Desperately need some advice from European/London people pls

As mentioned in the title, I felt the need to specify wanting help from those in London because since graduating it has hit me how different things are in US compared to here (perhaps a bit naïve on my part).

I graduated with a 1st in Maths from a semi-target in London. Sadly, I was not competitive enough to get into front office roles anywhere, and have begun a stint in audit at the big 4. Previously, I wanted to try and use any means necessary to break into a front office role.

However, as I'm maturing, I'm realising that I wouldn't want do a job where I am working 60+ hrs a week/under a crazy amount of stress long term. I would not mind doing this for say a few years in order to get to a place with better pay and hours, but not as a lifestyle if that makes sense.

I saw this exact thread earlier, but all answers were targeted for US readers (F500 corp fin etc). So can anyone working in Europe (especially London), provide me with some insight as to what opportunities there here for someone wishing for a better trajectory than a role as an accountant in industry, but with more sustainable work life balance than 65+hrs a week.  

Is work life balance/stress on the buy and sell side always in London as bad/high as I think it is? Is it even possible to break into the types of roles I mention (if they exist) with my background??

Thanks!

Comments (17)

 
Nov 19, 2020 - 6:17pm

Have you thought about switching to corp fin in the big 4 post accounting qualification is sorted?

From there you can get some deal exposure, see if you like it and move from there?

 
Nov 19, 2020 - 7:22pm

Interesting idea, thank you for your input. Is this a path you yourself took? If so, may I ask what the process was like or how you found it? And if not, what do you currently do?

Thanks

 
Nov 21, 2020 - 11:49am

I did a summer internship in tax at one of the big 4, it wasn't for me (shock) so decided to look at transaction advisory. Look at all the different areas - restructuring, corp fin, TS, OTS, valuations. Spoke to recently qualified graduates in most of those areas / interns in those areas to get an understanding of what they do etc. I decided what area I wanted to go into after going for coffees with people, showing I was keen etc. I got my grad job offer for tax but requested to switch across to transaction advisory so had a partner interview and moved over. The partner knew the people who i'd been for coffees with etc. I left the big 4 post quali couple of years ago and now work at a pension fund.

 

When I worked as a grad in transaction advisory, there were newly qualified people joining from audit. From speaking to them they either formally applied for an internal job or reached out to partner directly to discuss a potential switch. You'd be suprised how willing partners are to do this, they themselves might of started in audit and switched so will be sympathetic to a call / meeting. Also I understand there is usually two layers of interviews to switch over (one with senior manager/director and one with partner) however this might have changed as it's been a few years since I was at the big 4.

 

Personally, I would recommend the following:

- Speak to your grad friends - see if they are in transaction advisory 1) do they like it (and do you think you'd like it); 2) do they know of post quali auditors joining the team (if so, how). If you don't know anyone in that space, use your accounting college network of friends to find people that are in an area you're interested in & speak to them (never underestimate the power of the pub).

- Be good at what you do even if you don't like it - you might not like your years in audit but be good at you do. You can learn lots of key skills in audit. Start to manage people by the end of 3 years, have an interest in the business world around you (trade fantasy stocks if compliance are a pain) and show interest in how the wider organisation works across the different service offerings (audit, tax, transactions, consulting). Also if you work in one particular sector, try and get some understanding of other sectors (even if by reading the news, looking at analyst reports). From my experience, the switchers from audit to transactions were the ones at the top of their game. At the end of the day, audit takes in lots of people so if you're going to switch you need to be decent.

- Reach out to partners directly - like I say above, partners will most likely be happy to talk (& talk about themselves..). This might be their background or they might know others who have switched successfully.

Even if something in transaction advisory at the big 4 doesn't interest you, the above 3 points will put you in good stead for the jump into industry...

 

Any other questions - please shout. Happy to help

 
Nov 20, 2020 - 7:52am

You're in luck, BIg 4 accounting experience is looked upon favourably in the UK and in Europe more generally, much more so than in the US. Most top and mid-level management of FTSE 100 / 250 companies are former Big 4 accountants. Once you qualify, if you are a good you can move internally into roles in consulting / TS / restructuring among others, and each of those opens up a whole world of other exit opps, in addition to being long-term career options in themselves.

Have you looked into working in fund administration? They are based out of tax havens and specialise in providing white-collar services to the global fund management industry. Qualified accountants are in high demand there, and you get to live on a sunny island while earning a high salary tax-free.

 
Nov 21, 2020 - 10:31am

great, thanks for the input. Do you have any personal experience in the field of FTSE 100 management? Do you think their jobs are at risk from advancing technology? If I may ask what do you currently do?

Thanks a lot.

 
  • Consultant in Consulting
Nov 21, 2020 - 11:00am

I know a few people with mathematics background who work in investor relations for various funds. Like all entry level jobs, it is not the most exciting thing but at the junior level your perks are working 40-50 hours, interacting with people (if you like that) and attending social events. As you go up, you essentially wine and dine people on your firm's dime. IR is a very underrated path for the numerically competent. 

 
Dec 1, 2020 - 6:23am

Ohh this is interesting, I had never previously considered this so thanks for the idea! Is it a role which involves a lot of travelling?

 
Dec 1, 2020 - 11:51am

There are plenty of roles out there where you can work 40-50 hours a week after starting in big4 audit. Are you looking for advice on any path in particular? Most of my big4 colleagues who weren't sure what they wanted to do ended up taking the easy way out and going for a salary increase and better work life balance in fp&a, product control, fund accounting or general finance roles.  

I also started in big4 audit in London and now work at a pension fund. I went through advisory at the big4 I worked at, and that was not a 40-50h a week job. 

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