Better Exit Opportunities Big 4 Audit or Advisory?

Amylia's picture
Rank: Chimp | 10

I have been studying about this topic and I wanted to ask purely in terms of the exit opps available for big 4 audit/advisory.

I majored accounting and I didn't think twice about getting into big 4 audit... until I read and came to realize how unpopular audit is. I am not completely bummed though, because there are alternative choices that branch out somewhere down the road (maybe 3-5 years). I don't mind working intense hours for little $ as long as there is hope! With that being said, I just wanted to compare the exit opps for audit and advisory. Advisory sounds super interesting, and I would love to make the switch one day (I am aware it is difficult. Everyone wants to make that happen!). I just feel that it's important to know what options might be available and where I want to go into after big 4. Currently, I don't know what exactly I wanna do after those big 4 years.

I hear that audit often leads to jobs like controller, which I am not so interested in. I am more interested in FP&A type of position. I would also love to be a CFO of a corporation. Would advisory give you more options in the future? In big 4, advisory salary is a lot higher than audit... is this difference likely to continue even after the exit? If advisory leads to jobs in i-banking, which level in i-banking would you be promoted to?

Thank you!

Exit Opportunities: Big 4 Audit Vs. Advisory

Getting into the big 4, especially in audit, can make for a very promising career. Advisory careers with a company like KPMG can be extremely fruitful. A career in audit can also lead to a lucrative future with great livability, but it doesn't come without its obstacles. In the big 4 there are very exceptional professionals and very talented, motivated beginners. But, in the words of user @MistaBooks:

The problem with Big 4 is that the quality of people in the middle is very poor. Meaning there are a lot of very smart / hard working people that start as associates and then leave within two years and there are a lot of partners who are very knowledgable and great leaders. The problem is that in the middle of those two groups there is an enormous amount of people (seniors/managers/etc) who are completely clueless and are just hanging on to their job as long as they possibly can.

They also mentioned that if you are talented and can rough it out for about 18 months you will have doors to opportunity open up all around you.
User @NYU gave a less optimistic word of advise and a nod to advisory:

Hours get to be bad during busy season, and the pay is not good. It's a grind and the Partners don't make as much money as they used to, nor do they have the lifestyle they used to. If you're going to work long hours for not a lot of money you may as well do it right and go advisory, or better yet banking.

According to user @808, the typical exit opportunities in auditing are:

  • Staff accountant
  • Something more finance- or management-related
  • Accounting manager (manager of financial reporting, internal audit manager, etc.)
  • Controller/Accounting director (director of financial reporting, director of internal audit, etc.)
  • VP Finance
  • CFO

Advisory usually gives you a little more diversity in your possible career. Because you are building a one-on-one relationship with clients you can develop a wide range of skills. You can develop more tax-heavy skills, you can consult with financial fields like hedge funds, you can develop your law skills and get a law degree to advise on legal matters and you can develop quite a few other optional skill sets. Eventually you can work your way up to partner at a firm or venture out on your own. Freelance advisors often make plenty of money while making their own hours and traveling often.

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Comments (38)

Sep 7, 2012

I did audit. Hours get to be bad during busy season, and the pay is not good. It's a grind and the Partners don't make as much money as they used to, nor do they have the lifestyle they used to. Clients, even the ones who are nice, do NOT like you. They didn't "hire" you. Audits are a requirement.

While I was there I watched people drop out of Big 4 and the attitude that permeated the audit room was the same as when I pledged a fraternity and someone dropped. 'They couldn't hack it and therefore they don't get the reward at the end of this'. Bullshit. I drank the Kool Aid for way too long. If you're going to work long hours for not a lot of money you may as well do it right and go advisory, or better yet banking. You'll learn as much accounting as you would auditing. Plus nobody in finance really cares about a CPA.

I got extremely lucky to get my next opportunity (it was a headhunter call and for once I answered and he had a lofty position I wasn't qualified for but somehow obtained) outside of accounting. But the longer you stay, the more you get pigeon holed as an accountant.

