Big 4 Audit - Investment Management Exits

Hi all,

I know this may not gain the desired traction, since Big4 presence on this site seems small, however I've cross posted on several reddit forums and firmly believe that this IS the place to be asking:

Context:

I have been given and accepted an offer for an Audit position in the investment management space (Asset management, pension funds, hedge funds, and private equity), and want to have a realistic expectation for exits in the space.

My long term career goal has been to work in the investment management space (ideally working in a position with a % PnL) because I learned about markets from a young age (and the $$$ it entails) and decided to pursue it for its stark competitiveness. I have managed my own small investment book in the last few years, marginally outperforming the market throughout, primally through macro swing trades (FX trades in predictable movements between my home currency and USD).

It was never my intention to pursue accounting (I am a Finance and Economics grad), and thus I am torn about pursuing the CA; On one hand, it would pain me to work in a field I have no passion for, on the other hand, there are few unemployed CA's out there, thus I am weighing the benefit of putting all my chips in to pursue finance, or put some chips to the side, and guarantee a safe exit if shit ever hits the fan, but mitigating my upside in the process.

Questions:

In my position, is it optimal to:

Exit to a client at senior with no CA?

Exit to a client at senior + n Years with CA?

Or

Exit to TAS/CF, and subsequently exit to the aforementioned fields?

How realistic are the prospects of making it into the investment management space (hopefully skipping out on the investment banking route) with this pathway, or whatever of the options I listed that you believe are optimal?

Note: investment banking isn't a 'non-negotiable' per se, but an extremely steep ask. I understand hours in Big4 are tremendous, however I already have a tumultuous relationship with my mental health, and in all reality, there is a possibility that banking hours may be enough to push me to the point of no return.

Note: My grades were too poor to make it directly into a CF/Investment Management firm straight out of college, I was incredibly close in one instance at a small firm, however it fell through.

Thank you all for your insight.

 
Most Helpful

My colleagues tend to highly value accounting background, understand how to read and model financial statement and make proper adjustments to come to a good range of valuation. So you audit experience on top of the fact that it's in the industry that you want to end up in should help. Also, I've been a beneficiary of internally transferring from Ops to FO, so I would venture to guess you're in a better position than I was when I made the switch. If you're hard set on making the switch and are prepared to never look back, then don't waste your time on CA (Chartered Accountant, I'm guessing?). It's only service for you is to show employers that you know accounting - but your work experience does that for you anyways. So for sake of making the switch to investment management, work on getting CFA - and use rest of your time on following: networking; working on stock pitch (1~2); learning about investment philosophy/horizon of ideal firms you want to join; organizing your story so that it makes sense that you're passionate in investment and are suitable candidate; go get that mental health issue fixed if you can. Typically these high paying jobs come with higher level of stress. The sheer amount of work stress you'll get in IB, you'll get a different form of stress in IM where you performance dictates how much sleep you get. Wherever you end up in, you're going to have tough times where you just have to grind through various obstacles. Of course I don't know the details of your situation, but these are just some of the realities that you're going to face. Hope all goes well for you on making the transition. 

 

Thank you for your insight.

Did you get out of Ops by strictly networking, or did you also take the CFA to make the pivot?

 

Started in a similar place in Big4 Audit in the UK. Transferred relatively quickly to TAS/CF, got my CFA, then did an MBA and got a role as a (junior) PM in Asset Management (at a pension fund). So that's an option. It wasn't easy, but doable. I did a Q&A on WSO a few years back on my career path and role. 

You could also go the IB route, but a prior transfer to TAS/CF might be needed for that one as well. For a lot of LO AM, endowments, insurance companies, pension funds etc. it may be better to move to ER rather than IB. IB tends to help more for HF roles rather than LO AM.   

From the options you laid out, I think the transfer to TAS/CF works best, but you probably still need an intermediary step after that, such as sell side ER, an MBA or other options closer to FO investment management.  

 

Thank you for your insight, it appears that TAS/CF is definitely the way to go.

Unfortunately MBA doesn't hold much weight in Australia, so it's less of a viable of an option.

ER is fiercely competitive in Australia also, so it definitely appears I have my work cut out for me.

Thank you again, your reply as well as Q&A were incredibly helpful.

 

Echo the above, you want to exit audit ASAP to a Transaction team, but it may be difficult to shift internally without 2-3 years experience and progress towards CA.

Having worked in audit in Australia for 3 years and recently shifted to a transaction team, best options would be as follows (from best to worst)

1. Work for a year in audit, crush it and then leave to do a top MSF program. This will put you back in the recruiting for top internships/grad roles i.e. BB ER and IB. You will need to be sure you can work hard and ace it i.e. D or HD WAM. As long as you can craft your story as to why i.e. not interested in pursuing audit, interested in finance career, gained some exposure to industry through clients X and Y. From personal experience as someone without top grades (credit average), firms will still request transcripts in IB even with 3+ years work experience and this can put you out of the running despite stellar work exp/CA/CFA due to the competitiveness. Completing a masters with stellar grades should help you rebrand. Worst case you can recruit for Big 4 M&A if you strike out, but still not a bad outcome as it can be very hard to shift to this team from Audit. 

If you are in your final year of undergrad and you signed an audit grad role starting next year I would 100% renege and pursue a masters, you can try and land an internship this summer in anything remotely relevant i.e. big 4 Audit, mid tier CF/TAS (BDO/GT) to start building the CV towards finance roles. 

2. Start applying for Big 4 CF/TAS roles 6-12 months in to the role. It is much easier to shift firms than transfer internally. Audit is a feeder into transaction services which is solid experience for IB but less relevant for Research/Asset management, hence the recommendation to do a masters to get their quicker. Best Big4 roles would be 1. CF (M&A), 2. Valuations 3. Transaction Services in that order. 

3. Stay in audit, get great recommendations and network into valuations/CF team at your current firm. This would likely take 2-3 years and then another 1-2 years exp in CF before you can realistic shift to research/AM, but doable. 

 

Don't be disheartened by starting in Audit, you'll eventually get there.

I did audit at a Big 4, didn't transfer to any of the TAS/Valuation/Corp Fin groups but moved to a merchant bank like what Raine does, albeit a much smaller firm. Now moved to a FoF role, pay isn't the best compared to your peers in PE/AM, but the WLB is awesome with manageable comp.

FYI, I didn't even start doing my CA certs because I had to do an extra conversion program which was delayed by a year as Big 4 decided it was a good idea to delay qualification pay. Glad they did so, made my decision to move even easier.

Stay focused on what you want to do, you'll eventually get there.

 

I disagree with a lot of this advice if you are in the UK (assume you are there, given you are doing CA).

You are in a good position, having a CA is very useful for asset management. You want to focus on passing your CA with first time passes and then move to equity research as soon as you qualify (many people do this every year look at LinkedIn for ex big 4 audit people).

Stay there for a couple of years and then you can exit to AM afterwards (also very possible). You can do CFA as well but seeing as you will have the CA anyway it’s probably not necessary. Would highly recommend not leaving before you finish CA

 

Former audit intern at a big 4 here. Exit as soon as possible to anything but audit. Not only will you not learn the necessary skills for other finance roles involving analysis and critical thinking, but you will also be probably be grossly underpaid. ER is a pretty cool path and has one of the better routes to HF/AM if you don’t really vibe with IB. I agree that lateraling to transaction advisory/deals/valuation/CF either within your firm or elsewhere would help, but you likely won’t get the exposure to markets that you would in ER or IB.

 

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