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PwC Won’t Allow an Upset in Vault’s Prestige Rankings

Earlier this week, we learned that Grant Thornton was the new numero uno on Vault’s Accounting 50. The VA50 is determined by a number metrics that are weighted to come up with an overall score as to which firm is the best of the best. According to Vault, Grant Thornton was able to leverage their better work-life balance for employees to overcome their lack of prestige to pull this off.

For many people in the accounting world, however, this is meaningless. Reputation is everything and if you’re not working for one of the firms that are of highest regard, you’re simply a chump. Accordingly, Vault still presents a prestige ranking and while there aren’t many surprises, for many, this is the list. And the top firm on the list? P. Dubs.

1 (1) PwC
2 (3) Deloitte
3 (2) Ernst & Young
4 (4) KPMG
5 (5) Grant Thornton

6 (7) McGladrey
7 (6) BDO
8 (8) Moss Adams
9 (10) J.H. Cohn
10 (9) Plante & Moran
11 (13) Crowe Horwath
12 (12) Clifton Gunderson
13 (11) EisnerAmper
14 (22) LarsonAllen
15 (14) Rothstein Kass
16 (15) BKD
17 (18) Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
18 (16) Reznick Group
19 (21) Dixon Hughes Goodman
20 (19) Cherry Bekaert & Holland
21 (24) Anchin, Block & Anchin
22 (17) WeiserMazars
23 (23) CBIZ/Mayer Hoffman McCann
24 (29) ParenteBeard
25 (28) Wipfli
26 (31) Friedman
27 (27) Marcum
28 (34) Berdon
29 (35) Citrin Cooperman & Co.
30 (36) Eide Bailly
31 (26) UHY Advisors
32 (37) WithumSmith + Brown
33 (32) Elliot Davis
34 (38) Margolin, Winer & Evens
35 (33) Marks Paneth & Shron
36 (40) Blackman Kallick
37 (25) Novogradac & Company
38 (49) RubinBrown
39 (NR) Schonbraun McCann Group
40 (50) Kaufman, Rossin & Co.
41 (NR) Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain
42 (45) Frank Rimerman & Co.
42 (48) Habif, Arogeti & Wynne
43 (NR) Buff Pilger Mayer, Inc.
44 (NR) Horne
45 (NR) Rehmann
46 (NR) Schenck SC
46 (NR) Suby, Von Haden & Associates
46 (NR) Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman
47 (41) Aronson & Company
48 (NR) SingerLewak
49 (47) SS&G Financial Services
50 (NR) Katz, Sapper & Miller

Oh! and probably most importantly, the prestige ranking is what we use to seed the brackets for the Coolest Accounting Firm in the spring, so it’s doubly important. Commence bickering.

Grant Thornton Tops Vault’s Accounting 50 (2012)

Yes my friends, the Purple Rose of Chicago’s focus on all things dynamic and pinstripe hating was enough to catapult the firm to the #1 spot on Vault’s Accounting 50. Varnton’s rise “an upset of sorts” but I’ll go ahead and say this is more worthy of “shocker” status. This is like “Dewey Defeats Truman.” It’s the Miracle on Ice. Hell, it’s like when Brad Pitt finds Gwenyth Paltrow’s head at the end of Se7en (what do you MEAN you haven’t seen it?).

Don’t get me wrong, Grant Thornton is a fine firm. Sure, purple isn’t my favorite but the people there seem nice and very capable but HONESTLY this was not expected. When he hears the news, Stephen Chipman will probably start running through halls of the Chicago office sans pants trousers rallying everyone down to the nearest pub (pictures, please). Anyway, let’s get to the Top 25 (previous year in parenthesis), shall we?