Jul 26, 2017

What job "outside of accounting" did you end up going into?

Jul 27, 2017

.

Sep 7, 2012

You're going to have to define advisory. Some advisory positions are much worse than audit, and some are much better. Either way, don't let WSO get you down on audit too much. The Big 4 are consistently ranked the best place to launch a career for a reason.

    • 1
Sep 7, 2012
808:

You're going to have to define advisory. Some advisory positions are much worse than audit, and some are much better. Either way, don't let WSO get you down on audit too much. The Big 4 are consistently ranked the best place to launch a career for a reason.

Very true. The job sucks ass, but put in 18 months and you will have plenty of opportunity if you are an ambitioius / smart person. The problem with Big 4 is that the quality of people in the middle is very poor. Meaning there are a lot of very smart / hard working people that start as associates and then leave within two years and there are a lot of partners who are very knowledgable and great leaders. The problem is that in the middle of those two groups there is an enormous amout of people (seniors/managers/etc) who are completely clueless and are just hanging on to their job as long as they possibly can. Big 4 firms don't fire people, that is the problem, so there are a lot of zombies walking around that have been around for 4-10 years who will never make anything of themselves.

Try to avoid these people at all costs and get out asap. I'm in the middle of the battle right now (just hit one year) and am not sure how much longer I can stand this - BUT I am starting to get some great interviews / recruiters calling / hearing about people who are just hitting two years leaving for legit non-accy jobs.

    • 2
Sep 7, 2012
MistaBooks:
808:

You're going to have to define advisory. Some advisory positions are much worse than audit, and some are much better. Either way, don't let WSO get you down on audit too much. The Big 4 are consistently ranked the best place to launch a career for a reason.

Very true. The job sucks ass, but put in 18 months and you will have plenty of opportunity if you are an ambitioius / smart person. The problem with Big 4 is that the quality of people in the middle is very poor. Meaning there are a lot of very smart / hard working people that start as associates and then leave within two years and there are a lot of partners who are very knowledgable and great leaders. The problem is that in the middle of those two groups there is an enormous amout of people (seniors/managers/etc) who are completely clueless and are just hanging on to their job as long as they possibly can. Big 4 firms don't fire people, that is the problem, so there are a lot of zombies walking around that have been around for 4-10 years who will never make anything of themselves.

Try to avoid these people at all costs and get out asap. I'm in the middle of the battle right now (just hit one year) and am not sure how much longer I can stand this - BUT I am starting to get some great interviews / recruiters calling / hearing about people who are just hitting two years leaving for legit non-accy jobs.

What kind of jobs are you going for? I am very interested!

Sep 7, 2012

Outside of IB/Consulting, the Big 4 are considered great places, they do send a lot of people into good jobs after a few years. I would choose audit over some advisory positions, all depends on which

    • 1
Sep 7, 2012

I would not even start with Big 4. If finance is what you want, you are ten times better off going with corp finance or some type of IB or anything Fin related. The accounting perception created by that Big 4 name on your resume, its like a perm tattoo "I am an accountant" and makes it extremely difficult for anyone to consider you for anything else even if you know your finance inside-out. However, if you have connections to get an interview and know your stuff - you will be good. I felt the same way going into Big 4 and I wish I chose a finance alternative. The only reason why should you consider Big 4 over some small shop is job security but again that depends on your personal preference. On the other side if you want to do accounting, any Big 4 firm is the best place to start! Also, since you consider doing corporate finance, before joining some Big 4 check who your firm's clients are and would you want to work in that particular industry - because with Big 4 accounting exposure opportunities are endless and you might as choose right one from the start.

Audit exits: controller, corp financial analyst, compliance, policy maker at SEC, fund accountant or if you stay long enough you might receive a CFO opportunity.

Advisory exits: really depends on what type of advisory.

    • 1
Sep 7, 2012

Thank you all, I very much appreciate the feedback. It'd be great if I can get to know more about the possible exit opportunities. By advisory, let's just say transaction services...

