Big 4 Audit to Big 4 Corporate Finance - Advice

TONA09's picture
TONA09 - Certified Professional
Rank: Baboon | banana points 123

This is my first post on WSO and I am looking for some guidance. I have been lurking around recent content on WSO and there appears to be lots of helpful (and hilarious) advice available.

I am currently working at one of the Big 4 in assurance (audit) and want a change to something more sexy/challenging (whether this be IB/PE or even CF at large co.). It seems that such a transition is rare and that time in audit can contaminate a CV.

It looks like my best opportunity will be to attempt to transfer internally into corporate finance which I will be looking to do in late 2017.

My questions are:
i) Has anyone made this transition recently and have they had to take a demotion?
ii) Is there anything I should prepare for in particular to ensure my knowledge is up to speed?
iii) Any insight into the day-to-day activities undertaken by someone working in corporate finance at the Big Four would be great.

Few facts on my situation:
* Graduated with a 1:1 (First Class Honours) at a respected UK university (but not Oxbridge or LSE) in Economics.
* Have spent 2 years and 4 months at a Big 4 Firm
* I've become exam qualified in this time (ICAEW (ACA)) - all first time passes and I will be time qualified in August 2017
* Hoping to make the move by December 2017
* Looking to sit CFA level 1 in June 2017 (I appreciate that this isn't necessary for corporate finance but I did a lot of what is included in Level 1 at University and I feel that communicating this with employers would be a lot easier having taken the level 1 exam

Thanks

Find Your Mentor

  • Increase your chance of landing a job by matching with one of our 200+ mentors.
  • Our mentors are top employees at the most selective firms.
  • Proven process with over 1,100 clients over 10 years.

Comments (17)

Dec 30, 2016

Bump

Jan 1, 2017

Ironically, I'm in a very similar situation that you are in and I have to admit that a transition into CF out of B4 is very possible, but not easy. 1st step is to acquire as much knowledge about the specific role you are shooting for (whether it be PE, IB, Wealth Mgmt, etc.). 2nd step is to begin networking as much as possible with people within the industry or even headhunters on LinkedIn (my personal preference). This will allow you to land an interview. As both steps are very important, Step 1 may be the most important because these interviews are not easy. In order to have any chance you must sound intelligent about the role you are aiming for and the industry as a whole.

Unfortunately, you will be facing somewhat of a "demotion" as you likely will only be able to land Analyst roles, but another option to leverage your experience would be considering Transaction Services within B4. You'd be coming in as a Senior and dealing mostly with Financial Due Diligence, but will still have exposure to the mechanics of deals. Put in a year or two and you may have the option to join IB as an Associate, if you're still interested in making the transition.

Hopefully some of this was helpful, but good luck and keep us posted on how things work out for you!

    • 2
Dec 30, 2016

Thanks for your comment - that was very helpful.

I think that the Transaction Services route within the Big 4 firm I am currently at looks the most promising. My hope is that given this will (if successful) be an internal move it will be much less of a headache than applying and interviewing etc. for other firms.

Jan 1, 2017

I made the transition from Big 4 Audit to corporate finance (mix of Strategy and Financial Planning), although not directly. I quit my Big 4 job just before making senior, took an internal audit role at a Fortune 15, networked internally to land a FP&A role (mostly budgeting, forecasting, and some mundane monthly reporting) and then applied to a more Strategy oriented Finance role, where I've been working the last 6 months. So overall, I spent 1.5 years in internal audit and another 1.5 in FP&A before landing my current role. So it's very doable even if it can take some time.

Making the transition directly from audit to a "sexy" finance role will be harder but if you're a top performer and can spin your work experience in such a way that you did a lot of financial modeling etc rather than just audit, you may have a good shot. You can always accept an accounting related job and then network internally for a finance role. Good Luck.

Dec 30, 2016

Thanks for sharing your experience - appreciate the input and congratulations on your success. It is interesting to hear the various routes individuals have taken and it shows that I should be open-minded as there is more than just one road!

