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Planning my future post big 4 (accounting) - Advice needed

  • Last Updated:
  • Apr 7th, 2012 9:14 pm
[OP]
Member
Feb 16, 2007
391 posts
15 upvotes
Toronto

Planning my future post big 4 (accounting) - Advice needed

Hi everyone,
Here is my situation:

I am currently a coop student at a Toronto big 4 office in audit - specifically, in financial services (funds, banks, pensions, insurance, etc). I will be hired as a full time in September 2013 as an experienced hire. I will then need to work for another 10 months before the promotion to Senior in 2014. In 2015, I will have accumulated all my CA hours and hopefully would have passed all the tests to receive my CA.

At that time I would like to potentially go into investment banking as I've seen many seniors do throughout my time at this firm (Credit Suisse, Big 5, boutique, etc). I feel like it's a little taboo to ask these people exiting the firm how they do this, and thought RFD might be a better forum since people are able to express themselves anonymously and without reservations.

(1) I would like to know what I can do within the next 3 years to put myself in the best position to have the choice to go into ibanking. I am currently planning to take the CFA level one this December, and level two after I pass the UFE in 2014. Should I take additional courses such as econometrics to boost my resume?
(2) How do I apply? Should I approach ibanking campus recruiters while still in school, so should I wait until I receive the CA?
(3) Should I go through headhunters? If so, should I start making connections right now?
(4) What type of people are they looking for? Which qualities should I improve on in order to rock the interviews?

Any advice would be greatly helpful. I am simply looking for information so that I can plan my life and make an informed decision when the time comes.
13 replies
Member
Oct 13, 2008
347 posts
20 upvotes
Mississauga
i know a manager who left my firm to go into i-banking. i believe he had done levels 1 and 2 of the CFA as well, so if thats your goal, the CFA is definitely a step in the right direction.

However the guy also had 6-7 months of management experience, as opposed to exiting the firm when he was a senior. there are significantly higher levels of opportunity (ie Director, VP, Senior Manager) in industry if you leave a firm after having some management experience, as opposed to leaving when you dont. But this is my personal opinion, and if you can't stand audit any longer, then by all means. Its not for everybody
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
82 upvotes
Toronto
bbraganz wrote: i know a manager who left my firm to go into i-banking. i believe he had done levels 1 and 2 of the CFA as well, so if thats your goal, the CFA is definitely a step in the right direction.

However the guy also had 6-7 months of management experience, as opposed to exiting the firm when he was a senior. there are significantly higher levels of opportunity (ie Director, VP, Senior Manager) in industry if you leave a firm after having some management experience, as opposed to leaving when you dont. But this is my personal opinion, and if you can't stand audit any longer, then by all means. Its not for everybody

This is rarely EVER true and is something spread around by senior managers and partners to entice high performers to stay.

If you follow the career path of similarly bright and hard-working individuals, you'll find that their career development in big 4 and industry will be the same. The one working in industry, however, will work less hours and receive higher pay. The exception is for those aiming for partner...which much easier to get to than an executive position that offers similar pay in industry.

This is me speaking from the other side where myself and many others do no hold big 4 "management experience" in high regard.
Member
User avatar
Jan 26, 2009
420 posts
204 upvotes
deranged wrote: Hi everyone,
Here is my situation:

I am currently a coop student at a Toronto big 4 office in audit - specifically, in financial services (funds, banks, pensions, insurance, etc). I will be hired as a full time in September 2013 as an experienced hire. I will then need to work for another 10 months before the promotion to Senior in 2014. In 2015, I will have accumulated all my CA hours and hopefully would have passed all the tests to receive my CA.

At that time I would like to potentially go into investment banking as I've seen many seniors do throughout my time at this firm (Credit Suisse, Big 5, boutique, etc). I feel like it's a little taboo to ask these people exiting the firm how they do this, and thought RFD might be a better forum since people are able to express themselves anonymously and without reservations.

(1) I would like to know what I can do within the next 3 years to put myself in the best position to have the choice to go into ibanking. I am currently planning to take the CFA level one this December, and level two after I pass the UFE in 2014. Should I take additional courses such as econometrics to boost my resume?
(2) How do I apply? Should I approach ibanking campus recruiters while still in school, so should I wait until I receive the CA?
(3) Should I go through headhunters? If so, should I start making connections right now?
(4) What type of people are they looking for? Which qualities should I improve on in order to rock the interviews?

Any advice would be greatly helpful. I am simply looking for information so that I can plan my life and make an informed decision when the time comes.


Curious, where did you do your undergrad?
Member
Oct 13, 2008
347 posts
20 upvotes
Mississauga
tylaw83 wrote: This is rarely EVER true and is something spread around by senior managers and partners to entice high performers to stay.

If you follow the career path of similarly bright and hard-working individuals, you'll find that their career development in big 4 and industry will be the same. The one working in industry, however, will work less hours and receive higher pay. The exception is for those aiming for partner...which much easier to get to than an executive position that offers similar pay in industry.

