From accounting to corp finance

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If you're a chartered accountant with two to six years' experience in transaction services or audit, the world - at least, the Australian corporate finance market - is your oyster.

There is a huge shortage of corporate financiers in Australia, from junior through associate to associate director. Many of the analytical skills sought are found in the chartered accountancy firms - which can't compete with the cashed-up investment banks.

"Accountancy gets raided all the time," says Chris Mamas, senior consultant at Select Personnel in Sydney. "It's not just investment banking doing the raiding, it's hedge funds and private equity, too. Partnership is not as appealing as it used to be in chartered accountancy because of the conflicts of interest - and increasingly, the young accountants know that the remuneration doesn't compete."

Mamas recently placed a chartered accountant with six years' experience, who was earning a base of AU$170k plus a bonus of $50k, into an associate director-level role in an investment bank, where he will earn AU$225k with a bonus of two times base salary.

"Even with three to five years' experience, chartered accountants coming into corporate finance at senior associate level can expect to earn AU$150k to AU$170k, with a bonus of between half to one times salary. The chartered firms can't match that," says Mamas.

But Suzanne Davies, senior consultant at Olivier Recruitment in Sydney, cautions that even in a very tight market, employers can still afford to be choosy.

"It's actually that three to five years' experience level where clients can afford to be most choosy. They usually want very specific skill sets to add to their team, and they will wait for the right person," she says.

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