Transaction Services

transaction services

Should You Make the Switch to Transaction Services?

I’m not too far removed from Big 4 Audit. I remember what it was like. There were some aspects of it that were appealing: I enjoyed having a mix of projects and clients. I worked with a lot of great people. But the thing is, I knew about three months into my audit career that […]

Let’s Finally Talk About How Much Money You Can Make In Advisory

Somehow I find myself pulling the Accounting Career Emergencies rabbit out of my hat (or, as I like to say, “Decide My Life For Me: GC Edition”) and for once it has absolutely nothing to do with the CPA exam. We get yelled at all the time for focusing too much on tax and audit and not enough on advisory, so now’s your chance to start the discussion.

Though this question ended up in my inbox, it’s obvious that it was directed at you, dear Going Concern readers:

There is a lot of discussion on GC about the compensation for the audit and tax arms of the B4, but I don’t remember seeing much on what the strategic advisory/consulting branches of the B4 can expect in compensation as one rises through the ranks. It is pretty much assumed that compensation is much better on the performance and strategic side of the business but can you lay it out what is expected at each level?

I know different markets will pay at different rates, so a general range would be appreciated. I expect for associates in all branches to start in the same general range between $45,000-$58,000 but at what point in the chain of command does advisory compensation really separate itself compared to audit and tax?

Signed,

New Advisory Associate

First off, you’re right that we don’t discuss advisory that often but we do discuss it when we can, dependent on how many emails like yours we get and whether anyone in the advisory family has embarrassed themselves enough to warrant a note to us telling us all about it. If you’re playing along at home, that’s a strong hint that we’d talk about other areas besides tax and audit more often if more of you non-tax-and-audit folk contributed to the conversation. This is a good start, keep it going.

Anyway, based on comments left here and there around this site, the separation between audit/tax and advisory is not so much defined by dollars but by quality of life. What good is making more (or less) money if you’re miserable and overworked doing it? So before you look at how much more (or less) you’ll end up making than your cohorts in audit and tax, it’s appropriate to look at how much having a life is worth to you. So keep that in perspective while you are trying to figure out just how much you can make and when.

While you’re waiting around for useful comments from the GC miscreants, we were able to dig up a useful discussion on the Wall Street Oasis forum that will give you some actual numbers (though the validity of those numbers is apparently up for debate). That’s a starting point, and puts you at 65K out the gate, average. Since we’re getting that information from the Internet, let’s be conservative and say 60. This doesn’t help much as you already knew as much.

You might want to check out this GC thread (granted it’s two years old) and see if you get any better numbers there. With 311 comments, chances are you’ll get your answer, or at least a reasonable ballpark to aim for.

Cue to comments from the advisory bad asses out there who have been dying to see a column all about them. Now’s your time – especially those loyal soldiers who have put in a few years – to shine. Or blow smoke up each other’s asses to see who spins the most unbelievable compensation tale. I’m cool with either but please, help your soon-to-be advisory brother.

Engineering Consultant Lands a Big 4 Gig, Now What?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Going Concern received not one but two emails from a contributor in recent weeks. Aptly named Enginerd, P.E., this fine gentleman had hopes of joying a Big 4 firm with Enginerd’s background is as follows:

I come from a technical background, 8-10yrs of consulting in engineering and regulatory roles, and am being courted by a B4 to join up with a technically minded advisory/consulting group. You may not know, but engineers are a forgotten bunch earning far less than many of our other professionally degreed brothers. I’m anticipating a very healthy offer, but I don’t have much to base it on; Bologna is better than SPAM, but that isn’t saying much.

For the doubters out there – yes, the Big 4 occasionally hires engineering experts in niche markets when expanding their advisory practices. These experts may work with Transaction Services teams in markets heavy with M&A activity (think technology, energy, environment, etc.). Even at that, they don’t hire C.A.D. experts but rather individuals with previous consulting experience, like Enginerd.

Admittedly, Enginerd’s original email sat unanswered in the advice box [Ed. note: you should see the backlog!]. He recently followed up with positive news:

No response from y’all, but I did get a response from B4. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

So the last questions still hold, Any thoughts on breaking into B4 consulting (done), not getting lost when you get there, and behaviors which will help make my stay a long and profitable one? I’m listed at about 85% billable, which isn’t bad, but is still a lot of hours. Short of rereading How to Win Friends and Influence Others, what is my Modus operandi?

