Over the past 24 months in particular and due to market demand from our clients, I have been working closely with a number of chartered accountants at all levels wanting to make the transition into commerce. I must say, I really enjoy this area and have experienced some very exciting and interesting conversations around career direction and how to make that perfect first move.
Making the decision to move from chartered to the commercial world can be daunting and unfamiliar. However, if you have decided that becoming Partner and billing your time every minute is not so appealing anymore, then it might be time to consider your next move and transition into the world of commerce. What decision you make next becomes important.
There are a number of key points for you to consider, however don’t overcomplicate or overthink it. The starting point to consider is the type of role you are seeking and ensuring it aligns with your current skills and long term career goals. The natural transition for most auditors or business services/tax professionals is into either financial accounting or internal audit. This is usually the easiest step and most people use it as a foot in the door to greater opportunities. Depending on skillset, you can also transition into management accounting or business analysis and this is often the preference for a lot of candidates as it is less technical focused than financial accounting and works closely with the business. Having experience on secondment will also help you make this decision, so it might be an option to consider early on before making the transition.
The industry, size of the organisation and size of the team are also extremely important. Ask yourself:
- Do you want to work for a small or large organisation and which will give you better growth and development?
- What is the size and calibre of talent in the team?
- Is this business listed or non-listed and what experience do you need for your career goals?
- Is the culture and brand something you can see yourself being a part of and ultimately passionate about?
- Is the industry and company performing well and will it offer stability and security? Does it align with your current industry experience and expertise?
Salary is also a key point and ensuring your expectations are aligned with the market. The current theme is generally that when you move into commerce your salary increases dramatically. While this can be the case sometimes, you also need to be realistic and consider what the market is offering. Sometimes the opportunity might outweigh the remuneration and a sideways step early on will evidentially add more value later in your career.
Once you have considered these options, I often have been asked how to ‘get your foot in the door’ to industry and what the experience ‘in house’ will be like. While some clients depending on the role and level will want commercial experience, not all will. In other cases, clients have had a preference for a chartered background. You need to be proactive, control your search and pitch yourself at the right level to ensure you are well aligned to your competition.
In relation to the experience ‘In house’, chartered and commercial roles are very different. Chartered will see you servicing a broad range of clients and sectors, and commercial will see you providing valuable financial input into the strategy and direction of one organisation. You need to ensure what you step into will challenge you, expand your skillset and add value to your CV.
Over the years I have seen a number of our clients and candidates become successful finance professionals and executives of both listed and non-listed businesses of all sizes because they were successfully able to make the right decision after leaving chartered. If you are unsure of what the right direction might be and how to position yourself out in the market, just ask.