There is no way I could have gone in i-banking straight out of college in the US(I come from okay college. My resume wasn't all that impressive and my major was accounting). I could have landed in i-banking in my home country though. In fact, I had an offer from one of the banks there. Instead, I chose to take the audit job and stay here.

I am not sure what I am really interested quite yet. I definitely need to learn variety of positions and what they really do. Unlike many people on this website, I do like both accounting and finance. That is why I was thinking corp jobs like FP&A sound attractive because those positions let you interact with many aspects of a company. But again, I want to get a list of positions that may be available for me in either audit or advisory (transaction services for instance) so I can have some perspectives.

Sep 7, 2012

My perception is that as a general statement, Big 4 transaction services makes you sort of a junior banker, or a middle office kind of person. If your ultimate goal is investment banking, it will give you much more relevant experience. It will be relatively easy to get into a small IB (as compared to the possibility from audit).

This is not to say that transaction services is necessarily better. Here is the basic breakout of people from audit as I see it.

1) Bottom of the class - Maybe smart (often not), but hates audit and exits to industry after a year or so. Stays a staff accountant for a long, long time unless they exit to a different career altogether, such as HR.

2) Middle of the class - Often lasts a lot longer. Probably enjoys their job to a certain extent, sticks around until manager or so, and then often exits into industry when they want to commit more time to a family or start to get sick of auditing. What position you get depends entirely on the size of the company. Some exit to be CFO of a tiny company, and some exit to be some sort of manager (manager of external reporting, director of collections, manager of internal audit, etc.) at a large F500. Also might stay until partner.

3) Top of the class - Exits as a senior and takes a different job in something more finance- or management-related, or is an accounting genius and stays to senior manager/director/partner.

These are sweeping generalizations of course, but there is a general trend this way in the people I know. So if you take the audit route, your usual options depending on how long you stay go something like this:

-Staff accountant
-Something more finance- or management-related
-Accounting manager (manager of financial reporting, internal audit manager, etc.)
-Controller/Accounting director (director of financial reporting, director of internal audit, etc.)
-VP Finance
-CFO

Join the Big 4 Accounting Group below. I will be continuing to create posts that address common questions like this in more detail. PM me if you have very specific questions.

Sep 7, 2012
808:

My perception is that as a general statement, Big 4 transaction services makes you sort of a junior banker, or a middle office kind of person. If your ultimate goal is investment banking, it will give you much more relevant experience. It will be relatively easy to get into a small IB (as compared to the possibility from audit).

This is not to say that transaction services is necessarily better. Here is the basic breakout of people from audit as I see it.

1) Bottom of the class - Maybe smart (often not), but hates audit and exits to industry after a year or so. Stays a staff accountant for a long, long time unless they exit to a different career altogether, such as HR.

2) Middle of the class - Often lasts a lot longer. Probably enjoys their job to a certain extent, sticks around until manager or so, and then often exits into industry when they want to commit more time to a family or start to get sick of auditing. What position you get depends entirely on the size of the company. Some exit to be CFO of a tiny company, and some exit to be some sort of manager (manager of external reporting, director of collections, manager of internal audit, etc.) at a large F500. Also might stay until partner.

3) Top of the class - Exits as a senior and takes a different job in something more finance- or management-related, or is an accounting genius and stays to senior manager/director/partner.

These are sweeping generalizations of course, but there is a general trend this way in the people I know. So if you take the audit route, your usual options depending on how long you stay go something like this:

-Staff accountant
-Something more finance- or management-related
-Accounting manager (manager of financial reporting, internal audit manager, etc.)
-Controller/Accounting director (director of financial reporting, director of internal audit, etc.)
-VP Finance
-CFO

Join the Big 4 Accounting Group below. I will be continuing to create posts that address common questions like this in more detail. PM me if you have very specific questions.

