretty numerate role understanding Tesco’s expansion into Eastern Europe. He left PwC on £55k to join Tesco on around £40k, plus maybe a bit of bonus potential.

3 - Person who left Deloitte with an ACA to join a boutique media strategy consultancy. He took the least paycut, as the hours at the consultancy were relatively gruelling, at least to start, the job was pretty mathematical and also the company were doing well and were paying good salaries. He joined at £50k, a few years ago now so probably was about the same as a quailifed ACA at Deloitte at the time. But he was the exception rather than the rule of someone moving from the financial services to a corporate position.

Arguably all these people could take more from their financial background to their new career (particularly maths skills / need to understand P&L principles for number 2) than you could moving from accountancy to financial PR. As per my initial post, there is probably a “breaking point”, after which you should probably stay and finish the ACA because of the cost of not doing so and because you’re so close to getting a valuable qualification, but before which it would make sense to leave and pursue what you would prefer to do, especially as it’s in a role where the ACA would only be relevant in a few, relatively minor ways.

#5

Excellent posts albatross - thanks for your insights

#6

Thanks! The posts are extremely informative.