Overseas member news

Chartered Accountants Ireland is a global organisation, with members living and working all around the world. Our network of very active District Societies are a way for members to network professionally and personally. They are a great way to offer and give support, as well as for those living overseas to keep in touch with us here in Ireland. This week, Tuesday 26 January is Australia Day so we are taking the opportunity to reach out to our 1,037 members who call Australia home. So, where is everyone?   State Number of members  New South Wales  617  Victoria  227  Western Australia  91  Queensland  49  South Australia  6  Northern Territory  3  Capital Territory  3  Tasmania  2  Not stated  39 Australia Day is a national holiday, so we hope our members are enjoying a day off. We invite members to Tweet and tell us what you are doing to mark the day this week, using the hashtag #CharteredAustralia We'd love to hear from you! And don't forget that if you are a member living in Australia, your District Society would welcome you getting in touch. The Society Executive is Cathy McDermott, and she can keep you updated on events and activities the Society arrange.

Jan 26, 2021

We were delighted to catch up with Marie-Claire McDonnell, who is now based in Toronto with her family. As you will read, it wasn’t a smooth start but she has some really good, practical advice for new arrivals or those thinking of making the move. In 2019, we launched a Chapter Network Group for members in Toronto, which Marie-Claire heads up, so anyone in the area should certainly reach out!  Tell us about your journey as a Chartered Accountant and how you ended up settling in Toronto?  I trained in EY Dublin in the ICT department (Industrial, Commercial and Technology) and qualified in 2008.  Similar to many in my intake, I took a year out to travel mostly Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I came back to Ireland in the latter part of 2009 worked for three years as Associate Director, Finance in Depfa Bank. It was at Depfa I met my now husband, Cormac, and we decided to move to Canada. At the time it was easy to get a one year working holiday visa, and we chose to live in Toronto as we both had financial services experience and Toronto is a Financial Services hub.  I found it hard to settle in Toronto if I am completely honest, it did take me about a year. We came in September 2012, when the bad weather starts. We knew no one here and I really had to put myself out there to make friends. It takes a few months to get work here also, so I took on temp admin roles to keep myself occupied at the start. I remember asking myself a few times as I was doing data entry for eight hours a day: “did we make a huge mistake?” But we hung tight and both secured great roles by December 2012. I took a maternity cover contract in a pension fund called OMERS ($109 billion in net investment assets in 2019), where I was Senior Financial Analyst in Finance for Venture and Strategic investments. Once I was there four months, they made me permanent and I stayed for three and a half years before I made the move to recruitment. I now recruit qualified accountants in non-financial services industries with Robert Walters Canada, and have a special soft spot for helping the Irish ACAs who have just arrived in Toronto.  What have been the advantages of being an ACA in Toronto? The Irish ACA designation is very well respected in Toronto, and Irish ACAs have a reputation for being extremely hard workers. Employers like the training Irish ACAs get in Ireland. A lot of the time the ACAs from practice have had exposure to audit of large multinationals and are technically strong as a result.  The ACA designation opens so many doors here. Another huge benefit of the ACA designation is that it is a profession which you are almost guaranteed to secure permanent residency with. What advice would you give to members going to Toronto today? Be prepared to have to wait to get a good role and have savings to keep you going for three to four months. Toronto is an expensive city and sometimes it can take a while to get a good role. As you have no credit history in Canada, you might need to pay a few months rent up front. It is important to be prepared for this. I would also encourage people to be open. Contract work is your friend in Toronto, it is a foot in the door of a good company, or it is Canadian experience to secure your next role. Look at contract work with an open mind: what experience will I have after this role to open doors for me? Be confident and put yourself out there. Toronto is a city built on networks. Be prepared to cold message people (maybe Irish ACAs here) and ask them for a chat/coffee/Zoom call. I know so many people here who have secured work by networking. Irish people do try to help each other in Toronto as much as possible which is fantastic. How has lockdown been in Toronto for you? I am sure like everyone, I can say it has been very challenging. We had a difficult few months in that we welcomed our second daughter, Isla, in May in the middle of lockdown. Isla unfortunately was born critically ill with meningitis. Our family were all in Ireland and they were so worried about us over here. Managing their worry on top of our own was difficult. My husband and I did not see Isla together until she was discharged from hospital a month later as only one caregiver could be in the hospital at a time. Daycare was closed so we had to find care for our two-year-old daughter Aoibhinn. COVID just made a terrible situation 10 times worse if that was possible! However, in the midst of the difficulty, the kindness and selflessness of our friends was unbelievable. Our close circle of friends here rallied around, staying overnight with us, minding our eldest daughter, taking our dog, cooking for us, driving us to the hospital and back, cleaning and just being here for a shoulder to cry on when you technically cannot touch people outside your family.  They put themselves at risk being with us as we were in hospital every day.  Lockdown was probably one of the worst times of my life but we really learned how amazing and supportive our friends are here. Thankfully little Isla is a trooper and has made a full recovery.   What will Christmas mean for you this year?   We are actually travelling to Ireland for Christmas for five weeks. We are very lucky to have a house to quarantine in Killarney. My brother is getting married at the end of December and we wanted to take our little miracle baby Isla home to meet her family in Ireland. It will not be the same as years before, but we are content to just be at home with our families. I am also very excited for some grandparent babysitting so I can hopefully squeeze in a few shopping trips! Marie-Claire McDonnell is a Finance and Recruiting Specialist with Robert Walters and also is a point of contact for the Toronto Chapter and would love to hear from any members in the Toronto area. Similarly, members looking to reach out can contact Gillian Duffy - District and Global Member Manager.

