It is the classic conundrum: you have spent three years, learning your trade, revising for your ACA exams and then nervously waiting for the results after each sitting, with the constant travel, pressures and stress of your day-to-day role... and finally, you qualify. After all your hard work, sleep deprivation and weekends lost, those letters after your name - a badge of honour.

ACA qualifier decision making

Now you have every recruiter under the sun trying to contact you, every opportunity seemingly better than the last. Amazing cultures, unrivalled progression and working for a boss officially declared as the world’s best (with the mug to prove it).

But what is next? What are you worth? Not sure if anyone likes Reporting? Everyone says Commercial roles are better anyway...

At Cobalt, with over 20 years of experience within our qualified recruitment team, we suggest you consider the following points before making that decision:

  • Where do you ultimately want to end up? If you see yourself in a Financial Controller, Financial Director of a listed business, these roles will require time spent in a reporting role gaining the rounded experience in governance and controls that is essential for senior management roles within Finance.

  • Commercial is a broad term, usually attached to roles where business or strategic decisions are made based on the recommendations and work that is done in the role. 85% of roles available to ACAs 0-2 years PQE will always entail a degree of reporting, with the "commercial" or "value add" duties being bolted on as quickly as you can start to prove yourself within the role, rather than from day one.

  • Planning your career stepping stones is important. Commercial roles are normally available to those with industry experience. We would recommend finding the reporting roles that offer you a broad range of next steps. Whether you pick a business that allows for internal movement and progression or not, it’s important to maintain an open route into the future. Read our interview with Chris Harrison into how he mapped his career to CFO here.

  • Don’t brand all Reporting roles as ‘boring’ and ‘one dimensional’. Finance teams vary from business to business and a specification may not give you the full picture of the role. The constantly changing nature of companies means that roles and teams are equally evolving, so there is a strong chance you may end up with a variety of great achievements attached to your skillset, that enhances your career that you may not have got from a ‘Commercial’ role.

In summary, we advise ACAs to maintain an open mind, and consider what you want from your career down the line and what ‘commercial’ means to you now, and later in your career.

In short, our advice: build blocks for your latter career with your first move from practice.

At Cobalt, we make sure we understand our vacancies beyond the paper job description and can give you a real picture of the team and the career path you could be on. We are always happy to aid candidates looking to build on their CV.

Article written by Simon Jobson, Accounting & Finance Recruiter at Cobalt Recruitment

If you are interested in discussing any roles within accounting or financial services or if you are looking to hire for your team, please do get in touch. Alternatively, you can sign up for job alerts to hear about relevant roles as they become available.

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