I am a Big 4 alum and I spent many years in the audit profession before I transitioned to academia. I teach accounting in the Southeast at a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), which means that at least 25% of the students are Hispanic. I am also Hispanic.
I grew up at Deloitte, the same as Joe Ucuzoglu. Joe is the CEO of Deloitte and we worked together. Months ago, I started noticing Joe posting equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) articles on LinkedIn. Joe is one of the smartest CPAs I know.
What I find interesting is that Deloitte, while preaching EDI, has not recruited from our campus in decades. PwC and EY have also not recruited from our campus or maintained a presence on our campus. Our campus is one of the largest HSIs in our state. We have more students of diversity than any other in the state. This spring, partners from the local Deloitte office showed up and ostensibly started to take an interest in our students. I thought that was a great development. But I’m also an auditor and know when I and my fellow faculty members are being glad-handed.
To understand what I am about to say, we have to go back to the mid-to-late 1990s. It was then that the recruiting strategy of the Big 4 (Big 6 at that time) changed. Prior to the 1990s, most Big 6 firms recruited from almost all colleges within their state. They would have alumni of those colleges attend Beta Alpha Psi meetings and get to know and recruit top students. Then in the mid-to-late ’90s, the Big 4 changed their strategy to target top schools like the University of Texas-Austin, University of Southern California, University of Chicago, etc. They largely gave up on local colleges. I know because I recruited from those top schools when I was in the Big 4.
Ask yourself, how can you preach EDI and only recruit from schools where the tuition is over $300,000 for an undergraduate education? The significant majority of students who attend those colleges are from families that do not need EDI programs. Most of those families pay in cash.
The auditor in me started to become skeptical. Is this EDI initiative from Deloitte and the other Big 4 firms real or is it just corporate bullshit that they have to do to check a box mandated from the leadership of their firms to appear competitive among the Big 4? I believe it is the latter.
I sent résumés of my top students to the partners from the local Big 4 offices and I started hearing from students that they were being “ghosted.” I am old enough not to know what the hell that meant, so after I looked it up, my suspicions were confirmed. I believe that the Big 4 are seeking out HSIs to glad-hand and appear to be good corporate citizens while in reality, they are making offers to students at the same top accounting institutions and ghosting students at HSIs.
My favorite example is that when Deloitte did not follow up with one of my students, who I personally recommended, I complained to the audit partner, and that same day, the recruiter reached out to my student and made excuses that did not pan out. In other words, they lied to me.
So, for students who are at HSIs, here are questions to ask recruiters and partners of the Big 4 who interview you:
- What have you done personally to support EDI apart from your job as a CPA, apart from your role in the firm?
- Can you give examples of EDI initiatives your firm engaged in before it became in vogue?
- Are your firm’s EDI initiatives done for corporate purposes or are they socially motivated? Ask them from the perspective of professional skepticism as though you were already an auditor. In other words, ask for sufficient appropriate evidence for what they say.
- Ask for specific articulable examples of their EDI achievements and Google when they began talking about EDI. Was it when their competitors started talking about EDI? If it does not add up, walk away. Find local and regional firms.
Finally, I will say to my former colleague, Mr. Ucuzoglu, and the CEOs of the other Big 4 firms, either have your partners and recruiters be sincere in EDI initiatives or leave my students the hell alone and stop fucking glad-handing me and my fellow faculty just to check a box off on fulfilling EDI goals for your annual evaluations. Otherwise, to quote the Bard, “Thou art the son and heir of a mongrel bitch.”
Anonymous university accounting professor
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