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.