Many people in public accounting want to transition into a finance or consulting role. Why is this? You might have your own reasons, but let’s explore why other people might want to transition into a finance or consulting role.
The reason that people want to go into finance and consulting is because they are seen as more front office roles versus accounting. Accounting is seen as a back office role and has a negative connotation. If you work in the big 4 and especially in assurance, your clients typically dread seeing you. There is the typical stereotype of the client hating their auditors.
If you are in finance there is a perception that you are helping a company take their existing money and make it into more money. This is viewed as sexy. Another reason people choose finance is just because of the way it is portrayed in the media and in movies. You have movies like Wall Street and the Wolf of Wall Street that really speak to young men. Even though those movies did not end well for the main characters, people still think that being on Wall Street equals cool. Additionally, the media is constantly fascinated with CEOs and CFOs. That gives the finance role more of a celebrity feeling to it.
The same goes for consulting. Consulting is seen as beneficial and helping the client out. There are plenty of headlines around consultants helping firms out as well. Consulting has a positive connotation to it as well as opposed to the negative connotation of accounting.
How to transition into Consulting
It is much easier to transition into consulting now than it was 10 years ago. This is because 10 years ago, the big 4 accounting firms did not have large consulting practices after many of them sold their consulting practices after Sarbanes Oxley regulations.
Now all of the big 4 have large advisory practices. You can tell by the amount of revenue that each of the big 4 accounting firms earn from advisory each year.
To transition into consulting, you merely need to research how you transfer within the big 4 accounting firms. It is different within each firm. It is usually easier to transfer as an associate because there are more openings. They can fill one of their openings for new recruits with existing experienced staff from other practices.
What are the most popular types of advisory. The most popular types of adivosry in the big 4 are M&A or deal advisory and accounting advisory.
It would be easiest for an existing assurance personnel to transfer into the accounting advisory practice since they likely have experience auditing. They can use the knowledge gained from auditing companies to help other companies improve their accounting systems or accounting policies.
M&A is also popular because of what we previously talked about. Mergers and acquisitions are also popular in the media. For example, Amazon’s acquisition of whole foods was all over the headlines recently as of the writing of this article. People want to be associated with things that hit the headlines. What the big 4 do in this space is that they perform the accounting due diligence side of transactions.
How to transition from big 4 accounting into finance
How can someone in the big 4 transition into finance. First you need to determine which area of finance you want to go into. Do you want to be a CFO, a treasurer or an investment banker. You need to figure out which area you want to go into before you start your transition.
One of the most important parts of transitioning into finance is building out your network. Having a strong network will help you easily transition into a CFO type of role. Most of the people that I know that became CFOs got the job through some sort of networking. They knew the right people when the position of CFO or a position below the CFO opened up. Accepting a position directly below a CFO is not a bad position. It is good especially if the CFO will be leaving soon and considers you in their succession planning. Accepting a controller role is another way to get closer to the CFO or treasurer title.
I also want to speak to the fact that I’ve seen both assurance and tax professionals obtain the title of CFO. Even though you might be in tax don’t let that keep you from your dreams of being in finance or achieving the job of a CFO.
Another job that many big 4 professionals want in finance is investment banker. The best way to obtain this job is by obtaining good reviews since ibanking is a high-performing culture. It would also be good if you are currently in the financial services line of service in your firm. It would be especially helpful if you were in the M&A advisory group that I was speaking about earlier.
In conclusion, you can transition into finance and consulting from the big 4. You just have to figure out which role you want and get started on it today. You can’t hope that you will toil away at the big 4 and one day someone will just notice how great you are and ask you to be in finance.