Returning to work in the UK: ask the expert

I completed my LLB Degree whilst still in the UK and was offered a job at an auditing firm in South Africa. I worked very hard and after two years I was promoted to Head of the Forensic Audit and Legal Department and acting CEO. I got married and fell pregnant. I then resigned from the firm due to ethical differences I had with management. After giving birth I served as the financial manager for my husband’s business and did freelance work as and when available. Last year I had my second child and took up employment with a local advocacy group as a home-based researcher and analyst. My husband has now sorted out all of his affairs and we are ready to move back to the UK. I am now looking for a full-time job with flexibility as I will be sending the kids to daycare, their ages are 3 and 1. My problem is that now I don’t know which sector I am qualified to apply in and what level or salary I should be asking for?

In the UK, forensic audit is seen primarily as an accountancy function with other skills slotted in (eg IT). There’s no particular logic to this – it’s just the way the career has developed here.  There are jobs for auditing specialists with legal qualifications and background but fewer of them.

Forensic accounting posts are typically filled by graduates who’ve trained in external audit, financial accountancy or management consultancy before moving into the forensic field. Forensic auditors can be taken on as graduate trainees; as part-qualified accountants; and as fully qualified accountants (ACCA and ACA accounting qualifications being the norm).  Relevant experience is seen as a major attraction – some employers will not recruit anyone without it.

Forensic accountancy is a growth area (from your point of view, that means it’ll be easier to persuade potential employers you’ve plenty to offer them and are worth training even though you’re not a conventional candidate).  Most forensic accountants work in the large accountancy firms, including the ‘Big Four’, which have specialist forensic teams. Other employers include “niche” accountancy firms.  Opportunities for experienced forensic accountants also exist in industry and commerce anti-fraud teams and in the regulatory bodies.  I’d also suggest you investigate opportunities as a civilian support worker in the Police Services’ and Local Authority anti-fraud units.

Because you’re a “one off”, it’s not easy to identify the right level or salary for you.  As an informed guess, I think you need to pay special attention to:-

– relevant graduate-with-experience trainee posts in the large accountancy firms (these must offer you the training support you’ll need to qualify as an ACCA or ACA accountant).  Please note, your financial manager / audit manager experience may allow you to negotiate exemptions from parts of the qualification course under the Accreditation of Prior Learning scheme.  As an LLB qualified accountant, you could expect to progress quickly to highly paid posts (eg some City jobs pay £70K).  It’s likely your initial pay would be around £22K – £30K.

– Police Service and other regulatory / public protection posts where you would be employed as a middle-ranking professional.  A “guesstimate” on pay would be £25K – £37K.

– a post with a small or medium size “niche” accountancy practice (it must offer you the training support you’ll need to qualify as an ACCA or ACA accountant).  It’s likely your initial pay would be around £22K – £30K.

If you live in the South East, within commuting distance of the City of London, you’ve probably far more options than if you live in the provinces.


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