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Comments (136)

  • mongoose's picture

    Non-target here. Thank you for posting your story; keeps us motivated. I think there are going to be a few nay-sayers here -- stupid HS kids who will say that your story is made up. Any way you can get a star to add credibility?

  • In reply to mongoose
    itsinthebag's picture

    JamesHetfield:
    Non-target here. Thank you for posting your story; keeps us motivated. I think there are going to be a few nay-sayers here -- stupid HS kids who will say that your story is made up. Any way you can get a star to add credibility?

    .

  • In reply to mongoose
    itsinthebag's picture

    JamesHetfield:
    Non-target here. Thank you for posting your story; keeps us motivated. I think there are going to be a few nay-sayers here -- stupid HS kids who will say that your story is made up. Any way you can get a star to add credibility?

    Done.

  • Dogon's picture

    Congrats

    When you joined the buyside, how did you describe your Big 4 experience? Do you find your work from Big 4 to be relevant? How did you find the headhunter to work with?

  • MistaBooks's picture

    When you were interviewing with the HF / headhunter did you say you were interested in working at a HF or just 'buy-side'? I would think if you just said 'buyside' they would blow you off as someone who was just interested in getting out of audit as opposed to getting into something specific (HF, PE, etc.) This is at least the case in my experience

  • In reply to Dogon
    itsinthebag's picture

    Dogon:
    Congrats

    When you joined the buyside, how did you describe your Big 4 experience? Do you find your work from Big 4 to be relevant? How did you find the headhunter to work with?

    Not following your first question - are you talking about during my interview or when I talk to fellow colleagues?

    Second question - depends on the companies you audit. For my VC/PE/HF clients, work is completely irrelevant. For my tech companies, I do believe that I have a better understanding of their footnotes and as such, a better understanding of how to utilize their financials in my analyses.

    Third question - LinkedIn; Big 4 employees are constantly contacted by headhunters on LNKD, but I did not use the people who contacted me as they only wanted to sell me on accounting positions. I clicked on their connections and found other headhunters focused on finance in their company and reached out to them directly.

  • nyboarder's picture

    How much experience did you have with valuation and equity research prior to your interview? Was this something that you were doing on your own already, and were able to pitch some ideas - or were they just looking to see how adept you were with accounting?

    What were some of the things you had listed on your resume that you think distinguished you from others. Was there a specific project that kept coming up during the interview?

    I'm just trying to get a feel for how you leveraged your audit experience.

  • yeahright's picture

    How did you land a buy side gig from audit? When they asked technical questions, were you able to answer them or did they stick to fit type due to your background? I guess I just dont understand how the transition would work since they seem like totally different positions.

    Frank Sinatra - "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy."

  • In reply to MistaBooks
    itsinthebag's picture

    MistaBooks:
    When you were interviewing with the HF / headhunter did you say you were interested in working at a HF or just 'buy-side'? I would think if you just said 'buyside' they would blow you off as someone who was just interested in getting out of audit as opposed to getting into something specific (HF, PE, etc.) This is at least the case in my experience

    You are correct. I have several Big 4 friends who are still stuck in audit because of this reason. I was actually working with the headhunter on landing a TAS gig (side note: you should never reveal your full hand; if I told the headhunter about my ultimate path -- audit -> TAS -> IBD/MBA -> PE/VC/HF, I'm almost 100% positive they would have ignored me like my other friends) as TAS is a common exit for skilled auditors. I just happened to build good rapport and the headhunter threw this out to me. I was currently in the second round interviews, but had already expressed to the headhunter my concerns about the Company and relocation so the headhunter kept looking for me.

    Learning how to build rapport is probably one of the best skills I learned from audit.

  • AsianMonky's picture

    What kind of positions did the headhunters tell you about when you were in Audit? Was it mainly F500 companies, and also was it mostly pure accounting, or were there positions in FP&A, Treasury, Investor relations etc?

    Do you think Big 4 is a better option than a FLDP at a large F100 company if the goal is to become a manager/director in Corp Fin, in more of FP&A, Treasury rather than controllership, or SEC reporting.

  • 808's picture

    Thanks for making yourself available for questions. Your LinkedIn strategy is genius - that is the answer to the first problem of getting the interview as an auditor. As for the second step of acing the interview, what did you say to convince them to hire an auditor? Did you try to leverage your limited TAS experience?

    Great post - FYI I posted a link to this in my group Big 4 Accounting.

  • Vyraal's picture

    Which group within PwC TAS or Deloitte FAS would you say will help the most in trying to get onto the buyside? Also what's the current strategy/role at your firm right now? Ever consider the CFA in addition with your CPA?

    I think I'm one of the few people that would be willing to read your 10,000 word post about your experience btw.

  • In reply to nyboarder
    itsinthebag's picture

    equitydigger:
    How much experience did you have with valuation and equity research prior to your interview? Was this something that you were doing on your own already, and were able to pitch some ideas - or were they just looking to see how adept you were with accounting?

    What were some of the things you had listed on your resume that you think distinguished you from others. Was there a specific project that kept coming up during the interview?

    I'm just trying to get a feel for how you leveraged your audit experience.

