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Halliday Marx What Are Your Career Options After The ACA

By becoming a Chartered Accountant, you have in your hands an elite qualification that is highly regarded and opens doors to many fantastic career opportunities.

When You Qualify, What Comes Next?

The career options for a Newly Qualified ACA Accountant are varied. For example, you could find yourself analysing a fashion brand’s finances, advising charities on tax, shaping schools’ spending, working on the board of a multinational consumer company or helping to prosecute criminals.

With this diversity of options, you will have to make some choices following your qualification that will have far-reaching implications for your career. These choices can range from whether you should specialise and what sector you want to work in.

Commerce, Financial Services or Practice?

The first decision is whether to stay in Practice or enter Commerce or Financial Services. Upon qualification, many people decide to move on but many newly qualified ACA’s know that they would miss the client interaction they have had, as well as the chance to work across sectors and with companies of varying sizes, so a move into Commerce doesn’t appeal to them. If this is you, then there are still options.

If you remain in practice, you can not only get involved in roles outside of the division you are now in (e.g Audit, Business Services or Corporate Tax), such as corporate finance and the others, but you may also have the ability to be seconded abroad – this is not only extremely rewarding but will assist in your career development. ​I​f you choose to stay, it must be a thought-out plan and not simply a wait-and-see approach. You need to be sure you want a ​​career in practice, as there is little career benefit to staying for 1 or 2 years only to then move on.

If you have decided to move on, the decision now is Commerce or Financial Services (or potentially Not For Profit and Public Sector). Often you are either interested in a job in the Financial Services industry, such as Investment Management or Banking or you are not. This requires individuals to have a keen interest in learning about financial products, different asset classes and fund structures. The sector also has a distinctive fast-paced culture that can be very attractive for the right individual. Whereas Commerce can be more diverse, both in terms of culture and products. The businesses are usually easier to understand and very tangible.

Usually, you will instinctively know which route is the best route for you, this can often reflect on your experiences with your practice client base.

The Type Of Work

Most Commerce roles that are suitable to ACA qualified accountants fall into 4 broad categories: Accounting, Analysis, Reporting and Internal Audit. Each of these offers paths to CFO, if that is your aim, and so it is better to focus on what you would enjoy and be good at rather than overthink your career plan at this early stage. Below we cover the four categories:

  • Accounting – A traditional accounting role uses your current skills so you will feel less out of your depth in the early days. It is also easier to gain technical experience early on in your career than it is once you have climbed the ladder. This builds on your qualification and gives you a solid foundation for the rest of your career.
  • Analysis – Analytical roles can be a lot of fun! They require a commercial and business brain and the ability to work with non-finance functions. The experience you gain can give you a much deeper understanding of the commercial nature of a business. Best of all, an ACA with commercial experience is a sought-after commodity.
  • Reporting – Reporting roles will involve an element of both analytical and accounting work, but your main function will be to interpret the numbers and communicate the “story” to senior management. These roles can provide an overview of the business, without going into much depth. They give excellent exposure to the business and senior management.
  • Internal Audit – Build on your external audit experience, add value and help a business achieve its strategic goals by improving the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes. Internal audit roles offer the chance to really understand the workings of a company and can be a stepping-stone into the wider business.

Choose Your Sector

If you have chosen to move out of practice, there are a lot of options! FMCG? Retail? Energy? Pharmaceutical? Telecommunications? Engineering? Construction? Fintech? In Commerce and Industry, the sector list is endless and each sector has its pros and cons.

Importantly, certain sectors fit with others easily and can increase your future career options. Others are more specialist in nature and much harder to move out of once you are in. Understanding the differences between sectors is vital, as moving into the wrong sector can make future career moves difficult.

If you have just qualified as an ACA then the specialist team at Halliday Marx is here to help you make the most of your new qualification. We can help you choose the right sector and industry based on your experience and interests.

If you would like any more advice on this topic or if you’re looking for your next role, please get in touch with our specialist team today on 020 7096 8200 or email us at [email protected]

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