I Switched My Career From Banking to Consulting At A Big 4 (And Was it Worth It?)
- Hi! I am Pranali Mestha, a Chartered Accountant, a mother and a professional. After working for almost 6 years in the Banking industry...I transitioned (smoothly) to a Big 4 Accounting Firm.
- It was definitely not very easy but I am so glad I got opportunities to prove myself and things just worked out for me. After almost 6 years from the switch, I grew to be an Associate Director.
- On the personal front, I love travelling and doing cross fit and being a mum to a delightful young child. Here is my journey of determination and persistence.
Pursuing Chartered Accountancy: My Journey
I have always been a class topper and was very studious and dedicated to my studies
Podar College (a reputed College in Mumbai, India) was my dream college and I was determined to get into it. So, I chose to take up Commerce...can you believe I chose the commerce stream so I could study in this college!
After class 12 I decided to pursue CA from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).
Luckily I cleared all three levels of CA in the first attempt...however my CA journey was fraught with a lot of struggles, sacrifices and hard work!
It was a challenge managing CA studies along with college and the long hours at work. I had absolutely no personal life!
In spite of all this, I was able to manage this hectic schedule because of my family who was extremely supportive My mom and sister did everything possible to make my life easy during all this.
I heaved a sigh of relief when I became a Chartered Accountant...after all that struggle, I had finally achieved my goal. I was very happy.
Starting out my career in the Banking Sector
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I started my journey as a Credit Analyst with an MNC Bank.
Here I got to analyze global MNCs, tech and telecom giants - right from their financial statements, to management behavior. It broadened my learning experience. It was an amazing head start to my career.
I experienced the downgrades of companies (sub-prime crisis, recession, Lehman crisis during 2007-08) and their gradual upgrade and had pretty much seen everything with respect to credit analysis in the banking sector, you could say!
After more than 2 years in the credit rating profile, I had come a full circle.
I started feeling a little restless and yearned to explore something more. In short, I was ready to take up more responsibilities!
Around the same time, I got an opportunity at a then-emerging and fast-growing private sector Indian bank in its Risk Management role to manage the West and North Indian regions and report directly to the Chief Risk and Compliance Officer.
I found it exciting and took up the opportunity...and you got it right, I moved from an MNC bank to an Indian private bank!
Being a part of a comparatively smaller team, I got a great deal of exposure.
I travelled to the branches even in remote areas to conduct risk assessment exercises and even educate branch employees on risk management.
It was amazing to note how different banking was to the people in rural backgrounds. To say it was an eyeopener would be an understatement!
Forging My Own Path: From a Banker to a Consultant!
Change is the only constant in life.
A few years later, I decided that I needed a change and felt it was time to explore new options.
Why change? I wanted to learn and grow more, I wanted to get a wider perspective. To be frank, I didn’t have any fixed role or domain in mind, all I knew I was ready to try out new opportunities.
So what next? I started putting out feelers with friends and colleagues from the industry, fraternity.
A good friend recommended me to a Partner at a Big 4 Firm who was expanding the Banking regulations team and was looking for a person with a banking background...this was definitely a godsent opportunity!
In spite of my rich experience in the banking sector, I did not get the job easily. I had to go through several rounds of the interview process - HR rounds, numerous case studies, face to face interviews with the Directors and finally a coffee tête-à-tête with the Partner.
FINALLY, I was hired as an Assitant Manager (designation wise I did have to go a level down but not salary-wise!) and thus began my amazing journey in the Big 4 Accounting Firm.
Extra Tip: Your career will evolve in the right way if you give it your best. You just need to have the zeal and right aptitude to experiment, learn whatever is offered to you.
"Was the transition from Banking to Consulting worth it?"
My banking career was a boon while I started out as a consultant in Big4. This transition made me think and approach work differently.
It brought me out of my comfort zone and gave me the confidence that I am capable of managing various kinds of assignments.
My stint in banking helped me build relationships and connects which are crucial in Consulting in terms of Business development and understanding market practices.
Since I had earlier worked in the risk management team, I was aware of the various departments and their roles. This helped me design or review policies, processes, compliance manuals and conducting regulatory health checks.
So the transition was definitely worth it.
"What is your job like as a Consultant/Manager at a Big4?"