This is me speaking from the other side where myself and many others do no hold big 4 "management experience" in high regard.

You get a promotion (position or salary raise) every year that you are at a big 4. The structure works so that you either move up, or move out. The only positions at big 4 firms which are somewhat pidgeon-holed are senior managers.

And from the clients that I have dealt with and the individuals that have their CA that work in industry now, management experience at a Big 4 does play a huge difference. I don't know where you're getting your information from. What industry are you in? Are you involved with hiring?

Any sort of management experience is looked upon as a significant plus, be it big 4 or or otherwise.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
82 upvotes
Toronto
deranged wrote: Hi everyone,
Here is my situation:

I am currently a coop student at a Toronto big 4 office in audit - specifically, in financial services (funds, banks, pensions, insurance, etc). I will be hired as a full time in September 2013 as an experienced hire. I will then need to work for another 10 months before the promotion to Senior in 2014. In 2015, I will have accumulated all my CA hours and hopefully would have passed all the tests to receive my CA.

At that time I would like to potentially go into investment banking as I've seen many seniors do throughout my time at this firm (Credit Suisse, Big 5, boutique, etc). I feel like it's a little taboo to ask these people exiting the firm how they do this, and thought RFD might be a better forum since people are able to express themselves anonymously and without reservations.

(1) I would like to know what I can do within the next 3 years to put myself in the best position to have the choice to go into ibanking. I am currently planning to take the CFA level one this December, and level two after I pass the UFE in 2014. Should I take additional courses such as econometrics to boost my resume?
(2) How do I apply? Should I approach ibanking campus recruiters while still in school, so should I wait until I receive the CA?
(3) Should I go through headhunters? If so, should I start making connections right now?
(4) What type of people are they looking for? Which qualities should I improve on in order to rock the interviews?

Any advice would be greatly helpful. I am simply looking for information so that I can plan my life and make an informed decision when the time comes.

Many people? I really kind of doubt that.

From all of the big 4s combined, there MIGHT be 1 each year if any that make it into investment banking at a big5/bulge bracket.
The rest you're seeing are going into boutiques, equity research, or some type of back office role at the banks.

You're best bet is probably going for an equity research associate position, for which CA skills are actually useful. This is still considered front-office, but not nearly as flashy as traditional sell-side investment banking.

In terms of what you need to do, here's the list in order of priority:
1. Transfer to management consulting or financial advisory and work in the transaction services or the corporate finance group
2. Network with partners and connected senior managers to the point where they'll go to bat for you
3. Get on the UFE Honour Roll
4. Network with school alumni, friends, family who can get you in contact with people in the industry
5. Take the CFA exams (looked upon favourably in Canada only)

If you REALLY want to get into investment banking at a bulge bracket, do an MBA.
Member
Oct 13, 2008
347 posts
20 upvotes
Mississauga
deranged wrote: Hi everyone,
Here is my situation:

I am currently a coop student at a Toronto big 4 office in audit - specifically, in financial services (funds, banks, pensions, insurance, etc). I will be hired as a full time in September 2013 as an experienced hire. I will then need to work for another 10 months before the promotion to Senior in 2014. In 2015, I will have accumulated all my CA hours and hopefully would have passed all the tests to receive my CA.

At that time I would like to potentially go into investment banking as I've seen many seniors do throughout my time at this firm (Credit Suisse, Big 5, boutique, etc). I feel like it's a little taboo to ask these people exiting the firm how they do this, and thought RFD might be a better forum since people are able to express themselves anonymously and without reservations.

(1) I would like to know what I can do within the next 3 years to put myself in the best position to have the choice to go into ibanking. I am currently planning to take the CFA level one this December, and level two after I pass the UFE in 2014. Should I take additional courses such as econometrics to boost my resume?
(2) How do I apply? Should I approach ibanking campus recruiters while still in school, so should I wait until I receive the CA?
(3) Should I go through headhunters? If so, should I start making connections right now?
(4) What type of people are they looking for? Which qualities should I improve on in order to rock the interviews?

Any advice would be greatly helpful. I am simply looking for information so that I can plan my life and make an informed decision when the time comes.
anyway, to answer your question and avoid getting trolled by "industry" individuals who have nothing better to do, getting your CFA is a plus if that is what you are hoping to get into. Being in audit myself, I am not really sure how the skills that you will learn would transcend directly into the front lines of investment banking, but good luck and keep doing what your doing. Your views might also change after passing all your exams, getting that audit experience etc.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
82 upvotes
Toronto
bbraganz wrote: You get a promotion (position or salary raise) every year that you are at a big 4. The structure works so that you either move up, or move out. The only positions at big 4 firms which are somewhat pidgeon-holed are senior managers.

And from the clients that I have dealt with and the individuals that have their CA that work in industry now, management experience at a Big 4 does play a huge difference. I don't know where you're getting your information from. What industry are you in? Are you involved with hiring?

Any sort of management experience is looked upon as a significant plus, be it big 4 or or otherwise.