1 (23) Grant Thornton
2 (2) PwC
3 (1) Deloitte
4 (3) Rothstein Kass
5 (5) Dixon Hughes Goodman

6 (6) Moss Adams
7 (11) WithumSmith + Brown
8 (8) Friedman
9 (4) Marcum
10 (28) EisnerAmper
11 (14) Eide Bailly
12 (18) SS&G Financial Services
13 (12) Berdon
14 (7) Elliott Davis
15 (NR) Rehmann
16 (33) Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
17 (17) Armanino McKenna
18 (16) CBIZ/Mayer Hoffman McCann
19 (41) Marks Paneth & Shron
20 (20) Schenck
21 (10) Cherry, Bekaert & Holland
22 (21) Ernst & Young
23 (22) KPMG
24 (25) McGladrey
25 (24) BDO

As for how GT orchestrated this epic upset, here’s Vault’s Derek Loosvelt:

Although the Big Four firms PwC and Deloitte both significantly outscored Grant Thornton (the perennial fifth largest accounting firm in the country) in terms of prestige, Grant Thornton handily beat PwC and Deloitte in nearly every quality of life category. In other words, while the two Big Four firms’ names still carry much more weight than Grant Thornton’s in the marketplace, insiders are much more pleased with their day to day work lives at the non-Big Four GT than their peers are at PwC and Deloitte. In fact, non-Big Four firms ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in all but three quality of life categories (these rankings will be released over the next couple of days). Although Grant Thornton did not top any single category, it consistently placed ahead of PwC and Deloitte. Particular tough categories for the Big Four firms were hours and overall satisfaction.

So there are a couple of stories here: 1) Holy shit – Grant Thornton?! and 2) prestige seems to carry less and less weight in favor of quality of life for those looking to choose a public accounting firm as their employer. We’ll be covering the Vault list and the firms therein with more posts but until then, feel free to comment on the Top 25 and what you make of GT as the new #1.

50 Most Prestigious Accounting Firms [Vault]
Vault’s New Accounting 50 Ranking Has Plenty of Surprises [GC]

What’s Your Motivation for Leaving a Mid-tier Accounting Firm for a Job with Big 4?

Contributor note: if you have a question for the Going Concern audience at large (including the useless dbags) or our team of accounting drop outs and degenerates, please get in touch.

Here’s a tip if you guys are thinking about submitting a question: it helps to know your motivation if you are asking for our advice. It’s difficult to tell you what you should do without knowing why you’re trying to do it, unless you’re asking us an obvious question like “should I take X position to make way more money?” because in that situation we obviously assume you’re in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with that.

That said, this indentured servSo let’s commence to helping.

I’m currently working for a large mid-size firm as a Staff II and will become a Senior I next year on a relatively large public client. However, I’ve been debating whether or not I should follow up on opportunities to work at a Big 4 firm if it means I have to wait an additional 2 years to become a Senior I?

I know from my friends currently working in the Big 4 firm that new hires work for 3 years at the staff level before being promoted to Senior I. In addition, I may also slip one level from Staff II back to Staff I when I change firms. I’d essentially be 2 years behind my peers as a result of going to the Big 4 so I don’t know if making this switch would help or hurt my career. Is it really worth losing that much time in order to get the Big 4 name on my resume? Should I wait until next year in hopes that I could be recruited as a Staff III instead?

Surely I’m not the only one struggling with this decision, does anyone else have experience with this problem?

Thanks and Best Regards,
-Staff II(?) Auditor

Well, Would-Be Staff II, as you are probably already aware, the Big 4 item on your résumé is going to blow any of that mid-tier nonsense you’ve got going now out of the water (don’t get butthurt, mid-tier-ers. It’s not personal). The actual practical application of what you’re learning at a mid-tier firm versus what you might learn at the Big 4 is irrelevant here; it’s all about marketing yourself, and you’re better equipped to do that with bragging rights slapped all over your work experience. You’re pretty much only going to get those rights from the Big 4.

That isn’t to say you can’t gain valuable experience from your current employer, so it comes down to what you want to do career-wise and in what time frame you would like to accomplish it. Have you passed the CPA exam already? Are you itching to get out of public altogether? It’s pretty hard to try and push you in the right direction without knowing what that direction is. What do you want out of your career? Money? Prestige? Experience?

