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Big Decisions for Newly Qualified Accountants - the benefits of staying in Practice

Feb 26, 2024
Senior Finance Articles

Big Decisions for Newly Qualified Accountants - the benefits of staying in Practice

44% of accountants in Yorkshire and the East Midlands embark on new career paths within three years of qualifying, leaving their training firms behind.

Many have made the move to industry at this very early stage in their career and followed ambitions to become CFO through this route. This has been an effective career plan for many years and will continue to be so for many years to come. While transitioning to industry is a proven and effective career plan, it may not be suitable for everyone. This decision holds significant weight in the early stages of an accountant's career, with various factors to carefully consider.

Achieving a Partner or Director level role in audit stands as one of the most rewarding career milestones for accountants. Some of the most successful and highest profile CFOs in our region made their move to industry from Manager level or higher – building their experience with a higher level of financial understanding, exposure to a wider range of business sectors and ownership structures, and international experience (read more about Andrew Gale’s journey from Deloitte to CFO and CEO at evo – making his original move to industry from a Senior Manager role at Deloitte here)

We have some of the biggest and best global audit and advisory firms in our region. Being a part of this dynamic landscape holds numerous benefits, and any decision to leave should be based on a comprehensive assessment rather than solely short-term objectives. We spoke with Shaun Mullins, Audit & Advisory Partner from Mazars in Leeds.  

Shaun’s career started with EY in London.  After a 2-year secondment as Manager and then Senior Manager with EY Toronto, he and his family moved to Yorkshire.  After gaining valuable experience with a regional firm for 4 years and another mid-tier firm, he’s very pleased to have joined Mazars in 2012.  He’s not looked back.  During this period Mazars in Leeds have grown from £5m to £30m with a team of 320.  The partner group in Mazars Leeds increased by 4 to 19 with the internal promotion of 4 Directors to Partner in September 2023.  The audit team in Leeds looking after privately owned businesses include 70 people with an average age of 25.  Even with Shaun included!  Worldwide Mazars have grown from €1bn to €2.7bn since 2012.

“The initial two post-qualification years in practice are typically the most rewarding, providing a sense of freedom from studying and exams, allowing young accountants to focus on practical job applications and skill development. This creates a far stronger platform for any young accountant to build their career in practice or industry. While the culture of the firm is key, we believe that 'the longer you stay in practice, the higher you will rise in your career, and probably more quickly.'

Our other thoughts for every young accountant to consider:
  • Some of the most rewarding and senior roles in finance (not to mention reward packages too!) are held by people who have stayed in practice to Manager, Senior Manager, and Director level. More have made it to Partner, CFO, and CEO, working in organisations that are doing great things.
  • Audit Manager is a very privileged position to be in and a great learning space. You are more exposed to business owners – guiding and advising them on their investments and business plans. With more flexibility and the opportunity to influence which clients you work on, this is often the most rewarding time in your career in practice and an opportunity to create a broad frame of reference for many of the decisions you will be making later in your career.
  • Managers get to see the real successes and challenges of business (and not just what PR and social media tell us). They are in the heart of the business – the engine room and the board room.
  • Every newly qualified accountant will make mistakes and will learn from them. Most of these mistakes are best made in practice firms where there are controls and support to highlight them and ensure that they become development points. Most roles in industry are can be less forgiving, less constructive in development advice, and come with higher immediate expectations."

Moving to a new employer after qualifying can be a good option for many accountants and we work with many every year to help them achieve that. Our advice to all is to ensure that you consider every option including following the route to Audit Manager first. We work with every individual to help them understand when they are at the right technical and psychological stage to move and to ensure that their next step is the right one to reach their longer-term ambitions. Please contact us to discuss your next career move, or just for friendly advice.

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