Reaching partnership at a Big 4 firm is generally seen as the pinnacle of achievement for any accountant or consultant. These blog posts discuss what it takes to make partner at a Big 4 firm and how this differs from mid-tier firms. Read Part 1 here.
The Director role – is it a dead end for your career?
I have worked with the accountancy profession for more than a decade and seen the expected career progression of directors change, and sometimes change back again. The profession is in a quandary because it doesn’t know what to do with highly technical experts, who are immensely valuable to the firm, but not really suitable for partnership. Therefore, sometimes firms select from their senior managers and only promote to director if they feel there is partnership potential.
On the other hand, some firms leapfrog the director stage and promote from senior manager to partner, leaving the director role for the technical experts.This is an approach KPMG has taken in the past, although now they are using director for potential partners again.
It doesn’t really matter what firm you are in – Big 4 or mid-tier – what you have to do is find out what qualities, skills, and behaviour are required at the different levels within your firm and how your firm’s promotion process works. Within a Big 4 firm, this is usually transparent, and extensive documentation should be available.
The Big 4 have more flexibility
Because of their size, Big 4 firms have more partnership slots to fill than mid-tier firms. This means they can be flexible about who they have within the partnership. You will still need to have strong evidence of how you will develop and win business but (and this surprised me) when going for partner with a Big 4 firm, you will not need such a large client portfolio as you will need with BDO or GT.
Big 4 firms are more interested in your potential for building a partner-sized portfolio. Read on to find out the typical size of a Big 4 partner’s client portfolio.
You’ll be expected to earn the rewards of partnership
You should now be getting a good idea of what it takes to make partner at one of the Big 4 firms. There’s plenty more on the site, so take time to read further.
Having started you off, it would be remiss of me not to mention the amount of input that will be expected from you as partner. You’ll be handsomely rewarded, but remember that every firm wants its pound of flesh, and the Big 4 partners are expected to work very long hours and continue working at networking and formal social functions as well. What does it really mean to make partner? There may be plenty of aspects you had not considered!
At the end of the day, it’s your choice. If you do want the rewards of a partnership in a Big 4 firm, remember you will need to earn them!
Further reading to help you accelerate your career to partner at a Big 4 firm:
- Part 1 of this 2-part article – How do I become a partner at the Big 4 (part 1)
- An idea of the size of client portfolio you will need to be a partner in a Big 4 firm
- See whether you are a good fit for partner in your firm