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Are You a Loser If You Don’t Make Partner at a Big 4 Firm?

Good morning capital market servants. Presumably, none of you were on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday which also probably means you’ve still got a job, a career to think about, etc. etc.

How’s that going by the way? Are you on the partner track or do you have partner tracks on your back? Haven’t given it much thought lately but hey, this is what you’re doing and sure, making partner seems like a sweet gig, amiright?

Well an interesting statement from the Grumpy Old Accountants today got me to thinking about all of you hoping for a seat at the big table:

In fact, in the Big Four accounting firms today, if you don’t make partner, you often are considered a loser.

Now this little snippet comes out of a much larger discussion about why some many accountants are cheaters (it’s because everyone wants to be perceived as a “winner”). That’s a fine discussion as well, and the GOA post is worth a read, but we’ll focus on the notion that “no parter = loser.”

I certainly had my own partner aspirations for a brief point in time and many of you out there in Big 4 land have them right now. For me, my attitude changed when I observed a few partners, saw what their workload and lives were like and thought, “JESUS H. CHRIST, BEING A PARTNER SUCKS.”

The problem is, if you’re appear to be making a career for yourself at a Big 4 firm (I was quite the nomad which doesn’t really work), what is the ultimate goal? No one says to themselves, “I’d be fine with making Senior Manager in 8-10 years and then spending THE NEXT 30 in that same position.” As such, partner is a goal for many of you. However, we all know that Senior Manager is a parking lot in most service lines, so it may not be 30 years at SM but it’ll sure seem like 30. Having said that, if you like your firm, are reasonably good to FUCKING AWESOME at your job, then why wouldn’t you want to make partner? Not all Big 4 partners are created equal but if you’re on the fast track at PwC, would doing anything less than being admitted to the partnership satisfy your professional ambitions? And if you give up on career goals because…well, just because…does that not make you a L-O-S-E-R?

The answer is no. Personally, I’ve seen plenty of people with partner-level talent, hot on the partner track give it up because 1) something better comes along; 2) They want their life back; 3) SOMETHING BETTER COMES ALONG. In fact, many new partners are working harder than ever (i.e. “like a 2nd Year Senior Associate” has been overheard). Does that sound like a “winner” to you? GOA might have it exactly bassackwards. The last thing most Big 4 alums will tell you is that they feel like losers because they didn’t make partner. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s probably more accurate to say you’re a loser if you think you’ve got a shot at making partner at a Big 4 firm.

Professor Ketz clarifies below (seen via Twitter) that they the GOAs were talking about the culture within the Big 4 firms rather than you individual losers:

As we said, “… IN THE BIG FOUR ACCOUNTING FIRMS TODAY, if you don’t make partner, you often are considered a loser” (emphasis added). We were discussing the culture of the large accounting firms–we were not discussing our evaluations of those who are not partners. After all, we aren’t partners and we hope we aren’t losers!!

I’ll continue my contrary narrative here and argue that this not the case either. As we know, Big 4 firms sell themselves as great places to start careers but they don’t regularly make the case that this is where you want to spend 15-20 years of your professional life. The culture inside has evolved to accept attrition as part of the formula and that younger professionals are anxious when it comes to getting ahead. In fact, things have changed so much that convincing the talented professionals to stay is part of the culture. Hearing “You’ve got a bright future here,” from a pair of partners over lunch is standard these days because they know the “winners” will leave and the “losers” don’t know when to get out.

Accounting News Roundup: Signs That You Should Quit Your Job; District Court Issues Order in Wesley Snipes Tax Case; LarsonAllen Moves Into the Northwest | 08.06.10

BP Completes Cementing Macondo Oil Well From Top [Bloomberg]
“BP Plc completed a cement plug at the top of its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, sealing off the source of millions of gallons of oil spewed into the sea after a drilling rig exploded in April.

The procedure completes the so-called t stage for BP is to finish a relief well to inject cement at the bottom and ensure there’s no leakage inside the 13,000-foot-long (3,962 meters) well bore beneath the seabed, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said yesterday.”

Ten Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Job: The Finance Edition [FINS]
Check yourself for some of these symptoms: “You’ve been holding back from voicing your grievances.”; “You have no clue where the company is headed.”; “You start to believe you can’t do better.”

And that’s just in the first five listed.

Altus completes PricewaterhouseCoopers deal [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
PwC sells their real estate appraisal management for, what we can only assume to be, a decent chunk of change.

