Big 4 Audit: Atlanta or NYC
I posted this in the new user section but I thought I'd post it in here to get some more advice. I am about to enter my fourth year in the five year Master of Accounting program at my school and I want to hear everyone's opinions about starting a public accounting career in Atlanta versus NYC. I did a couple Big 4 leaderships programs in Atlanta this summer but after doing a finance internship, I realized that if I want to work in the financial services industry after auditing, whether it's banking, P/E, HF, etc, I should strongly consider starting out in NYC. However, NYC has a crazy cost of living and I really don't know that much about the city. Would Atlanta really be that bad of a city to start out in considering I might want to work in financial services after auditing? Thanks for all the help and advice.
I would choose Atlanta.
It's a bit counter-intuitive but I'd say your odds of making it from Big 4 to real, front-office finance are slightly higher in Atlanta (an uphill battle in either case, as you probably know).
The New York finance scene is very deep/liquid and snobbishly pedigree-focused. To a lot of New York financiers working for the Big 4 is inherently unimpressive-implicitly you couldn't get a job at a bank, or at least a management consulting firm, out of college. Why would I, a hypothetical bank, hire you, with only whatever tangentially relevant experience you get as an auditor, vs an undergrad, hire you instead of my intern from last summer, or my friend Thad's son from Harvard, or Bill from Credit Suisse, or any of the large pool of experienced financial professionals who have been laid off in the last 5 years? On top of that, my perception is that a comparatively large % of Big 4 employees in NYC have aspirations similar to yours.
By comparison the Big 4 are higher in the food chain and the business communities are smaller and more open in other cities, and unlike NYC Big 4 auditors don't spend every day surrounded by and being condescended to by bankers so you're not competing with your entire audit team for the job. I'd put better odds of working for Suntrust after a few years auditing in Atlanta than the NYC equivalent. Then once you're in it's all up to you.
I guess the answer is it depends what you want. A mentor who I'm close with ultimately went with the Atlanta route (his hometown). It worked out well for him because he was able to rise very fast (less bureaucracy, politics, talent to compete against) made Partner later for a regional accounting firm (again, very quickly), and then made CFO at a public company. Not bad at all. Now he's in his mid-50s, doesn't work much, but still makes $1 million+ from privately consulting.
He does say however that if he could do it all over again he would start in NYC. Why? - More money, better pedigree/respect in the business world, more opportunities on a national and international level (not just regional), a more dynamic life in your early 20s, and etc.
Seeing how successful he became, I would think he wouldn't have it any other way. To each his own I suppose.
Thank you for your responses, I see what both of you are saying. Atlanta is still a big market, I just don't want to always wonder what could've been had I gone to NYC. Lifestyle-wise, I would much rather live in Atlanta as it's closer to my home in Florida but I almost feel like I would be missing out on the level of clients that NYC has.
Funny, I'm coming from FL too, have an offer in Chicago with a Big 4 (personally, Chicago offers all that I wanted out of NYC, at a much cheaper price, but I love NYC too and have a large chunk of family there). I too struggled with the decision on whether to stay close at home or not. The way I see it, if you were in Atlanta, you're still a long drive from FL (I'm making a large assumption that you're from south Florida), enough that a flight might make more sense. In that case, you're basically just as far away from home, time wise, in NYC as you are in ATL.
Keep in mind, if you're aiming out of market, its not as simple as saying you want to go somewhere, so that might come into play.
PM me if you want to ask any specifics.
My home away from college is in central Florida so yes, whichever city I choose I would fly to and from. Am I wrong to decide on a firm mainly on the clients they serve in each city?
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