    It was much more accounting intensive for me. I got absolutely crushed on one question (I was taking double shots at the airport bar after the interview in an attempt to retroactively black out how badly I fumbled) but the headhunter informed me sometime after that the partners were not expecting me to know the answer given my background and were much more interested in my thought process and my ability to think under stress. I fully believe that at boutique firms, since they don't usually compete for your stereotypical GS/MS candidates, that they would rather identify someone with potential and mold from scratch versus dealing with some douche who believes their old firm's methodology is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It definitely varies across boutique firms, but one common theme across all the major players is that their interviews are much more rigid and structured. This is also why I fully believe that working at a boutique firm is the best way to break in.

    I requested IPO projects as those are universally known across the audit spectrum as the most intensive engagements (maybe with the exception of restatements, but who wants to work on those? Much cooler to say you were on an IPO than on a restatement and not to mention that engagement dynamics are much more enjoyable as you're helping the client make money vs. realizing that your firm messed up and are now correcting your mistakes - clients are much more helpful and friendly during an IPO engagement vs. a restatement). Given my first year performance, I was given the opportunity to essentially senior another IPO engagement (I did 2 IPO's during my 2 years), which resulted in me being directly responsible for 6+ associate-level members among many other responsibilities. After the IPO, I essentially seniored all my other engagements even though I had yet to reach the standard 2-year mark for promotion to senior level.

    It is hard to distinguish yourself among your audit peers as you're all generally doing the same thing, but there are a few other things such as leading a technical seminar on an industry-specific accounting topic. While reading accounting guidance is by far one of the worst things I have ever done (I'd rather go through I-week again than read accounting guidance all night long), it demonstrates one's ability to understand and explain concepts as well as one's personal drive to succeed.

  • In reply to yeahright
    itsinthebag's picture

    yeahright:
    How did you land a buy side gig from audit? When they asked technical questions, were you able to answer them or did they stick to fit type due to your background? I guess I just dont understand how the transition would work since they seem like totally different positions.

    Technical accounting questions, basic finance questions and a lot of "walk me through how you would do this..." type of questions.

    Please see my response to equitydigger (I just wrote it), and let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

  • In reply to AsianMonky
    itsinthebag's picture

    AsianMonky:
    What kind of positions did the headhunters tell you about when you were in Audit? Was it mainly F500 companies, and also was it mostly pure accounting, or were there positions in FP&A, Treasury, Investor relations etc?

    Do you think Big 4 is a better option than a FLDP at a large F100 company if the goal is to become a manager/director in Corp Fin, in more of FP&A, Treasury rather than controllership, or SEC reporting.

    The first headhunter who contacted me tried to sell me on a "finance" position at a F10 Company. The headhunter sold the position very well (but now I'd prefer to chalk it up to my inexperience dealing with headhunters), saying it was purely an FP&A role. However, after I got in touch with the Company and went through the first round, I quickly found out that while it was labeled "financial analyst", the duties involved were much more aligned with a senior accountant role - primary responsibilities were month-end close, help with audit procedures, etc... The only reason there was "finance" involved at all was because they said that I would be working closely with the FP&A group on their analyses. Given my experience auditing companies, I knew that "working closely with the FP&A groups" was actually just providing them with month-end actuals. Headhunters are amazing salespeople.

    Side note: This is a great example for all college students to ignore the title and look at what your daily responsibilities are; I audited a company where the "Controller" was actually just the personal assistant to the CFO and didn't know jack shit about accounting; she didn't even have a CPA license. This was quickly corroborated every time I asked her a question and all her responses were to ask the CFO.

    After that, I stopped responding to the headhunters who were offering me positions and went a different route (described in my response to DogOn's question, please see therein and let me know if you have further questions).

    The FLDP question is difficult to answer. The great thing about working for a Big 4 is that they have so many different arms and if you are a stellar performer, you will be given the opportunity to rotate into one of those service lines, at which point, I personally believe Big 4 finance (e.g., Deloitte Corporate Finance) would be better than the FLDP program. However, if you are not a stellar performer, you will be stuck in audit, in which case the FLDP position is much better. Also note that it will require 2 years minimum before they will let you rotate into a different program at the Big 4, so there is a lot of opportunity cost involved. I really wish I could give you a straight answer on this, but there is always more than one way to skin a cat.

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  • In reply to 808
    itsinthebag's picture

    808:
    Thanks for making yourself available for questions. Your LinkedIn strategy is genius - that is the answer to the first problem of getting the interview as an auditor. As for the second step of acing the interview, what did you say to convince them to hire an auditor? Did you try to leverage your limited TAS experience?

    Great post - FYI I posted a link to this in my group Big 4 Accounting.

    Thanks for posting the link; I will always be forever grateful to my firm as they gave me my first job which ultimately allowed me to land my current job. Please let me know if anyone in that group has any specific questions and I will do my best to answer.

    As for acing the interview, I think the best thing is to convince them that you are not an auditor. There are many factors that play into this (e.g., the longer you stay in audit, the harder it will be to convince them you are not an auditor. Someone with 2 years of experience is still relatively new and maybe just figured out what they want in life versus someone who's had 4 years of audit experience - it's much hard to explain how it took you 4 years to realize audit is not your cup of tea.) Nail down the "why" part as I'm pretty sure that was always the first question I was asked during my finance interviews. If you can't get past the first question, you don't stand a chance.

  • nyboarder's picture

    You said, your first job was at a boutique - can you give us an AUM range?

  • In reply to itsinthebag
    AsianMonky's picture

    itsinthebag:
    AsianMonky:
    What kind of positions did the headhunters tell you about when you were in Audit? Was it mainly F500 companies, and also was it mostly pure accounting, or were there positions in FP&A, Treasury, Investor relations etc?