H&R, Jackson Hewitt shares fall on new IRS rule [Reuters]
“Shares of top two U.S. tax preparers H&R Block Inc (HRB.N) and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc (JTX.N) fell Thursday on the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to eliminate debt indicator for tax-refund loans.

On Thursday, the IRS said starting with next year’s tax filing season it will no longer provide tax preparers and associated financial institutions with ‘debt indicator,’ which is used to facilitate refund anticipation loans (RALs).”

PKF Pacific Hawaii completes purchase of Grant Thornton Honolulu office [Pacific Business News]
Name goes official on Monday. Here’s our original report from back in May.

Two UHY LLP Partners Recently Named to Prominent Standard-Setting Implementation Groups [Market Wire]
“The national CPA firm of UHY LLP announced today the recent appointment of Houston-based partner Ana Denena to the International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB) Small and Medium-sized Entities Implementation Group. In a separate appointment, the firm announced that Maryland-based partner Jennine Anderson was named to the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) resource group on non-profit entities.”

PCAOB Adopts New Risk Assess. Stds; Issues Release on Failure to Supervise [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
As we mentioned yesterday, the PCAOB has been busy. Francine McKenna guest-blogged over at FEI and gives the rundown.

Fannie Quarterly Loss Is Smallest Since 2007 [WSJ]
FTW? “Fannie Mae posted a $1.2 billion net loss for the second quarter, the smallest loss in three years, amid signs that the massive wave of souring loans that brought down the mortgage-finance giant may be easing. But Fannie still asked the U.S. government for an additional $1.5 billion.”

District Court Issues Order in Snipes Case [TaxProf Blog]
Just when you thought it was over.

If you’re not getting cloud computing you’re a loser [AccMan]
That is, you’ve got almost nothing to lose by going for it.

Midwest accounting firm buying LeMaster Daniels [Spokesman-Review]
LarsonAllen brings its business to the northwest by purchasing Spokane-based LeMaster Daniels.

Deloitte leadership race reduced to two hopefuls [Accountancy Age]
“he contest to replace John Connolly as leader of Deloitte in the UK will involve just two members of the firm’s board.

The contenders vieing for the top job are Martin Eadon, head of audit, and David Sproul, head of tax. Sproul joined Deloitte when the firm acquired Andersen in the UK on the back of the Enron crisis

Both candidates gave presentations at the firm’s partner conference on 6 July but no further campaigning is expected.”

Accenture Would Have You Believe That There Are No Losers in the IRS Return Preparer Registration Program

The firm fka Andersen Consulting finally got around to announcing their latest gig for Doug Shulman & Co. today, landing the contract to develop the IRS’ return preparer registration (“RPR”) system.

Accenture has done big projects for the IRS in the past but that doesn’t mean they’re any less excited about this particular project:

“The RPR program is really a win-win-win situation in which the IRS will gain the ability to identify and regulate paid tax preparers, tax payers will have better information about tax preparers before selecting one, and tax return professionals will be able to differentiate themselves in this competitive market,” said Lisa M. Mascolo, managing director of Accenture’s U.S. Federal client service group.

If you assume that Accenture is going to make out all right on this deal, then it’s actually a win-win-win-win situation. That would be a quad-win for those of you scoring clichés at home.

Having digested Accenture’s POV on the sitch, we’ll remind you that there are plenty of losers in the IRS’ RPR, as Joe Kristan told us back in January:

When there are winners, there are losers. These include:

Small tax prep shops – A solo practitioner will have to manage the new bureaucracy alone, while his giant competitors will have full-time fixers. When a little guy’s competency exam gets lost by the IRS bureaucracy, he might lose a season’s worth of business; fixers and lobbyists will make sure nothing like that happens to the big boys. And of course the inevitable capture of the IRS bureaucracy by the big players will continue to squeeze the little guys.

Enrolled Agents – Now that the IRS will be creating a new lesser level of licensing, these professionals will have a harder time distinguishing their much higher standards to a confused public.

Consumers – The most obvious result will be an increase in prices, both to pay for the new compliance costs and because the rules will run smaller preparers out of the market. Supporters of the regulations will say that it will be worth it because the new standards will improve quality. That’s a pipe dream. A bozo test and a few hours of CPE won’t turn a quack into a brain surgeon.

Low income consumers will, of course, not have to pay for the fancy “licensed” preparers. There will still be plenty of folks with pirated copies of Turbotax preparing unsigned returns in their cars and apartments, and the higher prices of the licensed competitors will send them more business. Other consumers will either struggle through their own returns without benefit of CPE or drop out of the tax system entirely.

Obviously there has to be some losers. A win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win (an octo-win) situation would be ridiculous.