A Guide to Moving Abroad for Recently Qualified Accountants … UK

Next up in our guides to moving abroad for recently qualified accountants, Brian O’Connor ACA, Senior Associate with Barden and expert in recently qualified accountants careers, chats to Siobhán Sexton ACA, Business Lead with Barden, who shares THE best advice when moving to the UK.

So Siobhán, who did you chat with to get the latest insights on the UK market?

I spoke with an old colleague of mine, Conor Murphy, ACA who is now working as Senior Finance Recruiter with Robert Walters in London.

What is the market like in the UK at the moment?

The market has been busy for the last 12/18 months. This is mainly across newly qual to mid/senior management level. We have seen a huge demand for candidates at these levels over the last 12 months, across all industries – FS, Real Estate, Tech, Media, Renewables, FMCG, Retail, Hospitality etc.

The shortage we had seen in early 2022 has started to ease slightly with people now on the move again over the last 12 months since COVID restrictions lifted which is great. Competition between candidates for these roles is getting stronger as a result.

What kind of roles do qualified accountants typically move into when they go to the UK?

Typically audit qualified accountants move into mostly financial accounting roles. The more commercial candidates such as restructuring, transaction services (TS), corporate finance etc do find it a lot easier to make the move into a commercial role like Finance Business Partner, Commercial Finance Analyst, FP&A Analyst etc. which is mainly down to their stronger commercial experience from their time in practice.

It’s also worth noting how tricky it may be for someone coming straight from audit to move into a commercial role, if this is their preference – as they are often competing with candidates from TS, corporate finance or CIMA candidates. We’re not saying that audit qualified accountants cannot move into these commercial roles but it can often mean they are waiting a little longer to get the break for the reasons just outlined.

So ultimately, if candidates are keen to move from practice ASAP, it’s best to make a first move which aligns to their skillset most as they’ll pick up a job much quicker. Once in industry, it’s a lot easier a build up a commercial mindset whilst working in an in-house finance function and this will stand to them as they then look to make their second move in industry.

Do people typically take on permanent or contract jobs when they move over?

Again this is down to preference. 80% of the companies we deal with are open with doing interviews over teams (in the interests of moving fast). So there is definitely scope to get a perm role while interviewing from Ireland. It’s really down to what the candidate wants – as both the temp and perm market is very active now. The advantage Irish candidates have is that they have full right to work in the UK, so they are in a position to apply for both temp and perm if they don’t have a preference.

Should I try to get a job before I move over or when I arrive? How long does it usually take to get a job in London?

As I mentioned above, companies have been happy to conduct interviews and even make offers to candidates while they are overseas. Given how busy the market is, most companies are looking for the same candidates, and to try and retain or attract the best candidates, the hiring teams are having to act fast to lock candidates in.

What is the average pay rate for a recently qualified accountant in London?

Big 4 ACA is usually getting circa £55/€64k as a base. For smaller practice firms, it would be between £50k-£55k, a little bit more than in Ireland but given the higher cost of living, it is needed.

What 3 tips would you give to a recently qualified accountant looking to relocate to the UK from Ireland?

  1. Live with friends/ partners, or at least near friends/ partners (London for example is massive – so proximity to a friend group can completely make or break someone’s experience here).
  2. If you are keen to find a job ASAP – look for jobs that are most aligned to your skillset and be open to a broad range of industries. Understand your skill set – If you are an audit qualified Big 4 accountant and you are applying for an FP&A analyst role – take a really good look at the job spec and ask yourself if you have transferrable experience that will stand to you in the new role – A hiring manager will probe this at interview stage so it’s important to be prepared.
  3. Be open to working in the office. Hybrid working has become the most common approach, similar to Ireland. Fully remote working opportunities are much less and it is good to be in the office and meet new people and build relationships when in a new role.

About Siobhán…

Siobhan Sexton ACA is Business Lead with Barden and is an expert in recently qualified accounting careers and recruitment.

Originally from Cork, Siobhán Sexton ACA trained in KPMG Cork in the Tax Department and she is ACA qualified since 2017.

Siobhán also worked as part of the Management Consulting team in KPMG Dublin during her training contract. She worked predominantly on pharmaceutical, IT and construction clients.

This experience gives her a unique insight into the finance, accounting and professional service markets.

Following the completion of her training contract with KPMG, Siobhán joined Barden Dublin in March 2017 as part of the Recently Qualified Accountants team.

In 2018 she took a sabbatical to travel to and work in Canada. During her time in Canada, Siobhán worked with both Michael Page and Robert Walters Recruitment. On returning to Ireland, Siobhán relocated to her hometown of Cork and now works with our Recently Qualified Accountants team in Barden Cork.

Contact Siobhán at siobhan.sexton@barden.ie or via LinkedIn.

At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to hello@barden.ie and we will take it from there. Easy.

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