    Do you think Big 4 is a better option than a FLDP at a large F100 company if the goal is to become a manager/director in Corp Fin, in more of FP&A, Treasury rather than controllership, or SEC reporting.

    The first headhunter who contacted me tried to sell me on a "finance" position at a F10 Company. The headhunter sold the position very well (but now I'd prefer to chalk it up to my inexperience dealing with headhunters), saying it was purely an FP&A role. However, after I got in touch with the Company and went through the first round, I quickly found out that while it was labeled "financial analyst", the duties involved were much more aligned with a senior accountant role - primary responsibilities were month-end close, help with audit procedures, etc... The only reason there was "finance" involved at all was because they said that I would be working closely with the FP&A group on their analyses. Given my experience auditing companies, I knew that "working closely with the FP&A groups" was actually just providing them with month-end actuals. Headhunters are amazing salespeople.

    Side note: This is a great example for all college students to ignore the title and look at what your daily responsibilities are; I audited a company where the "Controller" was actually just the personal assistant to the CFO and didn't know jack shit about accounting; she didn't even have a CPA license. This was quickly corroborated every time I asked her a question and all her responses were to ask the CFO.

    After that, I stopped responding to the headhunters who were offering me positions and went a different route (described in my response to DogOn's question, please see therein and let me know if you have further questions).

    The FLDP question is difficult to answer. The great thing about working for a Big 4 is that they have so many different arms and if you are a stellar performer, you will be given the opportunity to rotate into one of those service lines, at which point, I personally believe Big 4 finance (e.g., Deloitte Corporate Finance) would be better than the FLDP program. However, if you are not a stellar performer, you will be stuck in audit, in which case the FLDP position is much better. Also note that it will require 2 years minimum before they will let you rotate into a different program at the Big 4, so there is a lot of opportunity cost involved. I really wish I could give you a straight answer on this, but there is always more than one way to skin a cat.

    Wow. Thanks for the great info. Had another question: Do headhunters contact you for opportunities near the Big 4 office you are located in? I'm not sure how they offer you all of these positions when there are countless amount of Big 4 auditors.

    Also- thanks for the input on FLDP vs Audit. Do you think that when you get recruited by headhunters for Fin/Acc roles at F500, that you are on kind of a "fast-track" , as in they want to hire you to train you to be in management later on?

    Thanks.

  • In reply to Vyraal
    itsinthebag's picture

    Vyraal:
    Which group within PwC TAS or Deloitte FAS would you say will help the most in trying to get onto the buyside? Also what's the current strategy/role at your firm right now? Ever consider the CFA in addition with your CPA?

    I think I'm one of the few people that would be willing to read your 10,000 word post about your experience btw.

    Going off of the exact terminology, PwC TAS (as I know, is related to tax advisory) and Deloitte FAS (as I know, is related to forensic accounting/security valuation). In this case, I'd definitely go with FAS. Deloitte Corporate Finance is it's own beast and unrelated to Deloitte FAS.

    I want to clarify that Deloitte and PwC both offer transaction advisory services (TAS). For Deloitte, it's guised under their AERS arm as "M&A services", while for PwC it's called "Capital Markets Advisory". So if you're asking me to compare PwC "TAS" vs. Deloitte "TAS", then I'd say there really is no difference other than my personal preference as to which firm's culture is better. All Big 4's will essentially provide the same experience (minus KPMG, not personal preference, fact).

    Fundamental-value w/ several billion AUM. I'm in the tech sector.

    No, I do not plan on taking the CFA simply because I do not believe it is necessary to my future goals. That being said, there are senior partners at my firm with the CFA designation. However, to me, I would much rather focus on getting a good GMAT score and working on my EC's in hopes of landing at a top MBA as I believe that an M7 MBA > CFA in all regards (timing as well is a factor; I could study for the GMAT and graduate with an MBA in the time it takes to pass all 3 CFA tests, both require ~3 years). There are many posts on WSO about the value of the CFA and the general consensus (which I agree with) is that it is pretty much useless unless you plan on doing asset management, which I do not. This is also one of the greatest myths that I saw during my Big 4 days - that the CFA/CPA combination is a golden ticket to finance. Sorry, but that's just not true. I wish I could find the link, but there are a million posts on here about the value of the CFA to finance and that is what I base my knowledge on and believe it to be fairly representative of the world's view on the CFA. One more thing, I don't believe the CFA will provide me with any useful real-world experience, just like the CPA did not improve my audit/accounting knowledge in any way shape or form.

    As much as I'd love to write about all my experiences, I don't think the value-add would be worth it. I'm already doing my best to keep my responses direct as I can without going off onto a bunch of different tangents. For example, in the above, I could go on about EY/KPMG's service offerings compared to smaller firms like Duff & Phelps, Alvaraz & Marsal, etc.. I could also then discuss the difference in clients they serve and the value at each firm. I could also write 10,000 words on why I am not pursuing the CFA. There are just too many roads for me to go down and I don't have enough time to write it all/write it in a meaningful way where people won't think I'm just rambling.

    That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

  • Tintinnabulation's picture

    I have an offer at a conservative Fortune 100 insurance company in product management and another as a consultant for a company that provides financial software to buy side firms (Reuters, Fact Set, Bloomberg) .

