Six ways to quit the Big Four and land a brilliant Asian banking job

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Big Four

You work for Deloitte, EY, KPMG or PwC in Asia, but really you want to work for an investment bank.

If you’re a Big Four auditor, you can always move into an internal audit job at a bank as a junior. But there are more interesting routes into banking.

We’ve searched through the online public profiles of former Big Four employees in Hong Kong and Singapore who’ve gone on to take interesting jobs at investment banks. Here are six of the most compelling.

1. Move internally, then become an M&A banker

Singapore-based Rohit Elhence is now head of consumer for Asia at Rothschild, but he began his career as a PwC auditor in Australia. If you’re a Big Four auditor wanting to work in M&A, do what Elhence then did – after two or three years (don’t leave it too late, you’ll get stuck in audit) move internally into the corporate finance wing of your firm. Barely a year after shifting Elhence was snapped up by Macquarie, where he worked for 12 years, most recently as head of industrials for South and Southeast Asia, according to his profile.

2. Or move first as an auditor, then move to strategy

Internal audit is a well-trodden path from the Big Four into banking – but it can also provide a platform for a more interesting role in the future. Take Stan Lewis, who joined Goldman in 2008 as an internal audit associate after three years at EY – an impressive move in itself considering banking wasn’t one of his auditing sectors. Even more remarkably, less than two years late, he became an associate in the management and strategy team covering investment banking products. He’s still at Goldman but has moved from New York to Hong Kong and is now chief financial officer for ex-Japan Asia investment banking.

3. Let your modelling skills get you a banking job

Hanwei Lin worked for PwC, primarily as a valuation analyst, for just 13 months before being hired in an M&A role by ANZ in 2007. But in that time he developed the right skill set for a junior banking job, becoming proficient in pitching proposals, industry research, financial modelling and valuation of companies in M&A transactions, according to his profile. He’s now putting his “excellent financial modelling skills” to use as a VP at Deutsche Bank, working across ECM, DCM and M&A. 

4. Use the Big Four to conquer compliance

Three years of slogging it out as an auditor could serve as the base for a compliance career. Nicholas Chan left EY Hong Kong in 2001 – and took up junior compliance jobs at J.P. Morgan and then Lehman Brothers. He then made associate VP at Citi and did VP stints at Wachovia Securities and Mizuho before becoming the Hong Kong-based compliance head of Swedish bank SEB. With banks in Asia now struggling to bolster their compliance ranks, recruiting accountants (particularly those who have audited financial institutions) and training them as compliance professionals is an increasingly attractive option.

5. You can leave it late

While it’s far more usual for Big Four staff to move to banks while they’re still comparatively junior – particularly after they’ve qualified as accountants – there are people who’ve managed the move at a senior level. Take Henry Lim, who was a senior manager at PwC between 2002 and 2005, providing advisory and assurance on governance, risk and compliance in Asia. He then moved to UBS in Singapore and held two director-level jobs in internal audit. Lim has now been with SMBC since 2011, responsible for head-office and administrative functions audits across 10 Asia Pacific countries.

6. Rise to the top in risk

Alex Sim holds one of the most senior middle-office jobs in Singapore banking – he’s head of risk management for UOB’s private bank and is a member of its executive committee. But he started his career as an associate at PwC, specialising banking sector audits, covering mainly the big three banks in Singapore, according to his public profile. After a stint at Accenture, Sim became head of APAC wealth management business risk monitoring at Citi in 2007. He then moved to senior risk jobs at Barclays and UBS.

Image credit: ozgurdonmaz, Getty

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