- CAs may be able to work overseas via secondments or under work visas.
- Having to learn new software and adapt to different ways of working overseas can challenge you and expand your skill set.
- The UK has changed its work visa program, to allow New Zealanders and Australians aged 35 and under to apply for a three-year work visa.
Talk to anyone who has spent time living and working overseas and they will tell you it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should be embraced, if it comes along.
Recent visa changes for the UK means more accountants can now make the leap, but is it worth it? Acuity spoke to two chartered accountants who took their careers overseas to find out how their journeys came about and where they are now.
Crafting spirits in London
By the time Julian Nasisi CA collected his CA ANZ designation, his hometown of Adelaide had begun to look small. There was only one listed company in town, Santos, and a scattering of public-sector accounting roles.
Inspired by stories he had heard from CAs returning from the UK, he decided to take the plunge and head to London with not much in his bank account and no job to head to. On landing, Nasisi’s nerves were tested. He had to apply for 30 jobs before he landed a role with a private equity firm, as financial and management accountant: a role worth the wait.
“I’d never worked in a firm that paid your annual salary as a bonus at Christmas. It was a great place to work,” Nasisi says.
“The hours were long but the founder, the youngest partner ever at PwC at the time, was cutting-edge. Every Monday, you’d sit in the boardroom and participate in business decisions. To date, I’ve not worked in a more collaborative environment. The work was daunting at first, but access to high-level individuals and discussions really accelerated my learning.”
Pictured: Braden Saunders, co-founder of Doghouse Distillery (left), David Rogers CA (centre), Julian Nasisi CA (right).
“The work [in the UK] was daunting at first, but access to high-level individuals and discussions really accelerated my learning.”
When the global financial crisis struck, Nasisi headed home to pick up secure work in Adelaide, but it was not long before he was back in London working as a project accountant on a London sewer build. He now consults to large companies like Sainsbury and BT Group on ERP rollouts, and spends his free time helping to expand the Doghouse Distillery – the only multiple-grain spirit distillery business in London – in which Nasisi has a stake.
“Doghouse is a growing business, so you need to be agile. The broad skill set I derived from my CA exams is such a valuable asset, like the ability to think on your feet and problem-solve. It’s a part of my life now and adding value to the team is a pleasure.”
For accountants considering a UK adventure, Nasisi says it is a lot more affordable there than people think, the CA brand is highly regarded, and Australians and New Zealanders are treated with plenty of respect.
“The only downside is the long flight back home, but you’ve always got Europe on your doorstep for short breaks,” he says.
Cowboy spotting in Texas
In April 2022, while working for Nexia, Pablo Arenas CA got a call from his audit partner asking him if he was interested in an overseas stint in the US. Four months was on offer and it had to be with the firm Whitley Penn in Texas, but he could choose the city. It turns out the Nexia partner had completed a secondment with a Whitley Penn partner in London many years prior.
“I thought about it for all of 10 seconds,” says Arenas. “A lot of partners in auditing have one thing in common: they’ve all done an overseas secondment.”
Eight months later, Arenas landed in Dallas to help the Whitley Penn audit team over the busy period. He had two direct reports and worked with clients in telecommunications, oil and car dealing.
“I was so far out of my comfort zone, but I think I got more out of those four months than I had in six years of being in the accounting industry. It was a good way to test my ability to adapt to different software and different ways of doing things,” he says.
Trips to New York, Las Vegas, and basketball, hockey and baseball games blocked out a number of weekends. One of his highlights was hopping a 40-minute train to Fort Worth for a slice of the real American west, spotting cowboys strolling past swinging saloon doors and longhorns chewing the cud down main street.
The whole experience made Arenas realise how versatile he could be and gave him the confidence to seek a promotion on his return to Sydney. He is now an audit manager at Crowe.
“If you had told me that this career would take me to the US, I wouldn’t have believed you. It just shows you what an adventure accounting can be,” he says.
Time away from everyday life in Australia also provided Arenas with some perspective about the future with his then-girlfriend. He bought an engagement ring in Dallas and the two became engaged on his first weekend back.
“In that sense it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because life happens,” says Arenas.
Pictured: Pablo Arenas CA.
“If you had told me that this career would take me to the US, I wouldn’t have believed you. It just shows you what an adventure accounting can be.”
UK extends visas for Kiwis and Aussies
The UK now offers better visa terms to New Zealanders and Australians, under its youth mobility scheme.
From 29 June 2023, New Zealanders 35 years old and under can apply for a three-year working visa in the UK. Before, only people aged 30 and under could apply and the maximum visa duration was two years. Kiwis already in UK can apply for an in-country extension, and the New Zealand Government has matched the visa offer to UK residents under its working holiday scheme.
The same offer of three years for those 35 years and under will be extended to Australians from 31 January 2024. Currently, Australians can only apply up to 30 years of age for a two-year stint.