Great post 808, very helpful from the perspective of a junior year accounting student. Just had a social with BAP hosted by PwC, and I think I'm started to sip the kool-aid already.

Oct 16, 2012

VERY informative. Really cleared up a lot of questions for me.

Sep 7, 2012

808: Great breakdown! You definitely provided me the info I was looking for..

I'd love to get more advice on this:)

Best Response
Sep 11, 2012

Most of what's been said already is pretty accurate. If you want to do anything accounting related, including FP&A, there's no question that Big 4 is one of the best places to start your career. In fact, I'd even argue that there are certain advantages to Big 4 that investment banking doesn't have. You're in a client facing role much earlier in Big 4, the culture is certainly better, there's a lot more emphasis on personal development and training, etc. Don't get me wrong, IB certainly has it's advantages (exit opportunities to higher paying jobs and "prestige"), but Big 4 really isn't as bad people make it out to be, ESPECIALLY on this forum. For the record, I was in Big 4 for more than a year before lateraling to an investment bank (currently in my analyst stint).

Just a couple of things I wanted to clarify or build upon (in no particularly coherent order, just whatever came to my mind first):

1) FP&A is very possible from Big 4 Audit. Just talk to some recruiters or check some career websites, you'll see plenty of FP&A positions asking for Big 4 audit + CPA experience. You don't necessarily need heavy technical valuation knowledge or transaction experience that Corporate Development needs for FP&A. You're dealing with the projected financials and budgeting, something you'll become very familiar with by the time you do a year or two of audit. Hell, a ton of companies hire from OCR into entry level FP&A roles.

2) You can't just go into TS/TAS Financial Due Diligence (or the various names for it) right out of school, or at least historically this hasn't been the case. It's very possible to go into Valuations group of TS/TAS, but not M&A due diligence. That group is typically only recruits from top performing Senior Associates. During a M&A process, the buyer will hire TS/TAS to produce "quality of earnings" reports. Basically you're just looking to find a proforma EBITDA that can be used for valuation (or some other kind of metric that a multiple can be applied to). I've never personally worked in TS/TAS, but from speaking with various people that, it's basically a more advanced version of audit focusing on specific accounts that are relevant for a M&A transaction as opposed to the broader financial statement. Naturally, audit is the building foundation for skills necessary for TS/TAS.

3) From a pay vs hours perspective, yeah Big 4 blows. There are times throughout the year where you're barely working 40 hours a week, but average out the year, it's not a 9-5 job by any means. I had several "busy seasons" and was out of town for a good 4 months out of the year when I worked in Big 4. My base salary sucked and my raise sucked even more. While Big 4 raises compared to industry positions is nice, it's a joke compared to IB (as obvious as that sounds). I actually feel the worst for Senior Managers. Senior Associates like to say they have it the worst, but I don't believe so. My guess is a Senior Manager in audit makes between $140K-$200K depending on market and what level. Problem is that they work an obscene amount of hours given how many years of experience they have. That salary is pretty comparable to a 2nd or 3rd year IB analyst...but it took them at least 9 or 10 years to get to a senior manager level. And at that point, they're kind of "stuck" in a grey zone. Do they go into industry for maybe slightly better compensation and better hours when there's the partner-carrot tangling right in front of them? Tough dilemma...

That said, if you're halfway decent and don't take the first job offer you get, it's not hard to get a nice little salary bump going into industry and cruise your way into middle class and have a nice comfortable life. You won't be living extravagantly (granted everyone has their own meaning of that), but you're by no means poor. Big 4 has exit opps, there's no question about that. Maybe not to buyside making $1MM+, but you're much better off than most people.