I started in the Financial Service Regulatory practice sector.
My work at the Big 4 revolves around guiding NBFCs and banks on financial services regulations, compliance and governance. I ensure that the organizations adhere to the regulatory norms.
I help them design the policies, processes, compliance manuals, conducting regulatory health checks/dipstick reviews. I also advise them to obtain the required registrations/certifications/approvals from the regulator.
I help NBFCs etc. take baby steps into the world of digital lending. In short, I guide them right from their set-up stage to the actual commencement of business.
"Is working at the Big 4 different from working at a Bank?"
I was already working in the banking sector and was familiar with corporate culture. However, I found that working in a Big 4 was totally different. It is no cakewalk.
The culture is quite different from banking. The expectations are sky high and each assignment is different from the other. I had to unlearn (relearn) a lot of things. In short, I had to 'adapt' myself to work here.
In consulting, there is a genuine paucity of time. So, you have to put in more than 100% and learn on the job. You are expected to be proactive and respect deadlines.
It is considered okay to fall several times but you must learn from your mistakes (and of course not repeat them).
My hard work and attitude toward learning stood to my advantage. I was soon promoted to Manager and subsequently to Associate Director over 5+ years.
"Working in Big4 is hectic. How do you manage as a mother?"
This is a question I am often asked, perhaps because I am a Woman and a Mother!
Consulting is demanding undoubtedly but at the same time, it does provide flexibility as well.
When you work as a Consultant, you should avail of this flexibility and maintain a balance between work and family. There are days when you have to be at home with no one to take care of your kids and we do have the option of working from home on such days.
Then there are days when you have to put in extra hours and efforts due to an impending deadline. So, you have to take both in your stride and learn to manage things.
‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. You need not be harsh on yourself. Give yourself the time to grow into a sought-after and well-rounded professional with both empathy and emotional quotient.
Also, I am blessed with an excellent support system in the family. I understand that we have only 24 hours in a day. I do know that I am not a SUPERWOMAN who can do everything. I am aware of my limitations and I am neither afraid nor guilty of the same.
Hence, I outsource most of the things which don’t need my personal attention. In short, I have learnt to work smartly :).
A piece of advice to everyone: Don’t give in to the demands of others just to be in their good books (unless you too would like to do that activity/work). It is NOT possible to satisfy every single person.
Don’t go or rather don’t let anyone take you on a guilt trip. You are mature and wise enough to make decisions for yourself and for your own good.
YOU ARE ENOUGH and don’t let anyone else make you think otherwise! Believe in yourself and your hard work.
“I want to switch to Consulting. How to be prepared to handle this new territory
- Research, research, research about the query and be well versed with the problem, facts, and probable solutions.
- Be well prepared and then speak with seniors, industry players to get their perspective and market practice
- Be aware of regulatory / market changes in your industry.
- Try and build relationships within the organization. It really helps you in the long run.
“Did I have a cut in salary/ designation with the change in Industry?”
Designation wise, yes. I did have to go a level down, however, salary wasn’t an issue.
In case you have aspirations to move to the Big4 from banking, you should work towards the following:
- Find an area of consulting that excites you – risk advisory, regulations and compliance, pure audit services, taxation, forensic investigations, fintech advisory, etc. Do proper research on it.
- Approach people on LinkedIn who work with Big4 in these areas and seek their guidance (not just job opportunities!)
- Additional qualifications like CFA or FRM or CAMS etc. would be an advantage, you can enroll for the same. However, do get some experience and then decide which course to pursue.
- Be prepared for a lower designation especially if you lack experience in the role that you are looking for. However, if you are a good performer, you can get promoted quickly and in no time, get back to or surpass where you were.
Wrapping it Up...
My journey of moving from banking to Big 4 consulting in the 'niche regulatory domain' has been very exciting.
From this experience, I would like to advise that every experience counts and you never know what may click and when. Hence, always be open to new opportunities and experiences.
Even if you may not know how to do certain things, accept it as a challenge and then figure your way out. Believe me, it is an enriching experience that will enable you to think independently and differently, which probably many books may not teach.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Are you looking at Transitioning from Banking to Big 4?
Any more questions for me?
Comment below and let me know.
(Article edited by CA Uma Krishna and Image edited by Ankit Lodhi)