There’s always time for a new choice: ACA in your Thirties

Collection of books depicting making choices is always an option

At twenty-five years of age I was financing a billion-dollar crude oil position in the South African Government’s strategic stockpile facility. I was handling Trade Finance for the jewel in the crown of an energy trading company, and it was awesome. Sure, it is a job, but dealing with $180 million transactions for two-million barrel oil tankers never really gets boring. It’s a lot of money.

I fell into the job via a friend of the family. It didn’t inspire me but it was quite cool, and I worked hard at it. However in 2010 that company closed its London operations as the financial crisis got seriously underway and lending was tightening as balance sheets were contracting. A company relying on $2.5bn of credit lines for its day-to-day was very exposed to this.

I then made a couple of unimaginative job moves, accepting positions that appeared in related trading companies rather than pro-actively looking for something to broaden my horizons. This left me pretty exposed when the third company I worked for re-centralised its operations in Geneva, and relocation was not an option for me at the time.

Follow your Heart

Next came quite a random position born out of the “follow your heart” school of thought, which saw me working at a local microbrewery for a couple of years. It was great fun and a wonderfully refreshing change from desks and spreadsheets, good life experience. But a word of caution – a job that is fun for six months is not necessarily going to be fulfilling for twenty or thirty years. Once I had learned how the brewery worked, the weekly production cycle became a little too repetitive for me. You also have to think about future-proofing your career – are you seriously going to be able to lift 50kg casks of beer around every single day far beyond the age of forty? Probably not. And would you even want to?

What next?

So I found myself at thirty-two years of age, with no career, an interesting but rogue CV, no professional qualifications and a very niche skill set. What was the solution to this problem? An ACA training contract.

A lot of my friends had done this after university, and all of them were by this time successful. Only one of about eight was still in practice (now a partner in his firm), and although none of them were earning megabucks (yet), none of them were worrying about paying the Council Tax bill either. They all had promising careers and crucially were highly transferable and had resilient CVs.

ACA is shorthand for “financial education and competence”. I firmly believe it is worthwhile, because once qualified you can continue in practice or you can move to almost any industry and almost any country. The training is tough, and you need to clear the decks of your life in order to focus on it. But it’s also enjoyable if you’re someone who likes applying their mind.

Looking forward to what the future holds

In terms of timing, you will never know what would have been the best order in which to do everything, although earlier is probably better than later. But if your ego can handle being a trainee again after having carried more responsibility elsewhere, and you can make the training salary work, then it is never too late. I’m thirty-four now, and realistically people of my generation will from this point have probably another thirty-four years left to work. That’s a lot of return on this investment. I am really grateful to Wilkins Kennedy for the opportunity and with three exams remaining, we are on the home straight now.

Adelle Desouza

I'm the founder here at HireHigher, with the mission to ensure students can make informed choices on their options after education.


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