4) There is a big of a misconception on going Big 4 to IB. First of all, this is very possible. You might not go from Big 4 to a BB like GS/MS/JPM/etc or an elite boutique like Moelis/Lizard/Evercore/etc right away, but into a MM or boutique investment bank is VERY possible. If you can convince your interviewer that you're seriously interested in IB, i.e. have a good story and study up on your technicals, you have at least a shot at a job offer from a MM or boutique. The familiarity with financial statements is extremely helpful in IB. I've had my fair share of interviews with IB firms and I honestly haven't come across any senior level banker that looked down on Big 4 experience. What does happen if you're in Big 4 now looking to go into IB, you're recruiting for off cycle hires, which means immediate starts. They [IB] want someone that can hit the ground running because they need to fill a position that opened up either because an analyst left early or because sudden increase in deal flow. Well, especially in this shitty economy, a Big 4 auditor will have to most likely compete with another candidate that already has direct IB experience. That's where the challenge of recruiting comes from. Not from the fact that Big 4 is actually looked down upon, but because scarcity of openings for off cycle hires.

The other thing to know is that honestly most auditors don't give a shit about IB. Majority of people in Big 4 leave because they want better work life balance. Why the fuck would they want to go into IB where they'll just get shitted on even more? Don't assume that just because you don't see Big 4 --> IB very often, it's only because there's a negative perception of auditors in IB. Let's be honest here, it's not like an IB analyst is really doing that much more meaningful work than an auditor...

My best advice to you, just make the best out of whatever you have. Perform well at the job that you're hired into, be positive, work towards some kind of goal in life, but learn to be grateful of what you have. Honestly, everyone bitches and complains about their job and compensation. IB analysts are notorious for being the biggest whiners. And that "chase" never ends if you let it get to you. Boutique analysts want to go to MM. MM wants to go to BB/PE/IB. BB wants to go to mega funds...blah blah blah. If you spend all your energy thinking about how shitty your job is right now, you'll probably think the exact same thing at any other job. I'm not saying that there's no merit for complaints (audit or IB), but either way, you're not in THAT bad of a place. At least you're in a job that builds skills that will let you advance in your career. If you're good, you're good and you'll figure out some way to get to where you want to go.

Feel free to ask me any more specific questions.

    • 24
Sep 19, 2012
needtodecide:

Most of what's been said already is pretty accurate. If you want to do anything accounting related, including FP&A, there's no question that Big 4 is one of the best places to start your career. In fact, I'd even argue that there are certain advantages to Big 4 that investment banking doesn't have. You're in a client facing role much earlier in Big 4, the culture is certainly better, there's a lot more emphasis on personal development and training, etc. Don't get me wrong, IB certainly has it's advantages (exit opportunities to higher paying jobs and "prestige"), but Big 4 really isn't as bad people make it out to be, ESPECIALLY on this forum. For the record, I was in Big 4 for more than a year before lateraling to an investment bank (currently in my analyst stint).

Just a couple of things I wanted to clarify or build upon (in no particularly coherent order, just whatever came to my mind first):

1) FP&A is very possible from Big 4 Audit. Just talk to some recruiters or check some career websites, you'll see plenty of FP&A positions asking for Big 4 audit + CPA experience. You don't necessarily need heavy technical valuation knowledge or transaction experience that Corporate Development needs for FP&A. You're dealing with the projected financials and budgeting, something you'll become very familiar with by the time you do a year or two of audit. Hell, a ton of companies hire from OCR into entry level FP&A roles.

2) You can't just go into TS/TAS Financial Due Diligence (or the various names for it) right out of school, or at least historically this hasn't been the case. It's very possible to go into Valuations group of TS/TAS, but not M&A due diligence. That group is typically only recruits from top performing Senior Associates. During a M&A process, the buyer will hire TS/TAS to produce "quality of earnings" reports. Basically you're just looking to find a proforma EBITDA that can be used for valuation (or some other kind of metric that a multiple can be applied to). I've never personally worked in TS/TAS, but from speaking with various people that, it's basically a more advanced version of audit focusing on specific accounts that are relevant for a M&A transaction as opposed to the broader financial statement. Naturally, audit is the building foundation for skills necessary for TS/TAS.

