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The alternate route: Qualifying in-house vs the Big 4

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The alternate route: Qualifying in-house vs the Big 4 – An interview with Olivia Kemp, international tax manager, Wise (formerly TransferWise)

Olivia joined Samsung as a European tax graduate where she was able to start her ACA exams. From there, Olivia was put on a rotational scheme which allowed her to experience various tax functions that were both UK and internationally orientated. She then moved to Hitachi as a European tax analyst where she was able to complete her ACA exams. Shortly after becoming fully qualified, Olivia joined TransferWise as a tax manager and within 1.5 years she was promoted to international tax manager where she takes the lead on EMEA and APAC expansion.

1. Prior to joining TransferWise, you took an alternative route and became ACA qualified whilst working for a tech giant in-house. What opportunities were presented to you as opposed to what you might expect in the Big 4?

I started working in industry as part of a graduate scheme, therefore, there was still a large cohort of post university professionals all starting together which is similar to Big 4.
The benefits of this are that you can utilise your colleagues/friends to help network in other teams and navigate the business. Working in industry I think you have more opportunity to see a project through in its entirety as there are most likely fewer levels of approvals to go through which can be rewarding. “Ultimately, the qualification that you hold at the end is the same, so it should not make a difference where you qualified”

2. There may be some tax professionals concerned about not qualifying in a professional services firm. What advice would you give to a tax professional currently undertaking their exams in-house?

Ultimately, the qualification that you hold at the end is the same, so it should not make a difference where you qualified. The journey to becoming qualified in industry is certainly less common, but you are still learning a lot in your role and have the skills necessary to thrive.

3. What were the main challenges you faced qualifying in-house?

Being in-house, I was the only person that was studying ACA, therefore, I was reliant on my friends at college for help (I was at college with other people that were qualifying in-house, mainly banks). In-house you also tend to get much less time for study leave and college is scheduled for evenings and weekends, so it does take a fair bit of dedication and possibly some additional holiday days!

4. Upon qualifying two years ago, you made the move to TransferWise, how did you find the transition?

It was great and I certainly hit the ground running. TransferWise is a very fast-paced company and it was a lot to take in at first. However, being in a company that is hiring at such a fast rate means there are always people that are in the same boat as you and learning as they go. TransferWise also has a great culture and everyone just wants to get the job done, so if you need help or have questions, colleagues are always approachable.


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The above is an excerpt from our interview with Olivia Kemp, international tax manager at TransferWise; you can download the full report using the form on this page.

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