Private Equity Accounting Roles – More Than Meets the Eye Darren Reuben
May 31, 2018

So you’ve spent 3 years working your butts off to get through a demanding ACA course whilst also working very hard in your external audit role. You’re working with Investment Management clients, likely working with some Private Equity/Venture Capital firms. You’ve just had your ACA membership certificate through the post, which means that you’re now a fully qualified accountant. You’re ready for that next step in your Finance career, where the world is your oyster and you can choose do any job you desire except, it seems………be an Accountant!

This is what we hear from the majority of newly qualified, especially Big 4 qualified accountants and for the life us, it’s baffling.

Carnegie Consulting is a specialist recruiter for the Investment Management sector. Much of what we do is recruit accounting talent for our clients, many of whom operate in the Private Equity sector. A newly qualified accountant is often sought so why is it that we hear..….

“I want to work in the Investment Team”
“I want to be an Analyst”
“Work in the Finance team…..no chance!”

Let’s explore this to understand why some candidates take this view whilst also highlighting the varied and lucrative Accounting roles on offer in Private Equity.

We’ll do this by addressing 2 key points:

NOT ALL ACCOUNTING ROLES ARE BORN EQUAL

I completely agree with you……..a Statutory Accounting role in some impersonal financial institution fills me with utter dread. I’m sat in a 50 person Finance team, I’m at least 4-5 rungs down from the FD, who sits on a completely different floor and my immediate boss is only a couple of years more experienced than me. Oh yes, and all I do all day long is look backwards and assist with the preparation of financial statements. How very dull!

Alas, there is much more to be found in a smaller investment management firm.

By working for a smaller firm, you will invariably have a much broader and more varied role. If you opt for a corporate accounting role, then this will typically include all accounting elements (financial accounts, management accounts, tax, regulatory etc) rather than being silo’d in just one area.

Fund accounting roles give you the opportunity to learn about the structure of funds, their underlying investments and in certain circumstances, to work very closely with the investment teams on new and existing deals.
The fund accounting role can also springboard into Investor Relations, giving you the opportunity to perform a more commercial function during a period of fundraising.

Whether you opt for a corporate or fund accounting role, they are not heavy-duty technical ones. In-depth knowledge of the latest IFRS updates is rarely a requirement.

PE firms tend to operate flat structures and are generally lean in terms of staff numbers. This means that you are going to work very closely with the FD/CFO and will very likely have good mentorship from that person. You’re also going to play a much more visible role in the business and fee a lot more pivotal to the overall success of the firm.

Careers in Finance will be lucrative and progressive. You can expect excellent basic salaries, higher than average bonuses with the option of carry in certain firms.

AUDIT INTO A FRONT OFFICE INVESTMENT ROLE IS NOT SO EASY

Your background in audit is a ready-made fit for a career in Finance, to work towards reaching the pinnacle of the accounting career….a CFO role and all the trappings that brings.

Somewhere along the road though, you’ve seen another option where a move to the Front Office seems more exciting and lucrative.

From all our experience though, it can be pretty tough to make that move straight out of audit. You’d invariably need to be more M&A focussed. You’re probably working for a top-tier investment bank in a Corporate Finance/M&A function. You’ve been tracked by the PE firms and Head-Hunters alike from your first grad role, through your MBA. You may come through the Big-4 firms but in Transaction Services at the very least.

Don’t get me wrong, in some instances it happens, so never say never. There is still a very decent career and the good news is its right in front of you….

For more information about how we can help develop your accounting career, then please call Darren Reuben on 0203 427 3011 or visit our website for all the roles we are currently handling.

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