Dec 02, 2020

Making the move After working for KPMG Dublin for four years, I used the network to move to the Madrid office a year ago. Thankfully I enjoyed five months of the city in full swing before COVID-19 hit and I absolutely loved it. Spanish life There is a relaxed vibe for such a major city, life really is all about enjoying cervezas and tapas on the terrazas. The weather helps facilitate this, as it can get chilly, but it hardly ever rains! There are lots of activities for expats: I joined a hockey team and a running club, and I found that a great way to meet locals was to go to “intercambios” where you can practise your Spanish and the Spaniards practise their English.   Overcoming the language barrier I worked for the audit and accounting advisory teams in KPMG Madrid. I felt incredibly welcomed by my colleagues there, but at times the language barrier was difficult, as I moved with only a basic level of Spanish. English is not as commonly used as it would be in KPMG offices in other European capitals. However it was sink or swim so I have definitely improved. The importance of networking Unfortunately due to the pandemic, my contract was terminated in August. However, I am continued to job hunt here as I just love the city and all it has to offer. I have recently come across Professional Accountants in Spain (PAS), which is a network for students and members of the UK and Irish chartered accounting bodies, which should definitely help me to make some contacts. Thankfully, it didn't take me too long to find a new role with the Olympic Channel in Madrid so I'm delighted! Moving on and staying strong While Madrid is a major European capital, it clings strongly to the Spanish culture, which I believe makes it unique and therefore an exciting and interesting place to move to. I would highly recommend it to anyone and there are a few multinationals with English as their corporate language if someone didn´t have Spanish. If anyone is thinking of a move, I´d be happy to give any advice, so please feel free to get in touch via Chartered Accountants Ireland. Leah Lenehan, ACA  

Oct 21, 2020

Now more than ever we are all having to pull together to help each other. The benefits of belonging to a member organisation such as yours means you can draw on the support of your own community of accountants wherever you are in the world. Our members work and live across the globe in five continents, and with strong connections back to Ireland, and your Institute, this community can sustain you during these tough times. The CA Support Team are here for you too.  Dee France and the team - Terri, Helen and Francesca -  provide a host of services which can now be delivered online so you can avail of them anywhere in the world.  When you hit a road bump, whether in your work or personal life, there are a variety of supports available to you. Recently, we have been helping members in Canada, Singapore, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. They have used our services in the areas of emotional support, wellness coaching, professional counselling, and family emergencies. They’ve also been tuning in to our regular online wellbeing and mental health webinars, connecting with members in both Ireland and abroad.  Being able to share their unique experiences and ask important questions in real time, provides a great way to connect with a worldwide community of fellow accountants. So, wherever you are in the world, and whatever life stage you find yourself at, we are here to listen, to support and to guide you through any difficulty you may be facing.  You are not alone – there is a team of professionals ready to help, and a whole community of fellow accountants to connect with, wherever you are in the world.    Check out our website where you’ll find new content delivered regularly to support you at all stages of your career and personal life.  CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email us We look forward to hearing from you Dee, Francesca, Helen and Terri

