Working within the Big Four is a fantastic way to begin your career in the Accounting field. They provide excellent training that is backed up with fantastic on the job learning to help young accountants broaden their horizons exponentially over what is, in relation to the duration of the average career, a very short time. This is the reason why the best employers in the market look to the Big Four for their talent.
The chances are that during your time in the Big Four you will have exposure to many different industries, structures and processes. It really is the best place to hone your skills and build your confidence in the accounting field. That is why when the time does come to move on, it can be a difficult decision whether to make the move into commerce.
What is so different in the commercial world?
Having spoken to a number of my contacts who have made the move, there are several key factors that many of them believe are the biggest differences between Chartered and Commercial accounting. These include:
- Commercial companies have much broader teams and structures allowing for many different career paths
- Your progression may not be as linear as it would be in the Big 4
- You have a lot more freedom to manage your own workload
- You can take a more flexible and dynamic approach to your workload
- Better work/life balance
- A more mature environment
When is the right time to make the move?
This will, of course, depend on the individual and their circumstances. Some accounting professionals move quickly to get into the commercial space, others stay in the Big Four for many years. The most common time for professionals to make the move across to the commercial space is after 2 to 4 years of experience in the Big 4.
During this time, you are likely to have become CA/CPA qualified, will have led projects and grown not only professionally but personally as well. At this point, you are likely to also see a great financial incentive to make the move, historically this had been a minimum of a 10-20% rise on your salary package but we are seeing dramatic rises since COVID.
Others choose to stay longer, achieving Manager level or higher before looking to make the move. This will leave you with more limited options, but naturally, at a higher salary level given the improved experience that you will have acquired.
How should you approach the move?
Your career is exactly that, yours! Take control of it.
- Your first step should always be to consider where you want to be in the next 5-10 years. This will give you valuable insight as to what direction to go in. It is always key to look not only at the first move but also at what it will lead to in terms of career development and future opportunities.
- Think about the clients you have worked with during your time in the Big 4. Are there particular industries, environments or teams you have enjoyed being involved with? If so, it would make sense to consider these areas first.
- It is always worth doing your own market research. The best people to ask are usually in your peer group, former colleagues or managers who have now gone into commerce.
- Finally, a good recruitment partner that you trust can also be extremely helpful as they will know their marketplace and be able to provide you with some useful advice and insights into what’s involved in making the move and the clients on your wish list.
When the time comes to move on, take your time and do your due diligence. Find trusted advisors to provide you with advice on how they made the transition and to help you work through your apprehensions, then it will not be such a difficult decision whether to make the move into commerce.
Need personal career advice on how to make the move to Commerce from the Big 4?
Our [axr] accounting and finance consulting team can provide you with first-hand advice on making the move to commerce from our years of experience in helping many ex-Big4 professionals make a successful transition.