September and October is always an interesting time of year for the many ACA Newly Qualifieds coming onto the market. They have completed their training contracts and many are now keen to take their first step into Commerce but are often met with conflicting ideas and advice as to where next to take their careers. After three years of hard graft many are looking to leave External Audit and explore the potential opportunities that await individuals with this sought after skill set. The academic pedigree required to be accepted onto a training contract coupled with the commitment of balancing continuous study with a non-stop audit schedule is well recognised among most hiring managers across Commerce and Industry. But what to do next?
As we have discussed in our previous blogs there are a number of different routes Newly Qualified ACA’s can take. Positions on offer may include Group Accountant, Financial Accountant, Management Accountant, Financial Planning and Analysis or perhaps a Commercial Analyst. Whatever decision is taken at this point will invariably affect career choices and their chosen career path later down the line.
More often than not however most ACA 0-1 Year Post-Qualified candidates will have their eyes set on a ‘commercial role’ within industry. Commercial is a word open to interpretation but what most will mean by this is a role that will offer the real ‘value add’ piece to a business; or in other words as little financial reporting as possible. A position where they can take the information prepared by the Financial, Management or Group Accountants and conduct analysis on the numbers which they can then translate into valued information that can add value to the top and bottom line.
The reality is however that although this is the sought after route desired by many ACA’s looking to make their first move into Commerce, many become frustrated as the only opportunities they hear about from Recruiters and In-House Talent Managers are too ‘Reporting Focussed’. Many candidates will have searched on job boards and taken the significant time investment to meet Recruiters and register with agencies. This investment is often met with frustration as they feel they are not being introduced to the roles they really want.
The reality is that most roles at the £45-£50k level (market rate for a 0-1 year post-qualified ACA) will contain a reporting element to some degree. This degree does of course vary depending on whether they enter a Statutory Reporting role, a Financial or Management Accountant position (which themselves are open to interpretation) or a Financial Planning and Analysis role. The true ‘commercial roles’ are available to these individuals but they are in the minority and the route to these is often through the aforementioned Statutory or Financial Reporting roles.
The most important thing to consider at this stage of their career is what they want to achieve later down the line. Most Finance Directors and Commercial Leads in any organisation will have at some point been in a position where they have been responsible for preparing Financial Statements including balance sheet, income and cash flow statements. Most will have proven experience of preparing accounts that accurately show the trading results and financial position of each company within a group or been able to provide an accurate picture of its financial positon and performance. They will have consciously chosen a role that will give them the experience and ability to encapsulate the company’s operating performance over a particular period and the financial position at a point in time by using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Most will have chosen these roles earlier in their career, got the ‘box ticked’ in a 12-24 month period and moved onto what they really wanted to do – the Commercial role. It is these guys that have taken these career choices when leaving practice who more often than not will secure the big Commercial roles, the Finance Director and CFO positions and increasingly the CEO mandate.
The real question to ask as an ACA looking to make the first move into industry is what do you need to do to reach your end goal? It is then making sure you have the self-awareness to achieve it. If this is a Senior Leadership role in either a Blue-Chip or a SME then at some point evidence of producing statutory accounts and financial statements could give you a competitive edge.