Why CAs Are Wanted Down Under
Jennifer Constable talks to CAs about the benefits and drawbacks of relocating to Australia to work.
Famed for its golden beaches, beautiful cities and untamed outback, Australia has been an independent nation since 1901, when the British Parliament passed legislation uniting the six Australian colonies to govern in their own right.
More than a century later, Australia is one of the wealthiest Asia- Pacific nations. It is internationally competitive in financial and insurance services, technologies and high-value-added manufactured goods as well as an exporter of oil and gas, minerals and agricultural produce.
Sydney, the country’s largest city, is now home to a large, vibrant and talented community of ICAS members who have relocated to work in a variety of professional financial roles and embrace the lifestyle that Australia has to offer.
David Ronald CA is an Assurance Partner with PwC in its Sydney office and Chair of the ICAS Australia Members’ Community. He said: “Generally speaking the market in Sydney has presented many professional opportunities.”
Sydney seemed like a great place to start: a growing professional environment, expanding economy and ample opportunities.
He added: “However, more broadly, there is no doubt one of the greatest positives about living and working in Sydney comes from the amazing weather. Whether at the beach, pool or park with the family, or on the golf course and rugby field, being able to guarantee great weather for outdoor activities year round is amazing.”
Jay Chander CA moved to Sydney from Scotland in the 1980s as a recent graduate, eager to see what Australia had to offer someone with his skill set. He is now a Partner with professional services firm Barker Henley. Jay says: “In the middle of a bleak winter in Scotland in 1986, sunny Sydney seemed like a very nice place to be. Having recently got married, and having just passed my exams, I was full of enthusiasm and keen to embark on my career internationally.
“Sydney seemed like a great place to start: a growing professional environment, expanding economy and ample opportunities for those ready and willing to put in the effort.”
For many, the warm weather and comparatively laid-back lifestyle alone may be enough incentive to relocate. Anna Jepson CA, who is General Manager, Business & Private Bank Finance at Commonwealth Bank, admits that Australia’s year-round good weather and sandy beaches are one of her favourite things about working and living in Sydney.
There is an emphasis on work-life balance out here and everyone takes advantage of that. In summer many people leave work on time and hit the beach or socialise.
She said: “Everybody loves a Scottish accent here (regardless of whether they understand it or not!), there is a wide range of opportunities from a work perspective where my qualification and experience from the UK is highly valued, and it’s easy to stay fit when you’re so close to the beach, parks and the water. I’ve become a marathon addict!”
There is an emphasis on work-life balance out here and everyone takes advantage of that.
Pete Foley CA’s relocation to Australia happened by chance, when a three-month exchange from PwC Edinburgh to Melbourne in 2010 turned into a two-year placement and then to a permanent residence.
He moved to Sydney in 2017, and now works with wealth management business AMP as Manager of superannuation financial and regulatory reporting. He said: “There is an emphasis on work-life balance out here and everyone takes advantage of that. In summer, many people leave work on time and hit the beach or socialise.”
Adapting to different cultures
Leaving behind friends and family in the UK is especially difficult given the vast distance involved, and the unsociable difference in time zones.
Pam Gilbert CA, Founder and Director of the FutureFit Team, Principal Consultant with act3 and Partner with mojologic, said: “Living so far away from family has always been a challenge. This has increased significantly in recent years with ageing parents and the desire (and need) to spend more time in Scotland tending to family affairs.”
Secondly, despite Sydney’s rapid growth over the past few years, public transport has failed to keep up.
Until recently wage growth was fairly stagnant while housing costs were going up each year in double-digit increases.
Angus McGhie CA, Head of Financial Integration with TAL, one of Australia’s largest life insurance companies, explained: “Sydney has suffered from poor infrastructure planning for years. It is an expanding megacity (with a larger population than Scotland’s) and transport is a major bugbear. Whether it is the daily commute or weekend traffic, it takes a long time for a short distance.
“The other major challenge in Sydney is the cost of property, whether it is renting or buying a house. Until recently wage growth was fairly stagnant while housing costs were going up each year in double-digit increases.”
The Brexit potential
Australia has often been cited as a prime candidate for a mutually beneficial trade deal with the UK post-Brexit.
Jay Chander said: “I think there are significant opportunities but we don’t yet know what we’re dealing with. Of course, there are reports of possible trade deals and agreements, but it’s hard to be more concrete when, at this point, anything could happen. There is also some amusement at the way Brexit is being managed.”
This view is echoed by Pam Gilbert, who said: “Some say Australian businesses are always looking to expand international trade opportunities and Brexit opens up possibilities.
Be as open as possible if you want to move to Australia. Consider other locations than Sydney and Melbourne.
“Others, however, have long memories of the fact that trade with Australia declined when the UK joined the EU, with the UK driving that shift in focus.
“Others say ‘yes’ to mutually beneficial deals on services, but ‘no’ to goods and resources deals due to the adverse impact on the environment of transporting goods to the other side of the world.”
Consider your options
Although Australia is one of the most sought-after locations to move to for British accountants, this can also make it difficult to find initial employment, as there are already a large number of Australian finance professionals.
Abigail Stevens, recruitment consultant and founder of ThinkGlobal, who has placed many UK accountants in Australia, says: “Be as open as possible if you want to move to Australia. Consider other locations than Sydney and Melbourne, which are the most popular, and look at smaller cities where there are more gaps.
“You can always move internally to another city at a later date once you have Australian experience.”