Most people choosing the art of debits and credits as a career path, likely had aspirations for working for one of the illustrious Big 4. Fame, prestige, working with only the finest accountants that Omaha Steaks can buy, are all par for the course. This has been accepted as truth for many years.
But now – if you can believe this – this truth is being called into question in the UK – a part of the world that you might not expect.
Accountancy Age reports that a recent survey has found that young accountants (less than three years experience) are not as hung up on working at a Big 4 firm:
Only 40% of accountants with less than three years’ experience surveyed by recruiter Marks Sattin said it was important to work for a big firm — compared to an average of 67% for all of the 450 accountants surveyed in practice and industry.
“We are entering a new era in financial services…in which candidates want to sell themselves not by reeling off lists of FTSE 100 clients, but on their experience on smaller accounts providing higher levels of responsibility,” said Laura Wilson, associate director of the professional services division at Marks Sattin.
Granted, this is the pulse of the UK but there’s always been a large firm vs. small firm debate and this a trend that makes its way to the States (if it hasn’t already).
The reason for young accountants’ attitude, it turns out, is that they don’t care if they are working on prestigious clients; they are looking for more expansive professional experience:
“Whether it’s true or not, candidates think they’ll be doing work that is more involved at an early stage in their careers by joining a smaller firm. The perception is counting against the Big Four because candidates think that smaller firms offer more variety and more autonomy – and candidates are increasingly willing to sacrifice exposure to the FTSE 100 to get it.”
According to one person quoted in the article, part of this is a generational attitude but we’re not convinced that’s entirely the case. Sure, Gen Y wants to have more responsibility as quickly as possible but it’s not as though the Big 4 are taking on the same number of new recruits each year. As a result, a competitive recruiting process has made smaller firms a very good option. Plus, news about layoffs and a slow climb up the corporate ladder at the largest firms might have some students looking for opportunities.
Make no mistake, working at a Big 4 firm will always be goal number one for a lot of students and young CPAs. Regardless of what any survey says, many still have ambitions to be a partner in one of the largest firms or to work in some of the world’s prestigious companies. But the more informed students and young professionals are about career options, the perceived need for Big 4 experience on your résumé will be less compulsory.
Young accountants shun Big Four firms [Accountancy Age]