Moving from practice into commerce


If you come from a practice environment, it is likely that your career thus far been largely focussed on audit – determining financial validity through reviewing your clients’ finance and operations reports.

For some, this is environment works very well. However it is common that certain accounting professionals want greater involvement in complex business decisions, so that they can ultimately shape the strategic direction of an organisation.


For those individuals, moving into commerce and industry is a great way to do just that. But what are the key things you should consider before looking to make the move?

Key differences between commerce and industry and practice

Not many accounting professionals can deny the certain benefits that working in practice environment can provide. Here, you will typically find a high amount of exposure to a host of different organisations, often stretching your technical capabilities across a number of different industry sectors.

It is also likely that you will find more opportunities for progression and may ultimately make Partner.

If however you are more strategically and commercially focussed, commerce and industry may be for you. Here, emphasis will be placed on your expert knowledge of one company, as well as the industry of which it is placed. Similarly, you will also need to develop your communication skills in order to influence key stakeholders where appropriate.

If however you are more strategically and commercially focussed, commerce and industry may be for you.

Within commerce and industry, many accountants aspire to the end goal of becoming a finance director or ultimately a general manager of a company.  

Hot skills in commerce and industry

If you have developed within a practice environment then it is quite likely that your skills will transfer well into commerce and industry. Typically, you will find the most highly regarded skills will be solid numeracy and data analysis skills, problem solving and technical skills and a keen understanding of how business and commerce works.

Never-the-less, there are certain skills you will have to make a point of emphasising when you look to make the move. These include:

  • A distinct desire to make a contribution and impact on the company’s profitability – not just being a ‘number-cruncher’
  • Ensuring you can apply to one single industry your technical knowledge and expertise
  • Being a strong communicator that can lead and influence members of senior management
  • Ensuring your are strategically and commercially minded

Interested in making the move?

Before you look to move, make sure you begin to familiarise yourself with trends across the market place. Make sure to think about which skill sets are in particular demand and if there are any industries which are hiring in larger numbers. This will give you a good head start in understanding roadblocks you may face and what the competition is likely to be like.

After you’ve done this, make sure to register with a recruitment agency that specialises within accountancy and finance. The consultant will be able to give you much more detailed information on salary expectations, the industry sector you’re most suited to, and further market trends. They will also be able to assist you in editing your CV so that it is most relevant to positions within commerce and industry.  

After this point, you are ready to get into the market. Given this, you will need to make sure to remember that opportunities can arise when you least expect it. Make sure that you are fully committed, ready and willing to apply for positions and to make the jump if you can.

Looking for your next accountancy or finance role? View the latest opportunities from Robert Walters.

Or if you have a friend looking for a new job, why not be rewarded for recommending Robert Walters? Learn more about our excellent referral scheme and refer your friend today.

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For more career advice please contact:

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
+27 (0)11 881 2414

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