Thanks,

Enginerd, P.E.

Dear Enginerd,

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of direct advice for you as I do not work regularly with employees in your position. That said, I suggest continuing to do what made you successful up to this point:

1. Network every day of your early career. Meet with the group leaders not only in your office, but in other offices as well (as it applies). Have a regional/national meeting coming up? Make plans to connect with your peers in other offices. Connecting faces with email addresses is extremely important as your responsibilities inevitably expand.

2. Find a mentor. Chances are you are not the only person in your group/office that has a background similar to your own. Feel the group out over the first few months, evaluating who you feel stands above the rest. Find someone with a background similar to yours (and senior to you in ranking) that has a strong future with the firm, and build a professional relationship with them. You shouldn’t hesitate in asking him/her to be a mentor for you. Generally speaking, people are flattered by such a request and can become excellent resources for you down the road.

3. Read advice from the Going Concern peanut gallery. I’m sure there are people with similar backgrounds to yours that are regular readers here on the site. With that said, I open it up to the group – what advice do you have for Enginerd as he joins the Big 4 consulting circus?

How Should a Big 4 Auditor Handle a Manager Blocking a Transfer to Transaction Services?

Welcome to the at-least-you’re-not-John-Edwards edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a first-year auditor has an opportunity to do a rotation with Transaction Services but feels that his senior manager has taken an aggressive cock-block position. Will our hero have to get their performance manager involved or resort to thinly-veiled threats?

Looking for new endeavors? Are the men in your office giving you a hard time? Is your job making you ill? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll give you a remedy for your troubles.

Meanwhile:

Caleb,

I am a long time GC reader, and I usually only read the career advice postings to feel slightly better about my own situation. Now, however, I find myself with a question that I would love to put before the GC readership. I am a first year at a B4. I enjoy my job, but am always interested in a new opportunity. Recently, I was offered a rotation in transaction services that will last a few months. I accepted the opportunity, but the timing of the rotation was not set in stone. I just found out that a sr. mgr. on my biggest client is trying to keep me staffed on that engagement at the expense of the opportunity of taking the rotation.

I have made my interest in taking a TS rotation since day one, and my performance manager supports it 100%. He knows that I was offered the rotation, but not that the sr mgr is standing in the way. I would like to know how to proceed. Should I go over the sr mgr? Should I forget the rotation? I enjoy my audit clients and don’t want to be seen as someone who will leave as soon as a better opportunity comes along, but this is a particular interest of mine that I made know upfront.

Please help!

Dear Cock-blocked Auditor,

Sounds like your senior manager has a non-sexual, professional crush on you. That can be a good thing but in your case, it’s a very bad thing. Your senior manager probably wants the best team possible and it sounds like that would involve you but you’ve got your own ambitions and those need to be respected. This especially true because TS has already offer has been extended to you. It’s not for someone else (senior manager or not) to stick their beak in your business and prevent you from following the career path you choose.

Having said all that, I suggest that you first talk to the senior manager on your audit engagement. You say that they are blocking the rotation but how do you know? Nothing in your email indicates that (s)he walked straight up to you, pointed a finger in your chest and said, “You’re mine, bitch!” It’s entirely possible that the SM kept you on to prevent you from getting picked up by anyone else. This will allow you to get the story straight before running off to your performance manager. If your suspicions are true (or you did experience a finger pointing incident), then it’s time to get your PM involved. If he is “100%” behind this opportunity like you say, then this should get resolved rather quickly. Transaction Services obviously wants you to work with them and it’s something you’re interested in doing. That isn’t complicated but these things do take time and that may be the hold-up.

So be patient but be direct. Until your rotation’s timing is finalized, there’s no need to get anxious but confirm the motivation behind the scheduling before you have to pull out the big guns. Good luck.

Comp Watch ’11: Follow-up on KPMG Transaction Services Midyear Adjustment

Sounds like the previously mentioned potential raises got the John Veihmeyer stamp of approval.

Follow up on the midyear comp email from last wk- srs get 4% and mgrs get 5%. Does not apply to corporate finance and restructuring. Call is still going on right now trying to sell KPMG big time and convince people to not leave

We’ve been told that the raises are effective immediately. We’ll keep you updated.