3) From a pay vs hours perspective, yeah Big 4 blows. There are times throughout the year where you're barely working 40 hours a week, but average out the year, it's not a 9-5 job by any means. I had several "busy seasons" and was out of town for a good 4 months out of the year when I worked in Big 4. My base salary sucked and my raise sucked even more. While Big 4 raises compared to industry positions is nice, it's a joke compared to IB (as obvious as that sounds). I actually feel the worst for Senior Managers. Senior Associates like to say they have it the worst, but I don't believe so. My guess is a Senior Manager in audit makes between $140K-$200K depending on market and what level. Problem is that they work an obscene amount of hours given how many years of experience they have. That salary is pretty comparable to a 2nd or 3rd year IB analyst...but it took them at least 9 or 10 years to get to a senior manager level. And at that point, they're kind of "stuck" in a grey zone. Do they go into industry for maybe slightly better compensation and better hours when there's the partner-carrot tangling right in front of them? Tough dilemma...

That said, if you're halfway decent and don't take the first job offer you get, it's not hard to get a nice little salary bump going into industry and cruise your way into middle class and have a nice comfortable life. You won't be living extravagantly (granted everyone has their own meaning of that), but you're by no means poor. Big 4 has exit opps, there's no question about that. Maybe not to buyside making $1MM+, but you're much better off than most people.

4) There is a big of a misconception on going Big 4 to IB. First of all, this is very possible. You might not go from Big 4 to a BB like GS/MS/JPM/etc or an elite boutique like Moelis/Lizard/Evercore/etc right away, but into a MM or boutique investment bank is VERY possible. If you can convince your interviewer that you're seriously interested in IB, i.e. have a good story and study up on your technicals, you have at least a shot at a job offer from a MM or boutique. The familiarity with financial statements is extremely helpful in IB. I've had my fair share of interviews with IB firms and I honestly haven't come across any senior level banker that looked down on Big 4 experience. What does happen if you're in Big 4 now looking to go into IB, you're recruiting for off cycle hires, which means immediate starts. They [IB] want someone that can hit the ground running because they need to fill a position that opened up either because an analyst left early or because sudden increase in deal flow. Well, especially in this shitty economy, a Big 4 auditor will have to most likely compete with another candidate that already has direct IB experience. That's where the challenge of recruiting comes from. Not from the fact that Big 4 is actually looked down upon, but because scarcity of openings for off cycle hires.

The other thing to know is that honestly most auditors don't give a shit about IB. Majority of people in Big 4 leave because they want better work life balance. Why the fuck would they want to go into IB where they'll just get shitted on even more? Don't assume that just because you don't see Big 4 --> IB very often, it's only because there's a negative perception of auditors in IB. Let's be honest here, it's not like an IB analyst is really doing that much more meaningful work than an auditor...

My best advice to you, just make the best out of whatever you have. Perform well at the job that you're hired into, be positive, work towards some kind of goal in life, but learn to be grateful of what you have. Honestly, everyone bitches and complains about their job and compensation. IB analysts are notorious for being the biggest whiners. And that "chase" never ends if you let it get to you. Boutique analysts want to go to MM. MM wants to go to BB/PE/IB. BB wants to go to mega funds...blah blah blah. If you spend all your energy thinking about how shitty your job is right now, you'll probably think the exact same thing at any other job. I'm not saying that there's no merit for complaints (audit or IB), but either way, you're not in THAT bad of a place. At least you're in a job that builds skills that will let you advance in your career. If you're good, you're good and you'll figure out some way to get to where you want to go.

Feel free to ask me any more specific questions.

