The Big Four accounting firms hoover thousands of people into their audit and tax divisions every year, but getting ahead in these areas is ever tougher. While audit stagnates on the back of fee pressure and slower growth, the decidedly sexier areas of consulting and advisory are the places to be.
Last year, Big Four firms increased their consulting revenues by nearly 9%, and this growth has continued into 2015. At Deloitte, consulting is up by 10.9% year on year and financial services advisory was up by 9%. KPMG is also pushing into these areas.
Big Four firms are hiring for their advisory divisions right now and are looking to expand their consulting businesses either through organic growth or acquisitions. Simon Collins, chairman of KPMG who told the FT that some of its employees cried over “experiences of pride in the firm’s heritage and values” during a recent town hall event, says that it will “keep developing, growing, bolting on services” in its consulting business.
Meanwhile, David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte, said: “The audit business won’t grow at the same rate as our consulting and advisory divisions.”
This presents an opportunity for investment bankers and a threat to investment banks. Big Four firms have already been successful over the past 12 months in persuading senior investment bankers across to their ranks and, anecdotally, this continues down into the rank and file.
Separately, Lucy Kellaway in the FT has stumbled across a refreshingly honest job ad for an Australian hedge fund, which says that it wants people who are “(a) very bright (b) interested in the investment process, and (c) most importantly curious”. It added: “What we really want is a bullshit detector”.
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