Why did you start mid-tier in the first place? Are you happy where you are? Do you enjoy the work and feel fulfilled? What is it you think Big 4 can offer that you aren’t getting at your current firm?

If I were you, I would wait it out, gain additional experience, keep those Big 4 contacts and try to make the jump when you have a little more leverage. The more secure you get in your skill set, the better equipped you’ll be to leverage that experience into a more ideal gig with a Big 4 instead of starting at bottom a level above the clueless interns.

I would also have a candid conversation with whomever you’ve been speaking to at the Big 4 about your concerns. Don’t come off as a money-grubbing, work-averse dick but definitely express an interest in being involved with work on par with what you’ve been doing with your firm, not taking a step back. Feel free to embellish whatever paperwork you’ve been assembling up until this point into a full-blown PCAOB-compliant masterpiece.

I’m sure any number of mid-tier grunts who read this site religiously can talk you out of making the jump, and for good reason, while others will tell you to jump now and worry about how quick you ascend the Big 4 ladder later. A smaller firm allows you a better chance at truly learning your trade instead of simply going through the motions and checking boxes; think of mid-tier as stripping at the pole as opposed to mopping up the floors. You probably won’t put stripping at the pole on your resume but you’ll be gaining practical experience you can segue into a better opportunity.

I’m not clear on the opportunity you’re after here. Can you clarify?


Vault’s Consulting Prestige List: Big 4 Stays Respectable

On Wednesday when all anyone could talk about was a little earthquake, we shared with you Vault’s Consulting 50. All of the Big 4 managed to make this year’s list after last year’s only featured Deloitte and P. Dubs, so everyone’s happy.

One list that the Big 4 always seem to do well is the ranking of prestigious firms. Granted, this is the consulting list and the likes of McKinsey, Bain, and Boston, per usual, dominate the top spots but the usual accounting suspects held their own. This list is far less interesting than the Vault 50, which saw a lot of jumping around by various firms but this is all about the prestige and closer your firm is to the top, apparently the less your shit stinks. Here’s the top with previous year’s ranking in parenthesis:

1 (1) McKinsey & Co.
2 (2) Boston Consulting
3 (3) Bain & Co.
4 (4) Booz & Co.
5 (5) Deloitte Consulting

6 (8) PwC
7 (7) Monitor Group
8 (9) Ernst & Young
9 (6) Mercer LLC
10 (12) Accenture

And some notables:
14 (13) KPMG
16 (22) Capgemini
18 (19) Navigant Consulting
21 (26) Roland Berger
25 (27) Huron Consulting
26 (28) Grant Thornton
28 (23) FTI Consulting
33 (30) PRTM
45 (48) BDO

The gang at Vault let us know that we can expect the accounting rankings in a couple-ish weeks, so stay tuned.

The Best Consulting Firms: Prestige [Vault]
All of the Big 4 Land on This Year’s Vault Consulting 50 List (2012)

Future Ernst & Young Intern Wants to Know How to Land on a Prestigious Engagement

Welcome to the slightly-less-mad-Friday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future E&Y intern only wants to work on the sexiest tech clients that the House of Turley has to offer. How can one ensure that he/she lands only on the clients worth bragging to their peers? Let’s find out!

Caught in a busy season love-triangle (audit-cleaning crew-admin)? Not sure if your auditor is being honest with you? Upset over a rival’s shady moves? Email us at [email protected]Dear Going Concern,

I am a future 2011 Assurance Intern for EY. Do you suggest emailing my contacts in the firm regarding preferences as to industry and clients? They know from my interviews that I prefer tech clients, but is it wise to go into greater detail? I don’t want to seem entitled, but I also don’t want to get stuck on some crappy client because everyone else voiced their preferences and got spots at Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. Suggestions on how to voice such opinions would be welcome also.

