How to go from Big 4 Audit to an investment bank

Many people join a Big 4 accounting firm with the sole intention of leaving as soon as they have qualified as accountants. If you went to a top 5 college, got a first place and qualified as an accountant in the Big 4 with first time passes, you should get an interview without putting too much effort into your CV. There’s still a lot of work to do once you get the interview, and for everyone else with at least a 2.1 from a halfway decent college, you’ll inevitably have to put in a little more effort. Realistically, if you’re from a university outside the top 10 with a 2:1 or less, unless you have relevant direct experience, you’ll struggle. However, below are a variety of useful things we think you can do/should consider to help you get to the interview stage for a decent investment banking position:

  • Beware of the ‘window of opportunity’. If you really want to go from audit to investment bank, some (but not all) places may be put off by having more than 2 years of post qualified experience as you may lose some of your ‘moldability’.
  • Be very clear about why you’re applying for that particular division (mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, and equity research) and know what they do and how they make money. Employers are very wary of people who just want to leave the Big 4 instead of actually wanting to do the position they’re applying for.
  • There is a lot of help regarding CVs online, there are usually people in your department at work who will let you take a look at your CV for advice. However, keep in mind that while Auditing in the Big 4 is nothing to sneeze at, most people applying for investment banking have very similar experiences, so you’ll need to have something there to make it stand out a bit.
  • Try to get some experience in corporate finance or deals. Work with clients who are active in mergers and acquisitions, as you will have some exposure to this, and the more aptitude and enthusiasm you show, the more you can get involved. The key is to focus on getting some appraisal work on your CV: it’s important to be able to talk about the work you’ve done, the assumptions made and justify the appraisal approach taken.
  • If you don’t have any clients where this is the case, try organizing an internal move to the corporate finance/transactions department, many people see a 6 month stint in any of these departments as their springboard into a bank. It will be worth it for the CV alone, as many job specs say “CF or TS experience preferred.” Talking to people who have moved, most moved from Transaction Services.
  • This one is pretty rudimentary, but make sure you stay on top of financial news both generally and in the sector you’re applying for. This involves not just flipping through the FT, but making sure you have a consistent view and know the key numbers. They will try to get into an argument with you to see how you think.
  • Many people will tell you that the interview process doesn’t require much more assessment knowledge than it does from your ACA qualification. However, having registered for your CFA Level 1 is helpful, but not essential. The key is to have a high-level view of the different valuation techniques and the application of these in a variety of different industries. The level of understanding required varies substantially between employers. Generally though, you’re not expected to be able to recite different valuation formulas to them, but to know how people calculate the cost of capital and really understand what you’re trying to accomplish by doing this and what factors/assumptions go into this. calculus is something you need to get familiar with.
  • Start your own investment portfolio. By doing this, you will not only automatically become aware of the news flow related to your stocks, but also gain a taste for investing. This is very likely to come up in your interviews. You need to have a good idea of ​​your favorite length/short and back it up with numbers. Going into interviews, veterans don’t want to hear about clearances, they want logical arguments backed up by details. Having your own portfolio also automatically makes you more alert to news that affects your investments on a regular basis, so it can help ensure you stay on top of key news.
  • Use a good recruiting consultant. Investment banking roles are some of the best examples of where recruiting consultants can really help you. Greenwich Partners [in London] You seem to have most corporate finance and equity research roles done, so hand them your CV. They also have a great uncomplicated process, in fact you may have to mess with them a bit at times. Use your own contacts. People who qualify in the years before you in the Big 4 will have moved to an investment bank, so don’t be afraid to contact them to find out if there are any job openings in your place. They are likely to be financially incentivized to refer people, and this can be a way of getting into companies that would normally outright reject your CV because you went to the wrong university.

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