How this CA quit her job as a CFO, immigrated to Australia and started all over. Did it pay off?

  • Meet Betty D’souza a qualified Chartered Accountant who immigrated to Australia in 2015 with her family and started all over again.
  • Prior to this, Betty was working for a leading private bank in India, ICICI Bank for 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the SME Group.
  • At the moment she is associated with National Australia Bank Limited (NAB) in Melbourne.
  • She is also a qualified CPA (Aus).
  • Here is her story.

My Journey Becoming a Chartered Accountant 

I completed my Chartered Accountancy (CA) from ICAI in 1995.

I was self-funding my studies since college by giving tuitions, so in a way, I was working much before I was supposed to!

I had a keen interest in accounting while graduating, hence CA was the logical step to pursue after graduating. It also paid better in the long term than a bookkeeping or secretarial job.

My CA journey was tough but I had a few close friends studying CA as well, which made it easier to share notes or study together.  The main hurdle I faced was clearing the Math paper, however, with all the efforts I did clear.

Dealing with failure: Talking about failing, yes I did fail once and I remember how difficult it was to study everything again, however - I kept telling myself that 6 months will not matter in the long run and that I had to continue and complete the course.

Looking back, it was a wise decision to complete the CA course as it opened up multiple avenues for me and it still does to date.

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant I worked in Finance and then worked at a reputed Private Bank in India - ICICI Bank for 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the SME Group before immigrating to Australia.

Quitting my job as a CFO in India and immigrating to Australia

My choice to move to Australia was mainly dictated by what my family wanted.

My son wanted to study in Australia due to the varied choices available. It's also cheaper to study in Australia if you have a Permanent Resident (PR) visa rather than as an international student where the fees are almost 3 times.

So once we decided to immigrate to Australia we applied for our PR Visa.

The main difficulty of moving at a mature age with a grown-up son is adjusting to the work and social culture. It is also difficult to adjust to the cold weather especially for someone from Mumbai (India).

Another major factor is the absence of relatives and friends which makes it very lonely. One should be prepared to face these issues in the first 2 to 3 years to make the move worthwhile.

Applying for our Australian PR Visa

  • In my opinion, it definitely is an advantage to migrate to Australia at an early age as you can grow in your career with the Australian experience gained. It gives better opportunities to grow and succeed in the workplace as well.
  • The age limit to get the PR is 45 years as per the current criteria.
  • The visa application process took me a little over a year for the end-to-end process, right from initial contact with the agent to get my visa. I needed a minimum of 60 points to be eligible to apply (of course now the points are much higher!)
  • I can say that a good agent does help as having all the right documents in place is very important for getting the visa. But if one has the time and patience to read up on the internet and other ex-pat blogs, there is a lot of matter out there to help with the process.
  • I, personally processed my visa through an agent, but had to do a lot of reading to ensure that the agent followed the right process. It is better to familiarise yourself with the detailed process as it saves time.

Why Did We Decide to Move to Melbourne in Australia

My choice of choosing Point Cook in Melbourne was mainly because we have had close friends living here for the last 13 years. Having their support when we just migrated really helped.

Another reason was, the accounting jobs are also concentrated in Melbourne and Sydney and hence the obvious choice. Brisbane too has opportunities for finance-related jobs

Point Cook is a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 29 km southwest of Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD). It is much cheaper compared to Sydney.

Places in the western suburbs like Point Cook and Werribee are rapidly growing and not very far from the city as compared to the Eastern and Northern suburbs.

The Indian population in and around Point Cook is sufficiently large and there are many Indian festivals celebrated in a big way here.

Commute to work: The train line is decent although the frequency can be improved and it takes around 35 mins by train to reach the office (which is in Melbourne CBD). Driving takes around 45mins to 1 hr at peak time. However, I commute by the Metro to my workplace which is near the station and that helps.

Students and young families without kids prefer to stay around the CBD as it saves on the commute time and there are sufficient activities and events happening around to keep one busy.

The flip side though of staying in proper CBD is to compromise on space - As one would pay the same rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city as compared to a 3-bedrooms independent house in the suburbs.

Rentals in Melbourne 

The initial process of renting a house in Australia was difficult as we did not have a credit history in Australia. We were lucky to have our friends help out with their references to the real estate agents.

However, for those of you who have no friends, you can do this - There are options where one can sub-let houses or share with other couples who are looking to rent a room.