– Future Staff 1

Dear FS1,

I like it when someone knows exactly what they want but I feel that you need some perspective. Let me start by answering your question directly. I don’t see anything wrong with voicing your interests in the clients you mentioned to your contacts at E&Y, especially if those contacts work on those engagements. If none of the people that you met during the recruiting process serve those clients, attempt to get in touch with someone via the contacts you did make. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” or “the hooker won’t land the john in the Mercedes across the street if they don’t yell at him” certainly applies here.

Now for that perspective I mentioned – Apple, Google, Facebook are all sexy names and are obviously prestigious clients but let me be clear, these engagements’ allure is extremely deceiving. When I was a resident in the House of Klynveld, I worked on one of the most prestigious private equity clients the firm had. I landed a spot on this team because this is exactly what I wanted at the time, I spoke up and with some luck, I got what I asked for. It was great experience and I worked with a lot of talented people but the majority of the time, I wouldn’t say it was a pleasant experience. The hours were long, there were lots of political games and it was a GIANT rumor mill. Now if you think you can thrive in such an environment, then I say go for it but in my experience it wears on most people. I would expect the teams you mentioned would be a similar experience.

However, as an intern, I’d expect that you’ll be mostly on the fringes of most of the negative aspects of working on such a team because the firm wants you to think it’s a great place to work and managers and partners on those clients want you to think it’s a great engagement. And because you want a full-time job someday, you’re going to do your best to impress the wrinkled pants off these people. If you accomplish that feat, they will want you back on their team. The problem is that once you’re on that team, it may be very difficult to get off that team when you discover that it is Hell on Earth. Now maybe you’ll get mentored by one of those I’m-working-my-ass-off-for-very-little-gratitude-because-I-want-to-get-ahead-in-this-firm types and you’ll really like it. But if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then learn as much about the team while you are an intern to determine if you want to work on it or a similar client in the future. Talk to the A2s and SA1s (sorry A1s, you’re still clueless) to get their perspective but make sure it’s the people that will level with you about what life is really like on that engagement. HINT: If you get a rah-rah speech about the “experience on such a great client” you’re not getting an honest take.

So make your client desires known to get a taste of the life on a sexy client but once you land there, be sure to take a look around to see what life (or a pathetic version of it) will be really like if you’re still there in the future. Good luck.

Survey: Young Accountants Think Big 4 Is Overrated

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]

A Partner Hopeful Can’t Decide Between KPMG and a Mid-Tier Firm

Welcome to the light-the-menorah edition of Accounting Career Emergency. In today’s edition, a lucky co-ed who is convinced she wants a career in public accounting has internship offers from KPMG and GT and maybe another from BDO. Multiple choice study skills won’t really help her so she turned us for our sage advice.

Is your career on life support? Worried that the long hours during the upcoming busy season might finally cause you to crack? Does your family remind you of Arrested Development? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll have no problem crushing your brother-in-law’s dreams of playing with the Blue Man Group.

Back to the multiple choice exercise:

I recently received an internship offer from both Grant Thornton and KPMG in Chicago. I more than likely will be getting an offer from BDO as well. Unlike many who go Big 4 then jump ship to industry, I want to make a long term career out of public accounting (i.e., hopefully make partner some day).

I liked the supposed “culture” and the people at all of the firms, but now I can’t decide which one I want to go with. I don’t know if going midsized will mean quicker promotions, and somewhat better hours (relatively speaking), or if the Big 4 prestige is even relevant long term within the public accounting field. Please help me make sense of this…

Dear Partner Hopeful,

Pardon us but we’ll briefly delve into semantics for a second – “midsized” isn’t really representative of GT or BDO (we’re not crazy about mid-tier either but we’re open to suggestions) as they both have vast international networks. It is also true that the Big 4 dwarf GT and BDO combined so a moniker for the non-Big 4 firms (because that also sucks) could be the most important debate to come out of your question. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, then. We’re impressed that you have your mind made up that you want a long-term career in public accounting. That was our initial aspirations as well and look how that turned out. All we’re saying is, don’t get ahead of yourself and the culture will wane, trust us.

