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Moving from Practice into Industry

Moving from an accountancy practice into a role within industry is a very common route for many who obtain an ACA or ACCA Qualification. The purpose of this short piece is to give you a brief understanding of what to expect if you decide to make a move, and how you can begin to determine which path is appropriate for you.

When to move

Post Qualification there are a number of natural exit points as you begin your career as a Qualified Accountant in industry. The route you may take in industry is often determined by when you decide to leave and how much post qualified experience you have obtained. The three most common times to leave practice are Newly Qualified, Assistant Manager and Manager. These are considered the most popular as they mirror similar seniority levels in industry, whether this be the management of a team or seniority in the business.

If you are currently in practice and considering a move into industry, you must determine when the appropriate time for you to leave is, as it is different for everyone. If, for example, a career in industry is a pathway you are likely to go down then making the move sooner rather than later may be wise, especially if the position would provide you more valuable experience for a long-term career in industry rather than an extra year in practice.

Most common roles in industry

There are many routes available for ACA or ACCA Accountants wanting to make their first move. Three of the most common positions are listed below but these will vary business to business, and we would advise speaking to your Axon Moore consultant in detail about this.

Management Accountant
A slightly further step away from the norms of practice. These positions provide a forward looking assessment of business performance. Running monthly tasks such as budgeting, forecasting and business performance measures, Management Accountants tend to be very broad positions that offer a number of new skillsets.

Finance Business Partner / FP&A Analyst
These roles are furthest removed from practice but are grouped together purely in the context of moving from practice to industry. Commercial roles have a much more data driven and analytical focus, looking to assess and analyse the performance of the business through various KPIs.

Financial/ Group Accountant
This is considered the most common route. This position will leverage the majority of your skillset and is often considered to be the role that “sits on the other side of the table” when it comes to technical accounting. These positions will focus on the legal requirements of the business, ensuring financial compliance and appropriate audit have taken place.

Types of business

As noted above, the roles on offer in industry can vary dramatically depending on the type, size and structure of business. A Financial Accountant role in an SME PE backed business is significantly different than a Financial Accountant in an established PLC. Therefore, we at Axon Moore encourage people to focus heavily on three core factors: Hiring Manager, Business Context, Role Progression/ Career targets. If you assess any new opportunity against these factors then you can’t go wrong.

Hiring Manager
This is a crucial factor in any move and is of equal importance regardless of the type of business you work for. Working for someone who also has an ACA Qualification can provide an excellent mentor relationship. They will be able to provide guidance and support and will understand your strengths as well as the areas you need to develop. It is also worth noting that a senior team with ACA Accountants demonstrates a proven pathway for progression as a number of other ACA Accountants have already gone before you.

Culture / Work ethic
This is always considered an important topic, particularly for ACA Accountants. A life in practice is challenging with long hours throughout the year, in particular during busy period. The work culture varies from business to business and it is important to understand what environment you are looking to work in. For example, highly acquisitive, entrepreneurial and PE Backed organisations have higher expectations due to the demand and speed of work. In this type of environment, 45+ hours would typically be the norm but can be rewarded well.

Progression/ Career targets
The route you take in industry should ultimately contribute to your long term plans. Making the move to industry has the potential to open a large number of doors as you begin to develop new skills. For example, if the end goal is to be a Finance Director in a PE Backed business, it is important to gain exposure to PE quickly and to support the business through an exit period. If your aim is to be the Group Financial Controller of a PLC then a career in the SME market won’t support you. Instead, focussing on regional Financial Accounting roles in larger PLCs would be a better starting point.

Axon Moore have a dedicated team that specialise in supporting people who are exploring the possibility of moving from practice to industry, and as always, we are here to help. If you are have recently completed your ACA or ACCA Qualification and would like a confidential conversation please get in touch with an Axon Moore consultant.