A Guide to Moving Abroad for Recently Qualified Accountants…The UK

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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 hectic for the last 5 months. This is mainly across newly qualified to mid/ senior management level. We have seen a huge demand for candidates at these levels since maybe October/November 2021, across all industries including Financial Services, Real Estate, Tech, Media, Renewables, FMCG, Retail, Hospitality etc.

Part of the candidate shortage is down to the fact that there are so few international candidates in London now, mainly due to COVID but we expect to see a surge as more people make the move to the UK in the next 3-6 months now that international travel has opened up and COVID is hopefully subsiding. But this will mean there will be more competition between candidates later in the year.

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 hard 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 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 the 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 crying out 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. We have seen interview processes close in just 5 days from 1st round all the way through to an offer being accepted – so it can move pretty quick.

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 is the best time of year to get hired?

Very hard to say at the minute given the shake up in the market over the last few years due to COVID. It is hectic now, so if candidates are keen to move soon, they can begin their job hunt now. No time like the present, especially with contract completion and summer on the horizon.

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 is absolutely massive obviously) 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 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. Most companies are doing 3 days in the office now, which is probably a bit more than what Ireland is currently at. This is the new normal, and if candidates are holding out for something that offers 3/4/5 days of working from home, then these opportunities are much less. And also, it is a good way to meet new people if you are in the office!

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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