    In your opinion, which would lead to better opportunities down the road to break into the buy-side?

    "Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life."

    John R. Wooden

  • In reply to nyboarder
    itsinthebag's picture

    equitydigger:
    You said, your first job was at a boutique - can you give us an AUM range?

    Several billion - trying to keep myself somewhat confidential.

  • In reply to AsianMonky
    itsinthebag's picture

    AsianMonky:

    Wow. Thanks for the great info. Had another question: Do headhunters contact you for opportunities near the Big 4 office you are located in? I'm not sure how they offer you all of these positions when there are countless amount of Big 4 auditors.

    Also- thanks for the input on FLDP vs Audit. Do you think that when you get recruited by headhunters for Fin/Acc roles at F500, that you are on kind of a "fast-track" , as in they want to hire you to train you to be in management later on?

    Thanks.

    Yes, all first offers were located within 75 miles of my office. You can always tell them if you are interested in opportunities outside your current location though.

    It's a numbers game; not everyone they contact is ready to leave or has the necessary skills required by the Company. They just want to throw as many potential candidates to the Company as possible and then let the Company deal with weeding out the candidates.

    No, you are not on a "fast-track", especially at well established companies. At F500 Companies, they don't hire you because they want to train you; they hire you because of your experience and hope that it will help the Company grow.

    To me, leaving Big 4 for a corporate accounting role is career suicide; you only do it if you are a woman who wants to get pregnant (even then Big 4 has AMAZING women's benefits, always ranked in top 10 best women companies to work for), you want work-life stability, or you got fired from your firm.

    All the smart auditors leave for finance/operations/law school/start-up ASAP (note it's very hard to go straight from Audit to a reputable MBA, but you can go to a reputable law school).

  • In reply to Tintinnabulation
    itsinthebag's picture

    Tintinnabulation:
    I have an offer at a conservative Fortune 100 insurance company in product management and another as a consultant for a company that provides financial software to buy side firms (Reuters, Fact Set, Bloomberg) .

    In your opinion, which would lead to better opportunities down the road to break into the buy-side?

    Can't give you an opinion as I don't know much about product management. With the financial software firm, you would essentially become a master of navigating the software; not sure how much relevant financial experience you are gaining there. Sorry can't provide more insight here.

  • cb3's picture

    Thanks so much for making yourself available. Similar to your background, I started out in big4 in Hong Kong 3 years ago, after graduating from a top public school in the Midwest. About 4 months ago, I moved to a transaction service role in another big4 firm.

    Currently I am looking to jump into IBD or a F500 corporate development role. I have also started preparing for the GMAT, in case things do not work out and I will have to go back to business school.

    My question is
    1. I understand how I can leverage my experience in dealing with financial statements, i.e. their footnotes, proforma adjustments. but how did you address you knowledge on modeling, valuations, as well as specific industry experience (e.g. If the buy-side firm are TMT-focused, while your audit experience was with industrials)
    2. In your opinion, what set you apart from other big4 staff that wanna make the move as well?
    3. In my situation, do you think I should continue to network and try to break in, or go for business school earlier ?

    Thanks

  • In reply to itsinthebag
    Art.Vandelay's picture

    itsinthebag:

    That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

    Can you touch a little bit on the Big 4 exit opps/Big 4 landing in finance part of things as far as breaking into corp. dev.? This or going the start up route are the most appealing options to me right now.

    And I dont have any specific question that I can think of right now (will check back in if I come up with one), but if you want to discuss some Big 4 lies as you mentioned, maybe a little about the environment, hours (busy season vs regular), etc., that would be great too.

    --Art Vandelay

  • In reply to itsinthebag
    AsianMonky's picture

    itsinthebag:
    AsianMonky:

    Wow. Thanks for the great info. Had another question: Do headhunters contact you for opportunities near the Big 4 office you are located in? I'm not sure how they offer you all of these positions when there are countless amount of Big 4 auditors.

    Also- thanks for the input on FLDP vs Audit. Do you think that when you get recruited by headhunters for Fin/Acc roles at F500, that you are on kind of a "fast-track" , as in they want to hire you to train you to be in management later on?

    Thanks.

    Yes, all first offers were located within 75 miles of my office. You can always tell them if you are interested in opportunities outside your current location though.

    It's a numbers game; not everyone they contact is ready to leave or has the necessary skills required by the Company. They just want to throw as many potential candidates to the Company as possible and then let the Company deal with weeding out the candidates.

    No, you are not on a "fast-track", especially at well established companies. At F500 Companies, they don't hire you because they want to train you; they hire you because of your experience and hope that it will help the Company grow.

    To me, leaving Big 4 for a corporate accounting role is career suicide; you only do it if you are a woman who wants to get pregnant (even then Big 4 has AMAZING women's benefits, always ranked in top 10 best women companies to work for), you want work-life stability, or you got fired from your firm.

    All the smart auditors leave for finance/operations/law school/start-up ASAP (note it's very hard to go straight from Audit to a reputable MBA, but you can go to a reputable law school).

    When people compare Big 4 audit vs FLDP at a reputable company, Big 4 supporters say that there are just too many ex-Big 4 people in management/exec that it's hard to argue against that Big 4 is not the best route to management positions in F500 Finance.

    What do you think about that statement?

  • Husky32's picture

    Not as related but If you're interested in consulting, which 1 or 2 of the big 4 specifically do you feel are most open to non targets/accounting majors/people who start off in audit interested in lateraling over?