Oct 15, 2020

Brendan FitzGerald is a Chartered Accountant living and working in Portugal. Recently, he kindly spoke to us about his life and work there, touching on the challenges, perks and secrets of great sourdough.Why did you first go away and/or why Portugal?The reasons behind me moving to Portugal were twofold.  The first was for family reasons. My wife is originally from Brazil and due to the close cultural proximity of both Brazil and Portugal we decided it was a good opportunity for my wife and her mother to be close to each other and of course for my mother in law to be close to her grandchildren! My mother in law now spends two thirds of the year in Portugal. The second reason was to satisfy our sense of adventure.  Having spent over ten years in Dublin, Ireland we wanted to try something new and experience a new country.  We felt our kids were at just the right age, having not started school and thought “it's now or never”.  Thankfully, I work for an organisation and with people who are supportive. They helped make the move happen, something I will always appreciate.What are the pros and cons of living there?The main advantage of living in Portugal with a young family is the country’s culture and lifestyle.  Portugal has a relaxed pace of life, terrific food centred mainly around fish and fabulous weather.  There are plenty of places to visit and the choice of beaches is endless.  There is a strong investment in children’s facilities including swimming pools, public playgrounds and sports facilities so there is lots to do with young children.  As ever though,  it is not always rosy in the garden!  Being away from friends and family in Ireland can be difficult. I find myself missing small things sometimes, you just can’t get Clonakilty black pudding in Lisbon and forget about Barry’s tea (a controversial choice at the best of times, I know)!  The language barrier is also something to overcome.  While I am lucky enough to understand the language very well from listening to it at home over the years, the spoken word remains a challenge. Simple things like going to the local offices to pay your car tax can elevate your stress levels beyond what they need to be for what should be a simple task!  Luckily, most of the time the Portuguese are willing to break into English to help out if needed and this is often appreciated.What advice would you give your pre-departure self?Keep calm and accept it will take anywhere up to a year to start to feel fully comfortable in your new environment. While the initial stages can be challenging as you navigate the administration tasks, settle into your new accommodation (if you are lucky enough to have found a place before you arrive) and find schools for your children, try and enjoy the new experiences a new country brings during this time.Can you describe your home town, your home away from home?I live near a town called Cascais, which is west of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast. The town itself is historically a fishing town and still is today.  During the spring and summer months many tourists pay a visit, some on day trips from Lisbon, others for longer stays. The pace of life is steady and the mantra is keep stress to a minimum! The locals are extremely proud of their town and region and will happily engage anyone who wants to discuss it. I recently took up cycling and enjoy riding around the region, especially along the coast where the views of the sea and the Sintra mountains are stunning.Are you in touch with any other Chartered Accountants in Portugal/nearby in the region?I have met a few Irish expats over the last couple of years.  Some are retired and others are either working for international organisations or own their own businesses. I am not sure whether or not they are all Chartered Accountants. I may have to ask next time I see them!Finally, we heard your family make great sourdough, we have to know the recipe! What are your children's tips for success?The great thing about sourdough is its simplicity! The trick is to create a good “starter” which is just flour and water added and subtracted in equal quantities from a jar for about 11 days (you can get exact guidance online).  The sourdough itself is then just flour, water, salt and the starter. Buy a proofing basket and a dough scraper and then get cracking! Every one you bake will turn out different.  My eldest daughter says the key to success is “patience”. Good luck!Brendan FitzGerald is Director of Internal Audit with Metlife Europe. 

Aug 11, 2020

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