Free cookie consent management tool by TermsFeed Blog - Challenger firms VS the Big 4 | Pro Recruitment

Challenger firms VS the Big 4

Article Background

If you are an Auditor in this market, you may find yourself in a situation where you are stuck in a Big 4 role, dream of being at a Big 4 firm, or simply are not sure whether a challenger firm would suit you. As a recruiter, I have seen many auditors turn down offers from firms outside of Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, and EY simply because they didn’t have the reputable branded name. Consequently, they missed out not only on benefits but also, put simply, on the quality of life that you just do not get when you’re working 80+ hour weeks.

To break it down, we need to think about what the Big 4 offer outside of their reputable name.

The Pros

Firstly, the Big 4 firms do have a real focus on quality and possess the software, team, intensive training, and financial means to be very advanced in this space. This is incredibly alluring to possible employees, and understandably makes them stand-out in this space.  They usually have beautiful office spaces too. Outside of this, it would be hard to deny that they have very interesting clientele; big, brand names, that most of us grew up with or come into contact with often.

The Cons

However, some of the perks that were associated with the Big 4 have changed and it is the job a recruiter to be honest and fair when suggesting your new career move. Job security? Unfortunately, this is not fair to say in everyone’s case at the Big 4. In recent years, we have seen the likes of KPMG and EY lay off whole teams due to clients stalling projects and demand being adversely affected by the economic environment. There has also been recently announced restructuring which, unfortunately, leads to cost-cutting, and employees can sometimes bear the brunt of this. When we review the likelihood of promotions in the Big 4, we have seen multiple employees kept in the same position for over 5 years. This does not have to do with the individual’s performance, skills, or eligibility for a promotion, but rather the firm simply does not have the capacity. So, if you are driven and wants to work up the ladder quickly, then you could argue that the Big 4 is not the perfect fit.

Why should you consider a challenger firm outside of the Big 4?

The client base is incredibly varied and for that reason, they can usually create a portfolio around your preference. For example, perhaps you are at a Big 4 firm and only working on large, listed companies. You are confined to these types of clients, essentially pigeonholed, and have no experience working outside of this. At a challenger firm you may still have a large multinational corporation, but one of your other clients may be a medium-sized business or even perhaps you get to work on a client that is an exciting tech start-up. You will then have a broad range of clients, experience and exposure to different reporting standards and types of clients.

Culturally it is quite clear how a challenger firm may differ to a Big 4. But let’s truly consider the real differences. The turnover is exceptionally high, they have large attrition rates and admittedly large Skill disparities among employees. However, this doesn't necessarily equate to a negative work environment. In fact, it can foster a sense of competition and drive for those who are proactive and eager to learn. However, challenger firms often pride themselves on offering a more inclusive and supportive culture, where individuals have greater visibility and access to leadership. This realistically leads to a happier team, role, and life outside of your job.

Work life balance.

Challenger firms tend to offer more flexibility and autonomy. While this doesn't mean you won't be putting in long hours during busy periods, it does mean that you might have more control over when and where you work. This can be particularly appealing for those with family commitments or other interests outside of work.

Moreover, challenger firms can sometimes offer faster career progression. With fewer layers of hierarchy and a more agile organisational structure, there may be greater opportunities for advancement. Additionally, because these firms are often growing rapidly, there may be openings for leadership positions that wouldn't be available at larger, more established firms.

Challenger V’s Big 4 – summary

When it comes to compensation, challenger firms often compensate with benefits such as bonuses, profit-sharing schemes, or additional vacation time. All of which are incredibly effective tools in keeping company morale and employee well-being.

While the Big 4 certainly have their merits, it's important for auditors to consider the full range of options available to them. Challenger firms can offer unique opportunities for professional growth, a more supportive work environment, and greater flexibility. Ultimately, the decision should be based on individual priorities and career aspirations. So, if you find yourself contemplating a move, don't discount the challenger firms—they might just offer the perfect balance of challenge and opportunity you're looking for.