You get a promotion every year...so? It took me 2 years post-CA to get paid more than a senior manager at a big 4 and I work much less. You can't just compare a typical senior who moved to industry vs a typical senior who stayed.

The senior who left for industry:
-could be one of the ones who wasn't that bright
-likely got a LOT more lazy after moving to industry

If you put in the same hours in industry that you do as an auditor, you'd be one of the hardest working people in the office.

Where am I getting my information from? Where do I even start?
-I've heard it straight-up from different partners: in truth, the smart ones move up just as fast in industry right up until a senior manager level. I know you're the one getting fed the bs and not me because I was tight enough with my partners to have one of them get me a lucrative job.
-I'm in a mid-management role in Corporate Finance where I help interview candidates. What skills do you gain as a manager that you don't as a senior? You work on more jobs and you deal with higher level accounting issues. The "management skills" you gain are MINIMAL due to the structure of accounting firms. I could get a monkey to manage an audit budget or train a university student to have those "difficult" client conversations. The ratio of knowledge gained vs time spent is horrible. Very rarely is there an audit manager who truly gains worthwhile exposure to bringing in clients and new firm initiatives. The ones who do are usually groomed and on partner-track (aka won't be leaving for industry any time soon anyway making this conversation moot).
-We've hired audit managers and audit senior and the difference in their salary levels are about 2-3 years or even 1 year for strong performers.

There are a ton of people who stay until they make manager because they believe it'll get them a sweet controller position. Some get lucky, but the majority don't. They end up leaving for a controller position at a very small place that they could've gotten anyways if they left as a senior. Why? It's because the majority of us in industry know that you can't substitute public accounting experience for industry experience past a certain point. You've already learned all the really technical stuff as a senior.
Deal Addict
Jul 29, 2006
4163 posts
998 upvotes
to the OP, why don't just just apply straight to investment banking during your 4th year?

I know a few people who got into investment banks after having done co-ops at big 4s during university and was set on becoming a CA until their final year
[OP]
Member
Feb 16, 2007
391 posts
15 upvotes
Toronto
Thanks everyone for your replies. It's very helpful to hear both sides of the arguement from people who are in these positions. I really appreciate your candid honesty.
tylaw83 wrote: You get a promotion every year...
Hi Tylaw, can you please share you career trajectory and how you got to where you are today? What are some of the key things you did as an associate that led you to be successful in industry? I was going to PM you, but I thought it might be better if you replied here so that others in my position can also gain from this knowledge.

nx6288 wrote: to the OP, why don't just just apply straight to investment banking during your 4th year?

I know a few people who got into investment banks after having done co-ops at big 4s during university and was set on becoming a CA until their final year
I thought about this, but it is very difficult to get into iB with an accounting background. I would need at least the first level of the CFA passed to have the base knowledge to do the work. Also, I'd like to have a CA to fall back on. I've already put in all this hard work; I don't want to throw it away without getting those letters.
Newbie
Feb 9, 2009
58 posts
2 upvotes
deranged wrote: I thought about this, but it is very difficult to get into iB with an accounting background. I would need at least the first level of the CFA passed to have the base knowledge to do the work. Also, I'd like to have a CA to fall back on. I've already put in all this hard work; I don't want to throw it away without getting those letters.

To be honest 4-8 months isn't really that much of an investment, if your end goal is finance/IB then aim for finance/IB. I am in a very similar situation as you and have been told it would be best to just try to break into banking before you complete your program(maybe take a few upper year finance courses if your program allows it to make yourself more competitive). The 'worst' that could happen is that you don't land an IB job right after graduating and continue with the C.A path anyway.
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Apr 30, 2008
426 posts
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Getting into iBanking from audit is difficult. Perhaps a tad easier with some transaction services experience. If you really wanted to, why didn't you go into it in undergrad? Also, why are you speculating 2-3 years into the future, you haven't even wrote the UFE yet. In terms of career trajectory, I can honestly say that the firms just want you to make it to senior two, because after that the golden handcuffs are on until manager - and you get fed the worst jobs.
Deal Fanatic
Aug 31, 2010
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Like the above posters stated, I would try and get into advisory if you can (when you graduate), so start networking with those people during your co-op, if you can. It's fairly difficult to get into, so make sure you connect with people there while you are there, and keep your grades up. You're right in attempting L1 while still in undergrad, too many people wait until after they graduate and you're a year behind, so to speak.

Second, I wouldn't worry that far into the future just yet - it's like 4 years away. Worry about the UFE, that's the game you need to play first - the rest will just happen. Hell, you might start working and realize you don't want to do investment banking. Keep in touch with your network you build en route to your CA and start to reach out to them and make your move once you're done your hours (read below re: time requirement). That, or try and get into an associate role right out of university if that's your ultimate goal.

When did you register with the ICAO as a CA student? You need 36 months of experience, not just the hours. Assuming you've done 3 co-op terms, you won't qualify for your CA until at least September 2015 regardless of meeting the chargeable hour requirement.

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