On Thursday the 24th of August, FSA held its Big Four event. Representatives from Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC came for a Q&A panel of questions, diving into their own personal experiences within their respective teams and firms. Below is a summary of some of the questions asked as well as key takeaways from the event.
Question: Why work at the Big Four?
Representatives had various motives behind why they chose to work for a Big Four firm. Some did so because of the firm's prestige. They saw that a majority of university students around them had working at the the Big Four as their “ultimate goal”, and chose to follow suit. Some representatives chose to work at a Big Four firm as a result of the global opportunities and recognition that comes alongside a larger firm. They enjoyed working within a global network of employees alongside having the option to travel. By far however, the most common reason representatives chose a Big Four firm was personal development. They valued the growth opportunities, upskilling, paid for education and training that comes with a well resourced firm that expects you're best.
Question: Starting work, did you find what you learnt at university useful?
Most representatives agreed that university content was not directly useful to their day-to-day operations apart from the basics of accounting and finance that they learnt. However all agreed that university did provide a context to develop necessary work skills which were useful. Learning how to work as a team within group projects, social skills developed from university groups and critical thinking from technical projects were all vital skills that did transfer into the workplaces of each respective representative.
Q: What is career progression like at the Big Four?
All representatives agreed that whilst the names of titles may be different, career progression is fairly similar across the Big Four firms. You usually start as a graduate or junior analyst/consultant. Here you're expected to learn as much as you can. You're exposed to a wide range of projects and you're typically rotated within different areas of your team after each project or task is completed. After hitting initial targets set out for you, individuals than go on to become senior analysts/consultants or managers. Typically your scope of work narrows down as you focus on a business area you excel in. You might also start to pursue post graduate certifications, financially supported by the firm e.g. obtaining a Chartered Accountancy. After this most individuals become directors/partners that lead an entire business area or choose to pursue external opportunities. Directors/partners are expected to be extremely competent within their business area and are also expected to bring in consulting clients from industry connections that they have built throughout their career.
Q: Walk us through what your respective team does?
Justin Mitchell - Intelligent Automation - EY
Justin’s team focuses on how intelligent automation can improve the processes of clients. They typically focus on improving physical operations through automation or improving internal strategies and tasks through strategy and process optimization. Justin said that his team has a very specialised skill set that businesses typically don't have access to internally.
Ruhi Sharma - Audit - Deloitte
Audit essentially “proof reads” the financial statements of companies. The team at Deloitte works with a wide range of clients from ASX 200 companies to private companies. Ruhi said that whilst the work is somewhat consistent as a result of auditing standards the nature of what each companies wants does change from project to project.
Seve Jones - Assurance Service - PWC
Assurances services in general aims to improve the quality of information (typically accounting related) within organisations. At PWC Seve says that the assurance team is quite diverse depending on the specifics of a project and that flexibility is a must as tasks often change.
Claudia Howat - Deals Strategy & Operations - PWC
Deals strategy and operations assists businesses in all stages of an acquisition helping within pre-deal due diligence, deal execution and post-deal value creation. Claudia works alongside the due diligence team where she works alongside a range of teams to provide advice on the beginning of potential deals.
Will Collins - Private Tax - EY
Private tax works a lot with private companies or wealthy family groups. They assist these individuals/groups with the complicated tax requirements of their unique circumstances.
Morgan Galea - Governance, Risk & Controls - KPMG
Governance and risk controls supports businesses to improve their governance and internal business processes, doing so often in the face of changing regulation. Morgan stated that he works with a variety of clients and
Question: The Big Four are known for exposing you to a wide range of areas especially at the start of your employment. What is the scope of that exposure?
Answer: All representatives agreed that they were exposed to a wide range of areas that allowed them to accelerate their learning. This was especially true of when they first started working. This exposure typically occurs within your own team however. For example if you work in financial risk you may be exposed to various projects that encounter different sources of financial risk. The rotation of employees outside of their business area does not typically occur due to the specialised nature of teams unless you make it clear that you want a career change.
The answers given by representatives gave prospective students thinking of a “Big Four Career” a wealth of knowledge. There were several key takeaways however a common theme was that of personal development.
Working within a Big Four firm exposes you to a wide range of industries and problems, encouraging consultants to constantly improve their own skillset. As such students should aim to see what practical solutions they can solve outside of their university degree as a form of preparation if they do want a career within the Big Four.
Recommended opportunities mentioned were joining a case competition, a non-for profit consulting club or even applying to do a semester exchange inorder to expose yourself to a new environment.