  • In reply to cb3
    itsinthebag's picture

    kychung3:
    Thanks so much for making yourself available. Similar to your background, I started out in big4 in Hong Kong 3 years ago, after graduating from a top public school in the Midwest. About 4 months ago, I moved to a transaction service role in another big4 firm.

    Currently I am looking to jump into IBD or a F500 corporate development role. I have also started preparing for the GMAT, in case things do not work out and I will have to go back to business school.

    My question is
    1. I understand how I can leverage my experience in dealing with financial statements, i.e. their footnotes, proforma adjustments. but how did you address you knowledge on modeling, valuations, as well as specific industry experience (e.g. If the buy-side firm are TMT-focused, while your audit experience was with industrials)
    2. In your opinion, what set you apart from other big4 staff that wanna make the move as well?
    3. In my situation, do you think I should continue to network and try to break in, or go for business school earlier ?

    Thanks

    See my response to EquityDigger for questions #1 & #2.

    Question #3 - Both. Work on breaking in to help strengthen your chances of getting into a top B-School, but if you are a strong enough candidate and are able to get into a top MBA program, then leverage that to re brand yourself. Apply to B-School and if you don't get it, keep networking to strengthen your resume. Always keep multiple doors open, never put all your eggs in one basket.

  • Equities-In-Dallas's picture

    +1. Thanks.

    I'll be joining a big 4 out of NYC next fall (PwC/Deloitte)... Looking for your insight as to whether or not your area of practice within Audit helped at all. I'm looking to be either in Banking/Capital Markets or Private Equity space within Audit, as I feel while it will still be Audit, I can at least touch some Finance, albeit in a small capacity. What were your type of clients within Audit, and did you find this to positively or negatively impact you in anyway?

  • Mps721's picture

    From experience if I am an engineering major eventually could I make the transition into finance if I do not like engineering but have a degree in it? Thank you.

    Mps721

  • In reply to itsinthebag
    Vyraal's picture

    itsinthebag:

    ... I'd say there really is no difference other than my personal preference as to which firm's culture is better. All Big 4's will essentially provide the same experience (minus KPMG, not personal preference, fact).

    No, I do not plan on taking the CFA simply because I do not believe it is necessary to my future goals. That being said, there are senior partners at my firm with the CFA designation. However, to me, I would much rather focus on getting a good GMAT score and working on my EC's in hopes of landing at a top MBA as I believe that an M7 MBA > CFA in all regards ... This is also one of the greatest myths that I saw during my Big 4 days - that the CFA/CPA combination is a golden ticket to finance....One more thing, I don't believe the CFA will provide me with any useful real-world experience, just like the CPA did not improve my audit/accounting knowledge in any way shape or form.

    That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

    This is a godsend and I understand your reasons for not wanting to spew everything for the sake of keeping concise, regardless I really appreciate the spirit of this thread overall. I would SB you if I only had the credits. I got some more follow-up questions if you don't mind.

    I wasn't able to land any offers right away (I'm a senior trying to break into buyside, preferably a fundamental equities long short fund, a dream for me would be any investment analyst role in a distressed fund but I think that's even more difficult coming out of undergrad). As an aside, I am interviewing and trying to break into boutique asset management/ER firms now until Spring as well as Deloitte FAS's BVal group (mainly because it's in a city of my choosing) and has the most relevant skillset as far as I can determine for an eventual buyside role.

    What do you think I should expect for BVal? I know that the Corporate Finance is a separated entity just like Consulting due to independence reasons, so lateraling won't be any easier. I've been told I would know financial modelling, but only in a rigid fashion as the numbers we put out will be scrutinized by the law and IRS. Any truth to that? Any recommended actions for someone who wants to eventually end up in a distressed credit fund?

    Big 4 lies you say? Please, do tell more. Also what was the most difficult aspect trying to get out of Audit? Stereotypes? Showing you had technical down? Showing that auditors have personality as well?

    I noticed that you said CFA wasn't that useful because you didn't plan on doing asset management, but at the same time you're at a buyside firm? I always imagined asset management being the overall category and HF/MF etc falling under that umbrella. Did you have another definition for asset management?

    To be honest I didn't have a solid plan when I graduate about how I was going to end up in a distressed fund, only grabbing at job descriptions that might provide a skillset that would help me later down the road, but this thread has gone a long way in giving me some inspiration, I really appreciate the input.

  • calikid3820's picture

    Did the headhunters/potential employers see value in your CPA? I know there are countless threads on whether there is value and what the buy-side thinks of the CPA.

    EDIT: I think it's awesome that you made buy-side out of Big 4 Audit. Everyone is constantly saying "it can't be done"

  • In reply to Art.Vandelay
    itsinthebag's picture

    Art.Vandelay:
    itsinthebag:

    That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

    Can you touch a little bit on the Big 4 exit opps/Big 4 landing in finance part of things as far as breaking into corp. dev.? This or going the start up route are the most appealing options to me right now.

    And I dont have any specific question that I can think of right now (will check back in if I come up with one), but if you want to discuss some Big 4 lies as you mentioned, maybe a little about the environment, hours (busy season vs regular), etc., that would be great too.