As for the Big 4 vs. GT/BDO question – for starters, the promotion pace will be similar no matter where you go. Besides, do you really want to get to senior manager in 5-6 years just to sit there for 10 more before you make partner? Our guess is, nofuckingway.

Secondly, don’t ask about hours. They will be long no matter where you go. Get over it.

The most provocative part of your question is related to prestige. GT and BDO rank #5 and #6 in Vault’s latest ranking, so it’s not like you’re working for complete schlubs. Plus, Chicago, as you’re well aware, is where Grant Thornton and BDO are headquartered. Conventional wisdom may tell you that KPMG is a more prestigious firm regardless of location and that very well may be true. But if you’re working in the HQ city of GT or BDO, you’re likely to hobnob with some of the most high-ranking professionals within those two firms. Not taking anything away from KPMG Chicago, but you simply won’t get the same exposure to the firm’s national leadership as you would at Grant Thornton or BDO.

Bottom line is that all the firms are solid and if you’re sold on the people and culture, you’ll have no problem fitting in at any of them. But if you’re concerned with prestige and building your network, it’s worth considering the opportunity of getting exposure to the bigwigs at GT and BDO.

Big 4 Still Dominate Vault’s Prestige Rankings

This morning we’ll take a break from Vault’s Accounting 50, and bestow their prestige list upon you since style trumps substance in just about every facet of society these days.

So enough chit-chat, here are the top ten firms whose shit stinks the least (prior year ranking in parenthesis):

1 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP New York, NY (1)
2 Ernst & Young LLP New York, NY (2)
3 Deloitte (Accounting Practice) LLP New York, NY (3)
4 KPMG LLP New York, NY (4)
5 Grant Thornton LLP Chicago, IL (5)
6 BDO USA LLP Chicago, IL (9)
7 McGladrey & Pullen LLP/RSM McGladrey Inc. BloomingtonAdams LLP Seattle, WA (6)
9 Plante & Moran, PLLC Southfield, MI (8)
10 J.H. Cohn LLP (Accounting Practice) New York, NY (11)

You’ll note the “NR” behind PwC, E&Y and KPMG. It appears the reason for this comes from last year’s prestige list that shows only the “consulting practice.” We’re awaiting the clarification from our friends at Vault and we’ll update you just as soon as we know the story. Just a glitch, sayeth Vault. We’ve updated above.

But if you make the assumption that the consulting practices were the accounting firms, As you can see, the top five firms are exactly the same. You probably also noticed that the top ten in the prestige list is vastly different from the top ten in Vault Accounting 50. With the exception of Deloitte and PwC, none of the firms in the prestige top ten appear in the Accounting 50. So if you’re a prestige whore and work/life/culture is meaningless, the Big 4 and the rest of the usual suspects will be your taskmasters of choice.

As for the rest:

