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National Audit Office to Consultancy

#1 National Audit Office to Consultancy
24/02/2009 23:59


Hi Guys, I'm a qualified accountant (ACA) with experience in financial audit and performance as well as operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Along with audit, as an organisation we also carry out in depth analysis on how the government can operate more efficiently/effectively/economically and make recommendations to that end. I imagine its very similar to consultancy work without any actual implementation of recommendations, and probably a lot more politics.

I'd like to more to private sector consultancy, and gain experience working with private sector clients.

I was wondering how easy it would be for me to move to a consultancy firm (if at all possible), and which firms would be best?

Surely I must have some transferable skills.

It would also be interesting to know what sort of salary I could expect, as we do get paid reasonably well, along with a defined benefit pension.


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#2 RE: National Audit Office to Consultancy
25/02/2009 07:41

Olivier to Rasputin (#1)

I think at the moment it's difficult for anyone to join a consultancy, whatever the background.

You could try Capgemini Transformation and Strategy practice. Don't be fooled by the title. They don't do strategy but a lot of organisational design and change management projects. Most of their clients - at leat in the UK - are in the public sector, but consultants are not specialised by industry.

So they would certainly be interested by your experience while offering you a smooth transition to private sector.

I don't mean it's the best solution, just an idea

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#3 RE: National Audit Office to Consultancy
27/02/2009 11:11

Rsputin to Olivier (#2)

Thanks for your comment. I understand this is probably not the best time to be switching career to consultancy. I do have two further questions:

- Being in a secure public sector job, should I wait and ride the storm out (whilst also building up more experience) before making the switch?

- Would phased switch, firstly to the public sector division of a consultancy house, followed by an internal move to private sector consulting be easier/more desirable?


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#4 RE: National Audit Office to Consultancy
27/02/2009 18:41

Non-NAOer to Rsputin (#3)


From memory, I believe Cath Hardaker (HO Consultancy) at PKF was ex-NAO. Might be worth getting in touch with her / them as they are probably looking for your type of skills. I had heard that Cath was well thought of at the NAO but that might have been from her!

A few riders:

- Your value at the moment is almost certainly in your knowledge of and credibility in the public sector. PKF and others will tell you they have a thriving private sector business but ask them what percentage of consultants' time is spent working on these accounts, as opposed to auditors etc. They will have little or no interest in migrating you to a private sector role if they have recruited you to work with public sector clients. You will have to make all the running here yourself and will need your wits about you.

- Whether you move now or later is your lifestyle choice. No consultancy will be as secure as your job is now. Can you afford to take a chance? If yes, this may be a good time, as public sector expenditure on some consultancy projects can increase during a recession.

- Salary-wise, as is well-documented on this site, they will try to recruit you (if anyone is recruiting) at the smallest possible amount to keep you motivated. If you are 30 to 40, with say 5 years under your belt at the NAO, you might be looking at £40k to £60k. This is a total shot in the dark judging by your 2 posts.

- As a matter of course, you will be told that your salary will be reviewed after a period of time. This will be a lie. Work out what you want to earn to make up for reduced holidays, pension etc and go up from there. Payrises are not likely to happen at all in the medium term, so on no account take less than you feel you need as an initial salary. Don't reveal your true salary and don't submit your P46 if / when you join - Taxman will tell you to fill in a P46 instead. If forced to state your salary, my advice would be to work out the smallest amount you will accept, bump it up by at least 10% and claim that as a current salary. If challenged, you can always claim this included your total package.

Happy job hunting!

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#5 RE: National Audit Office to Consultancy
28/02/2009 14:41

Serge to Rsputin (#3)

<i>Would phased switch, firstly to the public sector division of a consultancy house, followed by an internal move to private sector consulting be easier/more desirable?</i>

Yes, that would make a lot of sense. NAO is a respected organisation, but two factors conspire to make moving to a public sector practice first the more (only?) viable option. First, recruiters are looking for low-risk, proven, hires right now - given the range of options they have, they're going for candidates who can hit the ground running. Second, public sector practices have a stronger pipeline in a downturn generally, and are hiring more heavily (relatively) right now.

Your best options would be UK top-20 accounting firms which have consulting practices. A previous poster mentioned PKF; you could also look at Grant Thornton (who may be scaling up their consulting). All of the Big-4 accountancies have large public sector practices and they do enough work that you can probably get first-hand comments from colleagues who have worked alongside at least one of them.

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#6 RE: National Audit Office to Consultancy
03/03/2009 11:45

Rasputin to Serge (#5)

Guys, thanks for the advice. You've presented me with some good options, and a contact.

Serge, its interesting that you say that NAO is a respected organisation. One of my fears of moving from public sector to private sector, is the perception that the public sector is seen somehow to be inferior (which I don't think is the case at all. And that we don't work as hard (well 9-6 are regular hours)

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#7 RE: National Audit Office to Consultancy
03/03/2009 21:53

Anon to Rasputin (#6)

Most experienced consultants recognise that performance and culture differences between public and private sector organisations are not actually that large. Central government and FTSE100 companies have similar levels of bureauracy, paternalism and inefficiency.

In any case, if you're initially applying into public sector consulting roles then NAO experience is going to be more relevant and helpful than FMCG experience, for example.

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#8 RE: National Audit Office to Consultancy
06/03/2009 14:41

Rasputin to Anon (#7)

Its good to know that the stereotypes and perceptions between public and private sectors isn't as widespread as I initially imagined.

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