The Accounting Crossroads: Technical or Commercial Finance

by communicate-rs_cms

As recruiters we always hear the same two things from auditors coming over to the UK on a two year visa; “I want to work in retail or media” or “I want a commercial role with no reporting responsibilities”.
Commercial finance is seen to be more intellectually stimulating and can offer a greater scope of roles as it is less restricted than technical finance. With this in mind, it is inevitable that most candidates who come to the UK on a two year visa from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa want to go down a commercial route. However, to get into such a role, you need to have experience and often personally align with the company’s product and message.
Those that go into commercial finance on a two year visa come from a mixture of backgrounds but most come from assurance and audit as they are most similar to management accountant roles. Whilst there are some candidates with technical backgrounds that find roles within commercial finance, it is rather rare. This is because whilst they know the theory required for the role, they lack the experience needed to compete and stand out against commercial candidates, especially when they haven’t spent any time in the industry. If you do successfully get into commercial finance, there are definitely opportunities to grow over the two year visa period, in both seniority and scope.
Technical roles, however, tend to pay more than their commercial counterparts by up to 10-20%. This is partly because companies know that analytical roles are higher in demand so can get away with paying less. It is imperative therefore to consider what you could be losing out on by not opting to pursue a technical route. In addition to the higher pay, the contracts are likely to be more regular, allowing you to be able to afford to travel and experience Europe, a big perk of being in the UK on a visa.
With regards to personal growth, if you come to the UK on a two year visa you can expect to encounter relatively good career progression. However, candidates that are reluctant to consider anything but a commercial role will likely remain on the market for around three to four months, stifling their progression and cutting into their visa. We aren’t suggesting that you take the first role that comes to you as it needs to be both a good cultural fit and in line with your job aspirations, but we feel that some candidates need to measure their expectations and make the most out of their two years here.
Finally, when thinking long term, CFO positions and other senior roles require candidates to be well rounded, so having technical experience is a must. It shows you have confidence in dealing with banks, audit committees and a variety of senior stakeholders; traits looked for in candidates at the senior end of the market. With technical requirements continuously changing it is imperative to keep up to date and have a firm understanding of all legal obligations.
What do we recommend?

  1. Try and get industry experience as you want to gain familiarity in other areas away from audit and advisory in practice and build up a network. Consider the stepping stone option of a Group Finance role or get involved in projects that allow you to take on a broader remit.  This will provide you with wider exposure to different parts of the business and experience in the likes of consolidating financial accounts.
  2. Don’t limit yourself to just FTSE350 companies. Instead, consider your options and go for a business with a good reputation or one that you feel would be a good cultural fit as it might give you the chance to own wider responsibilities and greater industry experience, opening up future opportunities.

If you are considering a move to the UK or looking for your next career opportunity, please get in touch with our Senior Interim Consultant Luke now at or call us on 020 3617 9730.