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Old 06.01.2019, 21:18
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Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

I'm currently employed by a Big Four accounting firm in London and working towards the ACA qualification. My partner and I would like to move to Switzerland one day, likely Zurich as that's where the opportunities are. My partner is an EU citizen and even though I am not, we plan to get married in the future so that I can get a dependant visa.

I am bound to the UK for at least 3 years but I would love to take up international opportunities once I'm a fully qualified accountant. I want to know whether I will be employable in Zurich with my ACA and 3 years of Big Four audit experience. I speak French at a B2 level. I don't speak German but I am willing to learn if it helps my prospects in Switzerland.

Is there anything I can do during my training contract that would improve my chances of finding a job in Switzerland?
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Old 07.01.2019, 09:50
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

You will need to have your qualifications recognised.

Would you like to work in Switzerland as an accountant or an auditor?

An application for authorisation must be submitted to:
Federal Audit Oversight Authority (FAOA)
3001 Bern
T +41 31 560 22 22
https://www.rab-asr.ch/#/

You'll definitely need German if you're going to live in/around Zurich.
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Old 07.01.2019, 10:03
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

Do you want to change the company that you work for? One of the easiest ways, particularly with a Big 4, is to make an internal move within the company to Switzerland.
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Old 07.01.2019, 11:41
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

It really depends an awful lot on what kind of work you wish to do when you get here and where you see yourself in the long term.

If you are simply looking for a job in public practice for a few years or are intent on working for an MNC then most likely your qualification as an ACA alone will be enough.

When it comes to public practice you need to appreciate that Zurich is not London and while there is some international work, the bulk of the work is local. That means that the offices then to favor candidates who can do both local and international work over people who can only do international work. That being the case, a good command of German is important.

If you wish to practice in your own right, then that is a different matter. At the moment your UK qualification is recognized in Switzerland and there is an equivalency exam administered in English that will allow you obtain a practicing certificate, provided you also qualify for it under the rules of your institute - the ICEW, I assume. After BREXIT, the situation is unknown. If the UK remains aligned to Europe standards then it should not be an issue, but if were to move to FASB for instance it would be a problem.

One think worth considering is to apply for membership of the Irish institute, once you have obtained ICEW membership. It is automatic and no matter how BREXIT turns out, you will still have an EU recognized qualification. I know several UK based CAs that have done this.
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Old 07.01.2019, 12:32
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

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You will need to have your qualifications recognised.

Would you like to work in Switzerland as an accountant or an auditor?

An application for authorisation must be submitted to:
Federal Audit Oversight Authority (FAOA)
3001 Bern
T +41 31 560 22 22
https://www.rab-asr.ch/#/

You'll definitely need German if you're going to live in/around Zurich.
I'm keeping my options open, but I may want to try something other than audit when my training is complete.
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Old 07.01.2019, 12:39
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

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It really depends an awful lot on what kind of work you wish to do when you get here and where you see yourself in the long term.

If you are simply looking for a job in public practice for a few years or are intent on working for an MNC then most likely your qualification as an ACA alone will be enough.

When it comes to public practice you need to appreciate that Zurich is not London and while there is some international work, the bulk of the work is local. That means that the offices then to favor candidates who can do both local and international work over people who can only do international work. That being the case, a good command of German is important.

If you wish to practice in your own right, then that is a different matter. At the moment your UK qualification is recognized in Switzerland and there is an equivalency exam administered in English that will allow you obtain a practicing certificate, provided you also qualify for it under the rules of your institute - the ICEW, I assume. After BREXIT, the situation is unknown. If the UK remains aligned to Europe standards then it should not be an issue, but if were to move to FASB for instance it would be a problem.

One think worth considering is to apply for membership of the Irish institute, once you have obtained ICEW membership. It is automatic and no matter how BREXIT turns out, you will still have an EU recognized qualification. I know several UK based CAs that have done this.
Thanks for the tip, will keep it in mind! Seems like fluency in German will give me an edge on top of my Big Four experience so I better start learning it sooner rather than later.

Also I'm interested in learning how flexible people are when it comes to career changes. In the UK, going into a different profession than what you studied at university is very common (might even be the norm actually). For example, I have a law degree but I went into accountancy instead. Also a lot of people take up Big Four training contracts to get their foot in the door, with a long-term view to move into a move lucrative and interesting profession like investment banking, equity research, asset management etc. It is my impression that in continental Europe this is more unheard of. What's it like in Switzerland?
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Old 07.01.2019, 12:48
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

Our tax man is a lawyer, I work in Finance with a language MA, our HR head has studied finance, our auditor is an engineer
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Old 07.01.2019, 13:23
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

Would the best idea not be to work really hard on acquiring German, then come and work for your 'one of the big 4' in Switzerland for a while to adjust, then move on? All big 4 are represented in CH- some even in more minor towns (like Neuchâtel).
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Old 07.01.2019, 14:18
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

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Also a lot of people take up Big Four training contracts to get their foot in the door, with a long-term view to move into a move lucrative and interesting profession like investment banking, equity research, asset management etc.
Well in 25+ years working in Asset Management, I have yet to meet another Chartered Accountant working in the area and I actually work on designing and writing AM software, so...

Most of the business guys, seem to have degrees (usually masters) in Law, Finance, Math, Stats, Economics etc... and of course many are CFA qualified. The only other accountant I can remember was Italian and he also worked on software!
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Old 08.01.2019, 10:36
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Re: Working in Switzerland as a UK qualified accountant

There are very few opportunities in public markets (equity & credit) asset management here in Zurich. Almost none of the big banks do equity research here any more and there are not a lot of buy-side research roles here either. You're actually better off looking at Geneva where you have some hedge funds and large private banks like Pictet and Lombard Odier that still do some stuff in house. Compared to London the job market is tiny and it's very hard to get a foot in the door without knowing someone.

Now, where you do find a lot of jobs is in private equity and direct lending. But, most of the firms here target the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) so you need to speak German to a high level to get these positions.

If you want to work in asset management my advice would be to stay in London, where the vast majority of the industry is and will continue to be long after Brexit.
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