Accountants wanted as equity researchers and M&A bankers, again

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Good news: after years in which accountants were relegated to mere accounting jobs, it seems that banks are again sniffing around the Big Four and trying to hire their finest staff for prestigious roles as accountants and equity researchers.

"We've started to see a resurgence in banks' interest in people with ACA qualifications for front office roles like corporate finance and equity research - and especially for equity research," says Logan Naidu, CEO of recruitment firm Dartmouth Partners. "Banks seem to be hiring ACAs for all sectors. It seems that they didn't hire enough junior people during the lean years and are now having to top up their teams with people from the Big Four."

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In the U.K., the Big Four accountancy firms have traditionally been a route into banking, with banks valuing the ACA qualification run by the ICAEW.  Turnover rates for newly qualified ACAs have been high as a result. "Banks poach our staff after qualification and after two or three years," says the head of recruitment at one Big Four firm. "Salaries are very competitive in banking and people will always make that decision."

You now need the ACA and the CFA 

"There's been a real uplift in the number of chartered accountants going into M&A and equity research," says James Heath, managing director of recruitment firm Greenwich Partners. "It's been busy for a while, but is becoming more so."

While banks' appetite for ACAs may be growing, Heath says the bar for moving into equity research from accounting has been raised. Nowadays, he says the banks and funds that hire accountants expect them to have some knowledge of their industry - even if accountancy candidates have only ever worked in audit.

Heath says the best way of achieving this knowledge is through the CFA qualifications, which are increasingly being taken by just about everyone. "The successful accounting candidates have usually taken the CFA Level 1. It's become an important way of differentiating yourself," he says.

Accounting candidates are having to put more effort into preparing for banking interviews, adds Heath: "Just because you've never done an M&A deal, it doesn't mean you won't be expected to run a simple DCF model as part of the interview process."

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