JOB OFFERS Big 4 or PWM Investment Analyst

I would like to get some advice one my current offers. I am a senior at the University of New Hampshire. I currently have an offer for financial services audit at a big 4 ($57,000) and an offer with a smaller PWM firm $6B AUM ($65,000 + $6-$12k bonus). My major is Accounting and Finance with a minor in Econ. I took the Level 1 CFA last semester (passed) and have 3.83 GPA.

Which option is more ideal? The PWM firm seems to be very prestigious with a very strong focus on fundamental and technical training. I spoke to multiple vets in the Asset Management industry who say the firm has a strong reputation for its expertise. The majority of the interviewers came from Villanova and Brown. I have a very strong interest in finance and hated my accounting internship.

Thank you!

Comments (16)

Apr 19, 2016 - 10:16am
models_and_bottles, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What exactly would you be doing at the PWM firm? The PWM job sounds more interesting but you need to understand what your day-to-day responsibilities would be.

Echo the comment above that a lot of these PWM roles end up being financial adviser type jobs which end up being pure sales roles. Make sure you understand what you're signing up for.

Apr 19, 2016 - 7:43pm
AF_DCF, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I made sure that it wasn't anything like a FA position. Those positions are consider wealth planners at the firm. I am tasked with 20 clients and responsible for conducting research for asset allocation within a particular asset class (hopefully alternative or FI). I was also told that it is common to be tasked with analyzing a clients new start up or specialized task regarding client investment interest (ex. Miami luxury condo market).

Best Response
Apr 19, 2016 - 11:16pm
models_and_bottles, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My gut says go with PWM but my brain says Big 4.

Here's why: Big 4 firms have much stronger brands. Most people are going to recognize EY, Deloitte, etc. much more readily than XYZ wealth management in Concord or whatever. Coming from a well known firm can open a lot of doors.

Also, the Big 4 firms are going to have much better training programs. What type of training do you think you'll get in 'valuing condos in Miami' or 'analyzing a founder's startup' at a PWM firm? My guess is that you'll be doing surface level research just to help the advisers in their sales role. I could be wrong, but the vast majority of wealth advisers I have met are not great investors and really don't have a good grasp of finance.

One thing you should try to do is talk to people that have left the PWM firm, preferably those that previously were in the position you're considering. You'll learn a lot by talking with them.

Apr 20, 2016 - 7:59am
thebrofessor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

full disclosure, I'm in PWM and think it's an excellent career

think long term here bud. what's your goal? if your goal is to be in PWM, managing clients & assets, then take that job. if you'd rather be on the buyside someday managing portfolios, PWM may very well pigeonhole you. here's the reason: your PWM firm is probably okay, but if you were to mention it to Dodge & Cox, would they know who they are? likely not (unless they're both in SF). will every buyside firm have heard of the Big 4? ABSOLUTELY.

here's what I don't know, whether or not you can move from big 4 to buyside any easier, but what I know is that it will be extremely unlikely to move from PWM to anything outside PWM. sure, you could go family office, maybe to a private bank investment management role, but good luck with anything beyond that. an exception would be if your group does GIPS audited strategies, you could take that to a money management firm and likely get a hearing.

my gut is telling me the PWM guys are sharing a handful of the exciting projects with you to get you to take the job, and my experience tells me very few PWM analysts have extremely interesting day to day jobs. even if you take it, realize it's not all roses, and the analysis you do for clients will be much less complex than you probably think.

Apr 21, 2016 - 4:00pm
BillBelichick37, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Good points, I just think PWM (Especially family office types) are much more loose about job titles. Some even think that PWM is related to IB. I think OP would be better served in PB/PWM at a BB, but I don't think that I have the credentials to give that kind of advice. I'm sure you would agree that as a PM yourself, it is much different than an equities PM at Fidelity, a HF PM, or even these PMs that manage a book of retail banking loans.

Apr 20, 2016 - 1:03pm
BobTheBaker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This dude is going into audit, is that really a better segway to the buy-side than PWM analyst (would be much different if this were valuation/advisory)? Especially one that does actual research and zero sales? The money is also better... I don't want to disagree with someone as knowledgeable as thebrofessor but it just doesn't seem to make sense.


  • 1
Apr 20, 2016 - 1:39pm
models_and_bottles, what's your opinion? Comment below:
This dude is going into audit, is that really a better segway to the buy-side than PWM analyst (would be much different if this were valuation/advisory)?

The brand would definitely be better. As broprofessor mentioned, I've seen people go from Big 4 into a buy side role, though usually with a stop in the mid or back office first or by attending a top MBA program. Being able to understand and analyze financial statements is critical on the buy side.

If you put two candidates side by side, one with a Big 4 resume and one with a wealth management firm, most firms would choose to interview the Big 4 candidate. It's a safer choice, if that makes sense.

Especially one that does actual research and zero sales?

This is the part I don't understand in the OP. Most wealth management firms aren't doing very much research. Without specifics it's hard to say what type of experience he/she will actually be getting. That's why I recommend talking to a former employee.

The money is also better

The compensation difference is trivial. OP needs to do what's best long term. I thought 15k was a big deal when I was an undergrad and now realize it's a very, very small amount. The career decisions you make and routes those decisions open up can have a much greater present value than your year 1-3 income.

Apr 21, 2016 - 6:38pm
saxxyman, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think Models and Brofessor summarized it perfectly.

Big 4 RELATIVE to PWM it's easier to get to AM. It's NOT EASY to get into buy side. It's hard however you try. Likely that you'll need to get MBA @ top school regardless.PWM tends to stay in PWM - you might have a shot at working at a consultant doing manager research or becoming an asset allocator IF you are doing manager selection at PWM shop. From what you described, sounds like you might be doing that, but the issue here is that PWM is dealing with asset classes, not individual securities and the scope of that is FAR different from understanding financial statements. Lots of relationship management and sales, less focused on pure investing - think about it these guys are worth 7-9 digits, they are all about preservation of capital.

Really up to you. If AM's your true goal, I'd lean to Big 4 too, but take a look into PWM and see if you really want to pursue it - it's no guarantee that if you're in AM you're going to be making big money and you should set up for what you're best at and want to do.

Apr 22, 2016 - 8:51am
JMar, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Neither one is going to push you into a buyside position. That doesn't mean you can't make it into the buyside after finishing your CFA - you can. I would go with where your interests lie. Personally, I would go with PWM as you will get experience working in securities products, asset allocation, possibly private banking services (depending on firm) and maybe even make some good relationships. And I have seen people move from PWM - usually starting their own HF. It's pretty easy if you have several 7 and 8 figure accounts. These people trust you with their money and they'll follow you to whatever new venture you're on to. However if you have those kind of assets you usually get complacent and just sit back and collect.

Apr 22, 2016 - 11:17am
Mephistopheles, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've seen people go Big 4 --> IBD --> Buy-side, I've also seen people go PWM --> IBD --> Buy-side. There's a common thread here and no matter what you do I think you'll have to take a somewhat circuitous route. It's just deciding which one will make it easier for you to make the jump to IBD.

Apr 22, 2016 - 12:01pm
JMar, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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