11 Eisner LLP New York, NY (10)
12 Clifton Gunderson LLP Milwaukee, WI (19)
13 Crowe Horwath LLP Oak Brook, IL (12)
14 Rothstein Kass Roseland, NJ (16)
15 BKD, LLP Springfield, MO (20)
16 Reznick Group, P.C. Bethesda, MD (22)
17 Weiser LLP New York, NY (18)
18 Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP Chicago, IL (17)
19 Cherry, Bekaert & Holland LLP Richmond, VA (15)
20 Amper Politziner & Mattia, LLP Edison, NJ (13)
21 Dixon Hughes PLLC High Point, NC (25)
22 LarsonAllen LLP Minneapolis, MN (14)
23 CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C. Cleveland, OH (26)
24 Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP New York, NY (21)
25 Novogradac & Company LLP San Francisco, CA (29)
26 UHY Advisors, Inc. Chicago, IL (31)
27 Marcum LLP Melville, NY (30)
28 Wipfli LLP Milwaukee, WI (44)
29 ParenteBeard LLC Philadelphia, PA (24)
30 Beers + Cutler PLLC Vienna, VA (23)
31 Friedman LLP New york, NY (58)
32 Elliott Davis, LLC Greenville, SC (28)
33 Marks Paneth & Shron LLP New York, NY (35)
34 Berdon LLP New York, NY (36)
35 Citrin Cooperman & Company, LLP New York, NY (38)
36 Eide Bailly LLP Fargo, ND (39)
37 WithumSmith+Brown, PC Princeton, NJ (41)
38 Margolin, Winer & Evens LLP Garden City, NY (40)
39 Stonefield Josephson, Inc. Los Angeles, CA (34)
40 Blackman Kallick Chicago, IL (69)
41 Aronson & Company Rockville, MD (59)
42 Schneider Downs & Co., Inc. Pittsburgh, PA (51)
43 Burr Pilger Mayer, Inc. San Francisco, CA (45)
44 Watkins, Meegan, Drury & Company, L.L.C. Bethesda, MD (53)
45 Frank Rimerman & Co. LLP Palo Alto, CA (47)
46 Goodman & Company, LLP Virginia Beach, VA (46)
47 SS&G Financial Services, Inc. Cleveland, OH (NR)
48 Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP Atlanta, GA (37)
49 RubinBrown St. Louis, MO (27)
50 Kaufman, Rossin & Co. Miami, FL (43)

Notables: Top 3 firm Rothstein Kass drops in at 14 here; recently merged Eisner and Amper fall in at 11 and 20 respectively; familiar names like Clifton, Crowe, BKD, Reznick, Weiser, BTVK and CB&H fill in the rest of the top twenty.

Big Moves: Wipfli, Friedman, Blackman Kallick and Aronson & Company all experienced double-digit moves up while Habif, Arogeti & Wynne and RubinBrown dropped the furthest.

Feel free to discuss any of these firms from a prestige standpoint (or lack thereof) and definitely get in touch with us with sterling examples which may or may not include partners who have the tendency to get into fisticuffs. It doesn’t appear to affect a firm’s ranking all that much.

Accounting Firms Rankings 2011: Prestige [Vault]
The 50 Most Prestigious Accounting Firms [Vault]

KPMG, Ernst & Young Sneak on to U.S. News Tax Firm Ranking

You may or may not be aware that U.S. News & World Report is the shot caller when it comes to ranking law schools (much to the chagrin of some) and now (to even more chagrin) the magazine is delving into extensive law firm rankings and the Big 4 will enjoy a little bit of perceived prestige that comes along with these rankings.

Christ. We’re barely into rankings/list season and they’ve already chalked up working moms and consulting rankings and U.S. News is now throwing around its weight with this new list.

Granted, virtually no accounting firms will even get a whiff of this list but something tells us that because U.S. News has decided to dive head first into ranking law firms by practice are the Big 4 will be jockeying to make the tax list, even though it is a sliver of a much larger and broader ranking that they won’t be included on at all.

Excuse us while we choke down the vomit that we caught making it’s way out.

Why the hell not?!? U.S. News figured that the world couldn’t do without it’s rankings-for-hire in one more area for the legal field but this time the Big 4 will enjoy a bit of a ride on this wave.

Right. The list. The two of Big Four of course, make their way on the ranking for tax firms: Ernst & Young falls into the coveted Tier 1 (includes 36 firms) and KPMG drops on Tier 2 (47 firms). There were a total out of 119 firms across three tiers.

Admittedly, this is an opportunity for both KPMG and E&Y to boast their tax practice prowess over Deloitte and PwC who don’t appear on the list at all. That being said, Deloitte and PwC enjoy higher spots on the consulting rankings so they’re probably not overly concerned although no one turns down a notch on the bedpost if they can get it.