Alternately, it is pure negotiation with the agents and the amount of deposit that I can put down on the house. The norm is 1 month but with no credit history, the agent may demand up to 6 months deposit to be placed.

You can check out the following:

  • Realestate.com.au and domain.com.au are some of the popular property sites here. The other site to check out is flatmates.com.au for those willing to share accommodation.
  • Rentals in Australia depend largely on the size of the house and the location. In Point Cook, it would range from AUD 380per week for a 3-bedroom house to AUD 550 per week for a double-storied house.
  • However as mentioned above, if one chooses to stay in CBD (the proper city) one would pay the same rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city as compared to a 3-bedroom independent house in the suburbs.
  • The cost of living is high and especially young families find it very difficult to save and send back as childcare is very expensive here so take everything into consideration when moving here

Finding a job opportunity in Australia

After settling in Melbourne, it was time to find a job opportunity.

Most of the companies in Australia DO NOT HIRE without a Permanent Resident (PR). So I had to get my PR before applying for jobs in Australia.

It was a struggle of about 6 months to land the job which was a difficult period as I had left a secure and comfortable job (at ICICI Bank, Mumbai) to move to Australia and start all over again. I got my break in NAB only after moving to Australia.

Although I knew that it would be tough to get a job at the same level as back in India, I still expected interview calls. It did get frustrating initially when I received no calls for any.

Networking is very important and I can say from experience that Linkedin plays a big role with recruiters out here.

Seek.com.au is one of the big job sites here but there are consultants who have their sites like Michael Page, Robert Half, and Hays which recruit accounting people in a big way.

Other banks where one could apply: Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and ANZ are the other Big 4 bank along with NAB. Besides, other banks like the Bank of Melbourne, Bankwest, Medibank, Bendigo Bank.

Other Tips

How we transferred our household items to Australia:

  • We regret the decision of not moving most of our household stuff to Australia.
  • We sent the bare minimum items by air cargo which was an expensive proposition.
  • My suggestion would be to evaluate sending most of the items by sea.

Work-Life balance in Australia:

  • Weekends are off-limits to work and most days except month end, etc people tend to leave on time.
  • Flexible working arrangements like part-time, contracting, or working from home on some days also makes it easy to work as compared to rigid working hours.
  • So that is the best part!

Opening a Bank Account in Australia:

  • It is easy to open a bank account with a visa and passport. The process is quite efficient I must say.
  • I opened it as soon as I came over and then transferred the money through the Liberalised Remittance Scheme which allows transfers for migration, international study, etc. through my bank in India.

 

CPA Australia

CPA (Aus) program includes:

  • 4 compulsory subjects
  • 2 electives
  • An experience component that will give you the skills to stand out in the real world.
  • You can get more info here.

Upon successful completion of both the subjects, you will automatically advance to CPA status. You will receive a CPA certificate and will then be eligible to use the CPA designation.

Since I am a CA from India and decided to clear CPA only after moving to Australia (as CPA holds a higher value than the Indian degree) I had to give just 2 subjects.

There is a mutual agreement between the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and CPA Australia whereby only two additional subjects are to be attempted and cleared within 2 years of the date of your admission as an Associate member.

The 2 subjects are:

  • Global Strategy and Leadership: In this subject, you will use strategic analysis to address complex business issues in a competitive and uncertain business environment. This requires logical thinking and is a bit tough to clear, but not impossible.
  • Ethics and Governance: This is an online exam. Recommend you to complete this subject first. Learn the application of ethical principles, together with a strong knowledge of key corporate governance principles and mechanisms.

My Advice:

  • CPA (Aus) took me 10 months as I appeared for one paper at a time. But one can do this within 6 months as well if dedicated time can be set aside for studies
  • As mentioned above the 2 additional subjects can be cleared easily with proper planning and with self-study.
  • I chose CPA as it was easier to clear because of the mutual agreement with ICAI but now CA ANZ has become easy as well with the recent mutual agreement with ICAI.

In Conclusion...

  • Be ready to 'RELEARN' when you come to Australia.
  • Take any job that comes your way only to gain experience. No job is too small out here!
  • At the same time keep learning and looking out for new opportunities to grow
  • It is also important to get a driving license at the earliest as it doubles up as identity proof for various purposes - she concluded.

Now It's Your Turn...

Have you considered immigrating to Australia? Or would you ever quit your job as a CFO and move to a new country.

Comment below and let me know.

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