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Let’s Discuss: Vault Accounting 50 (2015)

Yesterday, we touched on the Vault Accounting 50 — or rather, we praised PwC for coming out on top (mostly because we feel like we've been forced to criticize them a little more than other firms lately). Today, we're going to dig deeper into the results.

First, your top ten:

  1. PwC
  2. EY
  3. Deloitte
  4. KPMG
  5. Grant Thornton
  6. BDO USA
  7. McGladrey
  8. Plante Moran
  9. Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
  10. Crowe Horwath

Compared to last year, PwC held the #1 spot while EY rose 2 spots to take second, Deloitte slipped one to come in third and KPMG clawed its way up 2 spots to take 4th.

Let's remind ourselves that being #1 really isn't that big of a deal because if Grant Thornton can do it, anyone can. But here's what Vault had to say:

This year’s rankings are significant for a number of reasons. Most notably, unlike last year, the Big 4 firms occupy the top four spots; also, PwC’s No. 1 finish marked the first time a firm has ranked No. 1 twice as well as the first time a firm has repeated as the best employer.

“Overall, it seems clear that PwC is the dominant force in accounting,” says Derek Loosvelt, Vault’s senior finance editor. “PwC has long been considered the most prestigious firm, and recently it’s made a lot of strides in creating a better workplace for employees. This shows in its rankings this year.”

The biggest leap this year was Crowe Horwath — or, if you prefer, The Little Mid-Tier Firm That Could — who went from a less than impressive #27 to take the #10 spot this year. How exactly does a firm go from "not on the list" to the tail end of the VIPs?

Moving on, let's get back to the Vault release:

While PwC’s ability to score high in Quality of Life helped it claim the title of Best Accounting Firm to Work For, the smaller firms were the ones that fared the best in these rankings. Last year, Rothstein Kass was the big winner in our Quality of Life Rankings, taking the top spot in nine categories. This year, however, the firm had the largest slide among the 15 firms in the Vault Accounting 50, dropping from No. 8 to No. 12. The firm’s slide came as a result of having to cut a significant portion of its staff due to an overstaffing issue. This led to a drop in employee morale, which showed in the firm’s Quality of Life Rankings.

“The company laid off 10 percent of its workplace last summer. Since then, our department has faced staffing shortages and overworked employees due to the extra work added to their already full schedules,” noted one employee. “This forced many employees to work quite a bit of overtime in the summer, which historically has been pretty slow.”

No comment.

We've talked about Plante Moran before — namely how some of its staff are so drunk on the Kool-Aid they might not know there is anything but their firm out there — but they did come out on top in "quality of life," whatever that is supposed to be (I suppose it's relative):

Plante Moran was the big winner in the Quality of Life Rankings this year, ranking No. 1 in numerous categories, including business outlook, culture, firm leadership, informal training, internal mobility, and promotion policies.

According to one Plante Moran employee, “The culture here is very different than at Big 4 firms where 50-plus hour weeks are the norm and are expected. Here, value is placed on working hard, but also on having family time and doing things you enjoy outside of work.”

Not to be outdone, Friedman also faired well, ranking No. 1 in compensation, overall satisfaction, relationships with supervisors, and work/life balance.

One Friedman insider explains, “Friedman treats its employees well with ample vacation time, holidays, educational and travel reimbursements, free snacks, great health plan options (including an HSA with employer contributions), and retirement plans with employer matching, among many other benefits. Salaries are competitive with the market standard, and there are annual bonuses for hardworking, full-time employees.”

Overall quality of life results panned out pretty much as you'd expect them to, meaning Big 4 mentions are few and far between. So why are they ranked so high on the overall list? Because Big 4, dummy.

  • Work/Life Balance: Friedman
  • Firm Culture: Plante Moran
  • Overall Satisfaction: Friedman
  • Compensation: Friedman
  • Benefits: Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
  • Promotion Policy: Plante Moran
  • Internal Mobility: Plante Moran
  • Hours: Armanino
  • Travel Requirements: Armanino
  • Client Interaction: EY
  • Supervisor Relationships: Friedman
  • Leadership: Plante Moran
  • Hiring Process: PwC
  • Business Outlook: Plante Moran
  • Formal Training: KPMG
  • Informal Training: Plante Moran
  • Diversity (Women): Raffa, P.C.
  • Diversity (Minorities): Raffa, P.C.
  • Diversity (LGBT): PwC
  • Diversity (Disabilities): Friedman
  • Diversity (Vets): PwC
  • Overall Diversity: PwC
  • Green Initiatives: EY
  • Philanthropy: Raffa, P.C.

Does any of this really matter? Probably not. But everyone likes to whip it out and compare, even the little guys.

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