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Best Response
Jan 2, 2017

To answer your questions in turn:

TONA09:

i) Has anyone made this transition recently and have they had to take a demotion?

I have made the Big Four audit > Big Four CF > IBD (debt side) transfer in the UK, though this was now about a year ago. There was no demotion, I went across at the same level and my salary stayed exactly the same. If you transfer permanently you'll likely get a pay bump.

TONA09:

ii) Is there anything I should prepare for in particular to ensure my knowledge is up to speed?

Read what the difference CF departments do at your firm and what they are, 'corporate finance' is a wide reaching umbrella term. Talk to people who work at these departments- literally just email them (it's what I did and got positive responses).
Be able to explain why you want to work in corporate finance and what skills you think you have that are relevant.

TONA09:

iii) Any insight into the day-to-day activities undertaken by someone working in corporate finance at the Big Four would be great.

This again depends on the specifics of the department so question ii would answer that.

Why are you waiting until December 2017 to make your move? You know what you want to do and audit isn't it, what's holding you back? I told my mentor/performance manager/people manager (or whatever label the relevant person has) that either I get into corporate finance or I quit. Being ACA qualified is not that relevant, I hadn't done my last exam when I made the move.

CFA L1 is definitely useful: do you know how many ACA auditors recruiters see who want to go into CF? Loads, absolute loads. This will give you something to differentiate yourself with.

Also learn financial modelling, the most useful skill you can have in CF.

    • 4
Dec 30, 2016

Thanks, makes a lot sense with respect to CFA 1. Not going to be an enjoyable time studying for it during busy season, but willing to make the sacrifice.

The reason why I want to wait until December 2017 is for a number of reasons: 1) waiting to be fully qualified 2) I wouldn't be able to leave/transfer before the end of busy season 3) I have a lease ending in September and 4) I will take CFA 1 in June and would rather transfer with that under my belt (hopefully).

    • 2
Jan 2, 2017
TONA09:

The reason why I want to wait until December 2017 is for a number of reasons: 1) waiting to be fully qualified 2) I wouldn't be able to leave/transfer before the end of busy season 3) I have a lease ending in September and 4) I will take CFA 1 in June and would rather transfer with that under my belt (hopefully).

A lot of these constraints are more in your head than real:
1) As I said before, quite irrelevant. You don't need to be fully qualified and spending more time in audit will not give you additional brownie points.
2) Well if you don't ask then nobody is going to come offering it to you. Get your voice heard now and let them know you want to go to CF. Otherwise if you don't do it soon they'll just keep pushing it back. Do you really want to do a busy season or are you doing it because you feel you have to? Remember this is your life and your career, do what you want to do.
3) Not sure how this is relevant....
4) This I can understand if you want to not be distracted in your CF job if you're studying at the same time, however you don't need to have it under your belt to make the transfer.

    • 2
Oct 23, 2017

What was the way through which you transferred? I'm considering an internal transfer similar to this, and I talked to my partner, ~5 managers/directors in the department I'm most interested in, and am waiting to speak with the partner of that department too. The directors haven't been to encouraging, saying that they aren't particularly hiring, which is really discouraging since busy season is right around the corner again and I don't want to feel like I should hang myself.

Jan 2, 2017

You've got little chance going straight into a bulge bracket... and no chance for PE. One option might be post grad. MBA would be more valuable in your position instead of CFA. Unfortunately you are right... audit is a bit of poison chalice. When you say corporate finance, are you thinking so on the advisory side of the Big 4s? Otherwise I'd suggest corporate banking. I think that'd be a good option for you actually. You should come in a grade above.. get an increase, work away for a few years and see what happens. Top deal guys in corporate banks often transition, but its the more senior rankings like AD/VP once they've got a network and a few deals under the belt. Good luck

Mar 9, 2017

..

    • 1
May 4, 2017

You're going down next episode.

'I'm jacked... JACKED TO THE TITS!!'

    • 1