    --Art Vandelay

    For people with less than 2 years of experience, I've seen all sorts of exits - IBD (boutique firms only), Operations at Start-Up's, Law School, and FP&A at F500's. The IBD/Op's people were high performers from the get-go and only landed in audit because they couldn't break in to finance from undergrad. They also had degrees from top US institutions that receive OCR from BB IB firms.

    For people with 2+ years of experience, exit opps are much more limited to either law school, TAS, or Sr. Accountant/Accounting Manager/Director of Financial Reporting (3-5 years/5-7 years/7+ years in public accounting, respectively). Kept in touch with a TAS friend who is now at an M7 MBA (5 years in Audit, 1.5 years in TAS, then applied to MBA).

    Biggest Big 4 Misconception - I'll do two.
    #1 - you work 40 hours a week. Fact is that audit is a client-service job, so don't expect to be at the client site for fewer hours than the client themselves. I don't know anyone who worked 40 hours a week, whether it be busy season or regular season. Regular season average is closer to 50 hrs/wk and my firm's requirements during busy season were mandatory 11/hr minimum per day, so expect to work 60+ hrs/week during busy season. I have personally done several 100+ hr/weeks.

    #2 - Auditing in the finance sector will improve your finance skills and therefore your ability to break into finance. Completely false. Unless you want to be an accountant for the financial firm, learning how to audit PE/VC/HF's is completely useless and zero value-add to landing a gig in finance.

    Environment - varies across firms, EY thinks they are the smartest so everyone is extremely cut-throat and a lot of backstabbing occurs there, PwC and Deloitte have the most collegiate-like atmosphere, everyone at KPMG wishes they were at the other 3 firms. It all depends on the team dynamic - there are douche bags and there are genuinely nice people, it's expected when your firm employs over 100K+ people. I've met and worked with every single type of personality out there.

  • In reply to AsianMonky
    itsinthebag's picture

    AsianMonky:

    When people compare Big 4 audit vs FLDP at a reputable company, Big 4 supporters say that there are just too many ex-Big 4 people in management/exec that it's hard to argue against that Big 4 is not the best route to management positions in F500 Finance.

    What do you think about that statement?

    Who are the Big 4 supporters? How much experience do they have at the Big 4?

    It's a numbers game, you probably hear about the Big 4 much more simply because there are so many more Big 4 employees than there are FLDP employees. Need to keep everything in perspective, I'm sure the % allocation is equally comparable.

    There is no one clear path that will lead you to management at a F500; you need a wide range of skills to get that position, and both Big 4 and FLDP provide you with just a few of the many skills you will need to be successful in the management role. They are both excellent starting paths, but one is not clear cut better than the other, there are other variables more important than where your first job is such as the person's competence, ability to play the political game and so forth.

  • calikid3820's picture

    Also in additions to my previous question... Is there a pay difference salary/bonus between the groups in the Big 4? Do KPMG/Delloite Corporate Finance get a higher salary/bonus than tax/audit?

  • In reply to Husky32
    itsinthebag's picture

    Husky32:
    Not as related but If you're interested in consulting, which 1 or 2 of the big 4 specifically do you feel are most open to non targets/accounting majors/people who start off in audit interested in lateraling over?

    They are all the same. Your performance as well as your ability to network are much bigger factors. Best chance is to buddy up with a consulting partner and hope they go to bat for you, or make friends with the consulting HR group, hope they slip you into the pile of resumes, and hope you can crush the interview.

    You don't get any bonus points for being in their audit group; they're two completely different entities and if any, you will be seen as peg lower (unless you have the consulting partner on your side)

  • In reply to Equities-In-Dallas
    itsinthebag's picture

    Equities-In-Dallas:
    +1. Thanks.

    I'll be joining a big 4 out of NYC next fall (PwC/Deloitte)... Looking for your insight as to whether or not your area of practice within Audit helped at all. I'm looking to be either in Banking/Capital Markets or Private Equity space within Audit, as I feel while it will still be Audit, I can at least touch some Finance, albeit in a small capacity. What were your type of clients within Audit, and did you find this to positively or negatively impact you in anyway?

    See my response to DogOn about the relevance of your audit clients in regards to my current role.

    I will say that auditing a bank is one of the worst experiences you will get. The hours are the worst, and due to the complexity of banks, you will only see one financial statement account. You will not gain a broad range of accounting knowledge; yes you will be a god at auditing cash equivalents, but you will not know crap about opex/cash flows/revenue or anything actually important. They will not rotate you to the other sections because of the time deadline and your previous experience with the account. The client will demand you audit the same section for ease and what the client wants, the client gets.

  • In reply to Equities-In-Dallas
    itsinthebag's picture

    Equities-In-Dallas:
    +1. Thanks.

    I'll be joining a big 4 out of NYC next fall (PwC/Deloitte)... Looking for your insight as to whether or not your area of practice within Audit helped at all. I'm looking to be either in Banking/Capital Markets or Private Equity space within Audit, as I feel while it will still be Audit, I can at least touch some Finance, albeit in a small capacity. What were your type of clients within Audit, and did you find this to positively or negatively impact you in anyway?

    See my response to DogOn and Art.Vandelay. I'll expand on my response to Art.Vandelay and the misconception that auditing in the finance sector will help you build financial knowledge.

