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Moving to industry questions

Want to move to industry from Audit (3yrs PQE) and confused with options!

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Hi everyone,

I need some (serious!) career advice. I have qualified as an ACA since 2016 (3yrs PQE) and am working in the big 4 audit. I have made a decision to move to industry due to various reasons. However, I am startled by the options and routes ahead of me and overthinking about the pros/cons of each decision. I thought you guys can help me answer some of my doubts based on your experience.


In summary, here is my future plan:

- Want to move to middle east in 5yrs therefore need some industry experience from UK before (i.e. do not want to go into an industry which would be useless in the global market)

- I want to move into group reporting/finance role and/or a finance role with commercial aspect in the role 


- Plc vs SME move: Can someone tell me what is the implication of moving into finance function of an SME vs large corporations? If I move into SME role, will that limit my future options in large corporations? 

- Industry choice: Is it true that whatever industry I land into, that will define my future choices in finance roles? e.g. if I move to a retail business's finance function, I will be limited to retail business jobs only?

- P/E backed businesses: Can anyone share experiences of working in a P/E backed group? I am worried that the job security and work/life balance will be sacrificed in these roles but does working in a P/E backed business increase your employability in future?


Thanks everyone. Apologies for the scattered questions but I thought I would only mention the relevant queries and not things that I have already decided for in my mind e.g. NO internal audit roles to consider.

Replies (8)

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By paul.benny
14th Oct 2019 17:21

In a smaller company you will need to be much more hands on - and have fewer people around you that you can ask for advice. TBH, I don't think may SMEs would touch you - too expensive and too little practical experience. Without wishing to denigrate your experience, it's a bit like learning to do something by watching them someone. It's very different once you have to do it for yourself.

It's not as simple a distinction between SME and PLC. There is a whole slew of businesses which are divisions of large corporates - foreign-owned, privately-held as well as part of UK-listed companies, all of which could provide valuable experience.

Thanks (1)
Replying to paul.benny:
By InflatableBassPlayer
17th Oct 2019 11:25

Agreed with the hands on comment. The finance function of an SME is often (but not always) responsible for what you might consider non-finance tasks, like IT, company cars, phones, insurance and suchlike, even down to organizing the Christmas party. Speaking personally, it can be a double edged sword, you can add a lot more to your knowledge of how a company works, but can also be very time consuming.

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By paul.benny
14th Oct 2019 17:38

Industry choice
Recruiters tend to be lazy in matching candidate to roles. You must have retail experience to get a job in retail, etc. Does your choice now restrict you? It depends on the job. If it's a 'head office' role, you may have more scope to change sectors but be pigeon-holed in the sorts of jobs that are away from the sharp end

Culturally, PE is very different to most other businesses because of a focus on the owners' exit in a few years' time. Which in turn it's about driving the short/medium term profitability and cash generation. The investors are usually far more demanding, and yes, it can be hard work. But not always - and you may not be senior enough to be face with that pressure yourself.

Does PE experience make you more marketable? Think of it as another industry sector and having that experience makes you valuable to PE businesses but not really to any other business.

Thanks (1)
By Paul Barclay
17th Oct 2019 11:27


Agree with paul.benny.

SME - you have to stand up and be counted, you will probably gain lots of exposure to lots of things, more a jack of all trades.

PLC - you will tend to specialise in an area (whatever that may be), with support networks around for the things you don't know, although with good opportunities to learn from subject matter experts if you have the time!

I have worked in both, more recently in SME and the career options and benefits are generally more limited (although I am not too worried about this as I am in the twilight years of my career), but starting out you may want to consider this.

Also (in my experience), it is hard to make the move from SME to PLC, I have encountered some very snobbish attitudes, but it is possible. My wife was taken on by a PLC because of her general experience in SME!

If you want to work abroad, my suggestion would be look for a PLC, you may have the opportunity to transfer abroad within departments or at least the company name will be recognised when you do start applying.

Good luck with whichever route you choose, keep your eye on the goal and things usually work out one way or another.

Thanks (1)
By paul.benny
17th Oct 2019 11:37

Glad to see that the OP found the responses helpful.

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By Riffindin
17th Oct 2019 11:51

Thanks everyone for the helpful responses. I am not completely ignoring SME roles and mostly focusing on PLC roles due to the factors discussed in the thread. It is however, very challenging to not worry about Brexit and job losses when joining any firm in industry! Even the big names come up in news with job losses done in big waves.

I am thinking about an internal audit role in a large PLC with a view to move into business/commercial side in the future. Not sure how likely it can happen but recruiters paint a positive picture that in large PLCs you can move about from internal audit to other finance functions as long as you move within 1-2yrs.

Anyone has had experience in above?

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Replying to Riffindin:
By paul.benny
18th Oct 2019 07:52

Internal audit providing a move into another finance function...
If I was considering that route, I'd want to know the track record of that employer with facilitating those kind of moves. Alongside that, understand where the other finance functions are located: you can be based anywhere as an internal auditor, and there may not be any roles to move to where you live.

In larger corporates, internal audit can be brutal as regards a private life, even compared with Big4. In a US group that I worked for, the auditors spent most of their time away from their home country, let alone their home city. And they were hated much more than any external auditor, because their role is to find fault rather than provide assurance.

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Red Leader
By Red Leader
17th Oct 2019 11:59

Nothing's impossible. My job roles were, in sequence:
Big 8 audit to qualify
Big 8 tax specialist
SME FC - retail/wholesale
SME FC - high tech

To be honest, I could have planned it better!

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