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Is a move into commercial finance what I really want?

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The majority of ACA NQ accountants have been on a pretty rigid career path since they entered the profession – typically three years of hard work in a specific discipline such as audit. Once their training contracts are done, it’s often the first chance they have had to consider what comes next, and for many the natural tendency is to want to leave all that financial reporting behind and head for the bright lights of commerce. After all, the grass is always greener, and they now have a sought-after qualification that hiring managers want. But is rushing into industry at the first opportunity the right thing to do?

Candidates often tell us that they want a more “commercial” role, often not fully understanding what that means. In the short term, they probably want to get their teeth into something more strategic than reporting, something that can “add value”, and they’re often disappointed to hear that most roles open to them still involve an element of financial reporting. It’s at this point, we always advise them to take stock and try to think longer-term about their ultimate goal because the decisions they make at this stage will almost certainly affect their career path in the future. If a candidate knows that all they want is to be an FD or a CFO in a blue-chip, then the question they need to ask themselves is what do I need to do to get there?

The reality is that most commercial leaders in any organisation will at some point in their careers have been willingly preparing financial statements and statutory accounts, knowing that this invaluable experience will provide a crucial competitive edge and become a stepping-stone to a more senior commercial role. Consciously taking a role for a couple years that gives a thorough grounding of analysing a company’s operating performance and its financial position is more likely to lead to a better commercial role as a second move. Of course, this is a hard sell to someone who has done three years of audit, but it’s exactly this insight that a specialist recruiter can bring to an NQ’s career. Conversely, without considering the bigger picture, it may be that embracing what they have achieved so far and a move to another practice in the same discipline is actually the best career move to make.

A good recruitment consultant who works with ACAs will be able to map out every element of a next move, to align it with long-term career goals. They have the relationships with line managers and can advise on company size, culture and fit. For some ACA’s, the move into commerce can be a huge change, particularly when you consider they might be the only qualified accountant in the team when they get there. For others, they may find that the grass wasn’t greener and that even though they are technically in a commercial environment, their role has very little contact with business leaders and they are looking at the same accounts every month. In extreme cases, those who haven’t done their homework may even look to move back into practice.

Before you commit to anything, take time out to partner with a specialist recruitment consultancy who can work with you to confirm whether a commercial role is what you want long term, and how you can get there. For a confidential chat about your future, contact us today.