    In my current role, I analyze financials of potential companies we want to invest in and we very rarely invest in PE/VC/HF firms as a good majority of them are private. Even if we do invest in the public ones, they are a very small portion of our portfolio compared to industrials, tech, energy, etc.. Therefore, learning how the financials of the PE/VC/HF firm are built (which is the knowledge you will be gaining if you choose finance as your preferred audit industry) gives you absolutely no advantage. I have audited PE/VC/HF clients and the knowledge gained from those engagements has done absolutely nothing for me in my current capacity.

    Also, from an audit perspective, you will be performing investor allocations and verifying cash payments/receipts. Those are the main issues with PE/VC/HF clients; none of those skills are useful unless you plan on being a fund accountant, in which case learning how to perform investor allocations is extremely relevant. No matter what you are told, you will never perform a DCF or perform any Company valuations - valuation testing is tying out the numbers they used in their assumptions to source documents, or you outsource the information to the valuation arm of your department.

  • In reply to Mps721
    itsinthebag's picture

    Mps721:
    From experience if I am an engineering major eventually could I make the transition into finance if I do not like engineering but have a degree in it? Thank you.

    Definitely. In this current environment, engineer undergrads (granted you have a great GPA), are much more valued than an econ undergrad. You just need to nail down the "why finance and not engineering" portion of the interview and you will be golden.

  • In reply to Vyraal
    itsinthebag's picture

    Vyraal:
    itsinthebag:

    ... I'd say there really is no difference other than my personal preference as to which firm's culture is better. All Big 4's will essentially provide the same experience (minus KPMG, not personal preference, fact).

    No, I do not plan on taking the CFA simply because I do not believe it is necessary to my future goals. That being said, there are senior partners at my firm with the CFA designation. However, to me, I would much rather focus on getting a good GMAT score and working on my EC's in hopes of landing at a top MBA as I believe that an M7 MBA > CFA in all regards ... This is also one of the greatest myths that I saw during my Big 4 days - that the CFA/CPA combination is a golden ticket to finance....One more thing, I don't believe the CFA will provide me with any useful real-world experience, just like the CPA did not improve my audit/accounting knowledge in any way shape or form.

    That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

    This is a godsend and I understand your reasons for not wanting to spew everything for the sake of keeping concise, regardless I really appreciate the spirit of this thread overall. I would SB you if I only had the credits. I got some more follow-up questions if you don't mind.

    I wasn't able to land any offers right away (I'm a senior trying to break into buyside, preferably a fundamental equities long short fund, a dream for me would be any investment analyst role in a distressed fund but I think that's even more difficult coming out of undergrad). As an aside, I am interviewing and trying to break into boutique asset management/ER firms now until Spring as well as Deloitte FAS's BVal group (mainly because it's in a city of my choosing) and has the most relevant skillset as far as I can determine for an eventual buyside role.

    What do you think I should expect for BVal? I know that the Corporate Finance is a separated entity just like Consulting due to independence reasons, so lateraling won't be any easier. I've been told I would know financial modelling, but only in a rigid fashion as the numbers we put out will be scrutinized by the law and IRS. Any truth to that? Any recommended actions for someone who wants to eventually end up in a distressed credit fund?

    Big 4 lies you say? Please, do tell more. Also what was the most difficult aspect trying to get out of Audit? Stereotypes? Showing you had technical down? Showing that auditors have personality as well?

    I noticed that you said CFA wasn't that useful because you didn't plan on doing asset management, but at the same time you're at a buyside firm? I always imagined asset management being the overall category and HF/MF etc falling under that umbrella. Did you have another definition for asset management?

    To be honest I didn't have a solid plan when I graduate about how I was going to end up in a distressed fund, only grabbing at job descriptions that might provide a skillset that would help me later down the road, but this thread has gone a long way in giving me some inspiration, I really appreciate the input.

    BVal is good, all the principals (equivalent to Partner, just different term for legal purposes) are CFA's. Don't work in a distressed credit fund so can't comment on that.

    See my response to Art Vandelay and Equities-In-Dallas for several misconceptions. I think having less than 2 years of experience was a serious bonus as I haven't developed the full-on image of being an accountant/auditor. I was still able to play the "I didn't know what I wanted in life so went to audit" card.

    I categorize asset management more with PWM.

    No problem, happy to be of any assistance.

  • nyboarder's picture

    Considering that 2 years at a public accounting firm and 2 years with an FLDP will offer different skill-sets, I was hoping you could give us your opinion on which you think is more relevant to what you do now.

    You mentioned your path was originally Audit --> TAS --> IBD/MBA --> PE/VC/HF. Would that be more likely than, say: FLDP --> ER/MBA --> HF

  • In reply to calikid3820
    itsinthebag's picture

    calikid3820:
    Did the headhunters/potential employers see value in your CPA? I know there are countless threads on whether there is value and what the buy-side thinks of the CPA.

    EDIT: I think it's awesome that you made buy-side out of Big 4 Audit. Everyone is constantly saying "it can't be done"

    It's more of an indicator of one's competence, determination and will-power to succeed. If you don't have the CPA, they'll ask you why not and there's no good response to that other than the fact that you're lazy or dumb. Heavy work-load is not a valid excuse and will immediately been interpreted as you are lazy. Slight caveat: If you have less than 1 year of work experience, you will be okay. Anything over 1 year and you'll have some serious explaining to do.

    Thanks, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There are traditional paths where the % is much greater, but there are always underdogs. Sports are a great example: Ben Wallace and Jeremy Lin are just a few that come to mind. Also note coming from the traditional path doesn't guarantee success: e.g., Matt Leinart, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Christian Laettner, John Scheyer, etc... The one driving factor is the person's individual drive and unwillingness to accept defeat.

