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What’s happening with Big Four professional services firms’ recruitment in the U.S.

Big (Four) game hunting

The on-cycle recruitment efforts of the Big Four professional services and audit firms – PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG – tend to be predictable, focusing on undergraduate and graduate students to fill their internships, analyst roles and associate positions. But they also do plenty of off-cycle recruitment of experienced professionals. Here’s what’s going on with that in the U.S. this year.

Changing priorities

Within public accounting, recruiters continue to see demand, particularly for tax and audit professionals, according to Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. Hiring is more frequently taking place year-round and is less driven by tax-season demands, he said.

Could the unpredictable nature of the Trump administration throw a wrench into Big Four firms’ hiring initiatives if more clients take a wait-and-see approach?

“It is hard to predict the hiring needs of these firms [over the course of 2017, especially with the new administration,” said Michael Cooke, a partner and executive vice president at The Execu|Search Group. “One big trend from 2016 that will continue into 2017 is the rising demand for professionals on the transaction advisory services side.

“There will also be a continuation of the increased demand for M&A professionals as companies look to finance deals and generate shareholder value through acquisitions, mergers and divestment,” he said.

In-demand skill sets

The specific skill sets that are in demand in the professional services, audit and accounting space vary by region, but across the board, having a financial services background is a huge asset that these firms are looking for, Cooke said. That could take the form of banking and capital markets, hedge funds, private equity or alternative investment management experience.

“We also are seeing a lot of demand for candidates with real estate and insurance experience,” Cooke said. “Additionally, professionals with experience auditing public companies are currently in high demand, as are professionals with taxation experience – including corporate, federal and partnership tax experience specifically.”

In public accounting, there is always a need for candidates with three-to-eight years of work experience, he said. This senior and managerial experience level is the hardest to staff in all of public accounting, and the Big Four companies are always looking to hire candidates at this level.

Where the Big Four hire experienced candidates from

Aside from rivals professional services firms, Big Four firms are poaching extensively from small and mid-sized regional public accounting firms, Cooke said. Some of the advisory practices are also hiring from investment banks and management consulting firms.

In the tax consulting space, they also hire attorneys from law firms.

“It is important to note that if an employee leaves public accounting to go into an industry role, they can always come back to public accounting,” Cooke said. “There is a lot of movement within the space, and companies value prior Big Four experience highly when assessing a candidate’s application.”

The desire for growth and compliance demands are driving hiring

Hiring is being driven by growth initiatives and regulatory compliance demands, including those related to internal controls and risk management, Hird said.

Many times, current staff don’t have the capacity or required technical expertise to handle the compliance demands on the firm. Institutions, as a result, are making full-time hires or bringing in interim professionals for key projects.

“Perhaps not surprisingly in this environment, compliance officers and managers are expected to see some of the largest starting salary jumps within financial services this year,” Hird said. “In addition, business growth is resulting in demand for professionals such as credit analysts, investment banking analysts and asset, hedge fund and private equity managers.

“Institutions also are seeking experienced professionals for their accounting and finance functions,” he said. “For example, accountants, internal auditors and financial analysts are all in demand.

Photo credit: paulafrench/GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor

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