Commerce or Chartered - a difficult decision

  • 01-11-13
  • Carla Balanco

As I started my studies I had a clear goal and plan in place to qualify as a Chartered Accountant. I knew what steps needed to be taken and conscientiously completed my education and went on to finish my training. 

When I eventually qualified as a “CA” and the celebrations and ceremonies were over, I began to feel a little lost. Where to from here? What are my options? Do I stay in public practice or move into commerce? How can I decide when I don’t know what to expect or look for in the concrete jungle? For so long my goal was to qualify and I didn’t give much thought to life post-qualification.

I was fortunate to work for two reputable, well-respected mid-tier firms before then choosing to move into recruitment. This change of career has given me the opportunity to gain extraordinary insight into different firms and the vast array of opportunities that exist for qualified Chartered Accountants. What has become clear to me is there are vast differences to be found between firms. 

In my opinion, no matter which firm you work for, life is unlikely to ever be a bed of roses. This is a job after all and hard work should come as part and parcel of being employed, hence no matter which practice you work for there will always be deadlines and peaks in workloads. However, currently in the Public Practice sector, the market is candidate short (there is a lack of suitably qualified applicants available). Therefore, for a Chartered Accountant, this represents a terrific time to look for a new role and given the job opportunities currently available it would be utter madness to remain with an employer if you’re feeling unhappy, overworked or undervalued.

There is currently a major talent shortage when it comes to professionals at the Intermediate, Senior and Manager levels that have business advisory, audit and tax experience, working for firms of all sizes. In these areas, what I’ve found particularly interesting of late is that rather than candidates being interviewed, it’s almost as if Partners within firms are having to pitch to potential applicants as to why they’d want to join their firm. 

As a Chartered Accountant considering new positions in this market, there are firms that are bending over backwards to create forward-thinking and highly appealing cultures and work environments.  Below I have listed a handful of the benefits on offer. It would be unlikely to find one firm that will provide you with all of these, so being clear on what’s most important to you is imperative; whether it be monetary rewards, flexibility, progression opportunities, exposure, the list goes on.

Benefits out there (in no particular order) include:

  • Free gym membership
  • International secondment programmes
  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Retention bonuses
  • Performance bonuses
  • Free access to health professionals
  • Yearly anniversary gifts
  • Cloud-based technology enables you to work anywhere at any time including from the comfort of your own home
  • Coffee clubs
  • Dinner vouchers when workloads peak
  • Cab charges
  • Social clubs and regular gatherings
  • Mentorship programmes
  • Paid parental leave
  • Paid study leave
  • Paid membership fees
  • Training and development budgets
  • Discounts with major retailers
  • Discounted health insurance
  • Hot desking, adjustable height workstations, open plan environments.

It would be ill-advised to choose a firm based on who is going to offer you the best benefits of course. Careful consideration should be given to:

  • The cultural alignment and values of the firm
  • The size of firm that best suits you
  • The leadership team in place
  • Client-facing opportunities (if desired)
  • The KPIs which will be used to measure your performance
  • Progression opportunities (if desired)
  • The client base you will be exposed to
  • The complexity of the work
  • Market reputation

If you would like to have a confidential conversation regarding the opportunities available to you or require market salary information please feel free to give me a call on 8324 2013 or call my colleague David Landau on 8324 5641.

For employers, make sure you use your Chartered Accountant talent correctly by looking at Chartered Accountants: Boost Your Career by Taking Advantage of the Talent Shortage.