What this new ranking ultimately will be is one more marketing tool for the firms to use on the impressionable recruits and experienced hires who want to work in top notch – TOP NOTCH! – tax practice. Be it lawyers or CPAs, the firms will tout this ranking to their tax professionals (if not firm-wide) to throw around ONE. MORE. LIST. to impress the trousers off the masses but now people will be saying, “Oh, this is a U.S. News ranking.”

So for the Big 4 to be included in this “prestigious” ranking is a little bit, as Elie Mystal states, like “Christmas morning – if only Santa were a jolly red prestige whore.”

U.S. News Tax Firm Rankings [TaxProf Blog]
Best Law Firms [U.S. News & World Report]
U.S. News Launches First Official Law Firm Rankings [ATL]

Big 4 Have Big Presence on Vault’s Prestige List, Less So in Top 50

On with the second dose of rankings today, this time courtesy of Vault with the Vault Consulting 50 and The Best Consulting Firms: Prestige.

The Top 50 came out last week and it is new to the stable of Vault rankings. Here’s the top twenty-five firms (26-50 is here) of the inaugural breakdown:

1 Bain & Company
2 The Boston Consulting Group, Inc.
3 McKinsey & Company
4 Analysis Group, Inc.
5 The Cambridge Group
6 Deloitte Consulting LLP
7 Oliver Wyman
8 A.T. Kearney
9 Triage Consulting Group
10 Censeo Consulting Group
11 West Monroe Partners
12 Cornerstone Research
13 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (Consulting Practice)
14 Alvarez & Marsal
15 Trinity Partners, LLC
16 Booz & Company
17 Milliman, Inc
18 Strategic Decisions Group
20 Gallup Consulting
21 Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, Inc.
22 Health Advances, LLC
23 Strategos
24 The Brattle Group
25 Monitor Group

Similar to Consulting Mag’s ranking, Deloitte and PwC (along with recently purchased Diamond) rank the highest of the Big 4 with derivatives Accenture and Capgemini landing at 32 and 45. Problem child Huron Consulting came in at 48. KPMG and Ernst & Young are MIA.

The methodology for the Top 50 breaks down this way: 25 percent firm culture; 25 percent work/life balance; 20 percent compensation; 20 percent prestige; 5 percent overall business outlook; 5 percent transparency. Practicing consultants were asked to rate what was most important to them at their firm. As you can see, while prestige still carries some weight, culture and work/life trump in this list.

Speaking of the prestige factor, a little jockeying amongst Mercer, Monitor and PwC but otherwise the top ten was unchanged from last year.

1 McKinsey & Company
2 The Boston Consulting Group, Inc.
3 Bain & Company
4 Booz & Company
5 Deloitte Consulting LLP
6 Mercer LLC
7 Monitor Group
8 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (Consulting Practice)
9 Ernst & Young LLP (Consulting Practice)
10 Oliver Wyman
11 A.T. Kearney
12 Accenture
13 KPMG LLP (Consulting Practice)
14 IBM Global Business Services
15 L.E.K. Consulting
16 The Parthenon Group
17 Towers Watson
18 AlixPartners, LLP
19 Navigant Consulting, Inc.
20 Alvarez & Marsal
21 ZS Associates
22 Capgemini
23 FTI Consulting, Inc.
24 NERA Economic Consulting
25 Hewitt Associates

In the prestige list you’ll find the Big 4 much more prominent which may be due to the methodology that practicing consultants at these very firms are surveyed to rank the firms on a range from 1 to 10. They cannot, however, rank their own firm.

In 26-50 range you’ll find more familiar names including Huron at #27 (dropped from 25); Grant Thornton at #28; Diamond Management at #31; BDO Consulting at #49.

So based on these, the Big 4, GT, BDO seem to be doing well from a prestige standpoint but lag a little in others, namely culture and work/life balance. Sound about right? Discuss.

Consulting Firm Rankings 2011: Vault Consulting 50 [Vault]
Consulting Firm Rankings 2011: The Best Consulting Firms: Prestige [Vault]