  • In reply to itsinthebag
    calikid3820's picture

    itsinthebag:
    calikid3820:
    Did the headhunters/potential employers see value in your CPA? I know there are countless threads on whether there is value and what the buy-side thinks of the CPA.

    EDIT: I think it's awesome that you made buy-side out of Big 4 Audit. Everyone is constantly saying "it can't be done"

    It's more of an indicator of one's competence, determination and will-power to succeed. If you don't have the CPA, they'll ask you why not and there's no good response to that other than the fact that you're lazy or dumb. Heavy work-load is not a valid excuse and will immediately been interpreted as you are lazy. Slight caveat: If you have less than 1 year of work experience, you will be okay. Anything over 1 year and you'll have some serious explaining to do.

    Thanks, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There are traditional paths where the % is much greater, but there are always underdogs. Sports are a great example: Ben Wallace and Jeremy Lin are just a few that come to mind. Also note coming from the traditional path doesn't guarantee success: e.g., Matt Leinart, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Christian Laettner, John Scheyer, etc... The one driving factor is the person's individual drive and unwillingness to accept defeat.

    Hahahaha Awesome examples. I would also include Vince Young, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clauson, and Lindell White.

    Has the CPA added any value at all though to working in the Buy-Side? Or is it truly just an indicator of work ethic and and determination?

  • In reply to calikid3820
    itsinthebag's picture

    calikid3820:
    Also in additions to my previous question... Is there a pay difference salary/bonus between the groups in the Big 4? Do KPMG/Delloite Corporate Finance get a higher salary/bonus than tax/audit?

    Audit is the lowest paying of them all. Tax starts slightly higher (~$5K in my region), but your exit opportunities are extremely limited to tax or law school. Finance will always pay more than accounting.

    Pay varies by region, but in general from what I've seen, Deloitte & PwC have the highest starting salary. E&Y offers a much greater annual raise to their high-performers than any of the Big 4 so you can easily out-earn your fellow Deloitte/PwC peers within a year or two, and KPMG is last in all regards. PwC is usually the first to announce raises and make corporate/cultural changes while Deloitte is the most conservative and waits for all the other players to make a move before they decide to do anything.

  • In reply to nyboarder
    itsinthebag's picture

    equitydigger:
    Considering that 2 years at a public accounting firm and 2 years with an FLDP will offer different skill-sets, I was hoping you could give us your opinion on which you think is more relevant to what you do now.

    You mentioned your path was originally Audit --> TAS --> IBD/MBA --> PE/VC/HF. Would that be more likely than, say: FLDP --> ER/MBA --> HF

    I don't know what skills you learn/daily tasks you are responsible for in the FLDP so I cannot comment. I can only provide my real life experience as it relates to coming from audit.

  • In reply to calikid3820
    itsinthebag's picture

    calikid3820:
    itsinthebag:
    calikid3820:
    Did the headhunters/potential employers see value in your CPA? I know there are countless threads on whether there is value and what the buy-side thinks of the CPA.

    EDIT: I think it's awesome that you made buy-side out of Big 4 Audit. Everyone is constantly saying "it can't be done"

    It's more of an indicator of one's competence, determination and will-power to succeed. If you don't have the CPA, they'll ask you why not and there's no good response to that other than the fact that you're lazy or dumb. Heavy work-load is not a valid excuse and will immediately been interpreted as you are lazy. Slight caveat: If you have less than 1 year of work experience, you will be okay. Anything over 1 year and you'll have some serious explaining to do.

    Thanks, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There are traditional paths where the % is much greater, but there are always underdogs. Sports are a great example: Ben Wallace and Jeremy Lin are just a few that come to mind. Also note coming from the traditional path doesn't guarantee success: e.g., Matt Leinart, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Christian Laettner, John Scheyer, etc... The one driving factor is the person's individual drive and unwillingness to accept defeat.

    Hahahaha Awesome examples. I would also include Vince Young, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clauson, and Lindell White.

    Has the CPA added any value at all though to working in the Buy-Side? Or is it truly just an indicator of work ethic and and determination?

    Totally forgot about Vince Young! If you're in Cali, maybe you can add Colin Kaepernick to the list of successes as well.

    CPA response - Of the four exams, only FAR is relevant as that is basic accounting. AUD, BEC, and REG are all completely irrelevant to finance. Even then, my accounting classes taught me everything necessary to pass the FAR exam. And you can always learn accounting on the job, it's not hard. I truly believe the CPA is just another barrier of entry.

  • thedude12r43w's picture

    Congrats! You recently replied to one of my posts but was hoping to have a more detailed answer. For someone that is coming out undergrad and is looking at getting into other non-banking finance jobs such as corporate banking, valuation shops, etc. or working my way up in corporate finance as an entry level hire (non-rotational) would going the Big4 route have any opportunities. As a note, I am not interested in doing accounting and enjoy finance but don't actually mind putting a few years into big 4 audit if it will give better opportunities down the road.

    In short for a financial services (non-banking career), finance positions in F500s, top16 MBA, would you suggest Big4 audit or entry level financial analyst program in a F500.

  • AsianMonky's picture

    Have you personally seen people with just 5 years of experience in Big 4 Audit go directly into Manager level positions at a F500?

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