I think this is a good post. I would just clarify a few things from personal experience. You can go TS/TAS straight out of school. KPMG does the biggest TS recruiting from school and EY's TAS group is also rather large (although this is a joint program with audit/TAS for the first 2 years). Also, TS/TAS does financial due diligence on M&A deals, as stated, however the description of an audit is completely off base. An audit is a verification process. No matter if it is an SEC audit or an IRS audit, your mind should go to verification. FDD is basically an advisory role to PE and corporate clients in a transaction. As stated, they will be paying a multiple of EBITDA so the TS/TAS groups are hired to come up with a pro-forma/recurring EBITDA number. It isn't verifying what the target company tells you is in their financials but more about how they account for numbers and how their business affects the accounting and earnings number. Very different roles, and it is usually a transition for people coming from audit to mentally switch from 'verify this number' mindset. Most adjustments the TS/TAS report will come up with are not 'audit' adjustments. Usually you are taking audited financials as the starting point and understanding the true earnings of the business.

BTW, pay isn't much better at lower levels for TS/TAS vs. audit/tax. Higher you go the larger the separation, but we're not talking IB money. Exit opps have been good to my group. I went buy-side analyst role after 2 years. Others that have left went PE, corp dev, mezz fund, other smaller TS groups and restructuring firms.

Nov 12, 2013

Thank you for your post. I'm currently interviewing with the PWC's TAS service and it says the first two years I will be based in Audit. I also have a strong interest of getting into buyside in the future. And I'm just wondering when is the best time for me to seek the move coz the first two years I think it'll be no more like Audit and I may only be able to work on TAS job in the third year.

Nov 19, 2015

This is great insight.... I hope you can give me some guidance as well to make a decision on my job offers,...Similarly, I am struggling to decide where to begin my career so that I can later get into Industry FP&A , upper management or business strategy consulting roles.... I have many offers in audit (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG), but I also have EY risk advisory (which I understand to be IT audit?) and also the JPM financial analyst development program in NY.... What would you suggest to be my best route? (I believe that I won't like audit at all btw)... Any advice would be appreciated!

Sep 27, 2016

Hello! I came across your post and I just have a few quick questions regarding how you made the move from big 4 audit to IB. I know this post was posted like 4 years ago but hopefully you will see my message. Just a few quick questions:

  1. Whats your thought of completing the CPA before making the move?
  2. How long should you stay in audit before starting to recruit for IB?
  3. I am thinking of doing the plan B (audit to TAS to IB) if audit to IB is not possible, in terms of making that transition, any advice?

Thanks!

Sep 18, 2012

So a lot of talk here about audit and exit opps. What about tax? From what I understand, if one isn't planning on making partner, then big 4 audit gives the opportunity for controller/CFO type jobs. I also hear that if you wanted to start your own accounting firm, tax would be the better option. What are some pros and cons of this?

Sep 18, 2012
themightycat:

So a lot of talk here about audit and exit opps. What about tax? From what I understand, if one isn't planning on making partner, then big 4 audit gives the opportunity for controller/CFO type jobs. I also hear that if you wanted to start your own accounting firm, tax would be the better option. What are some pros and cons of this?

Being in tax is like being a doctor or a plumber - you have a specialized skill that is useful, but not necessarily transferable. Audit, in comparison, gives you a ton of practical general financial and management experience, meaning you can move easily to an industry management role. It is possible but more rare for a tax accountant to go the same path - at some point they will need to switch to a role where they are doing much more than tax.

Most people who start their own accounting firm are doing bookkeeping and tax services for small businesses because those services are much easier to sell. I've never heard of an accounting startup surviving purely on audit. If that is your goal, I would recommend working at a local or regional public accounting firm where you will be doing both audit and tax. The audit experience will allow you to do the bookkeeping and the tax experience, obviously, will allow you to do the tax.

Sep 18, 2012
808:
themightycat:

So a lot of talk here about audit and exit opps. What about tax? From what I understand, if one isn't planning on making partner, then big 4 audit gives the opportunity for controller/CFO type jobs. I also hear that if you wanted to start your own accounting firm, tax would be the better option. What are some pros and cons of this?

Being in tax is like being a doctor or a plumber - you have a specialized skill that is useful, but not necessarily transferable. Audit, in comparison, gives you a ton of practical general financial and management experience, meaning you can move easily to an industry management role. It is possible but more rare for a tax accountant to go the same path - at some point they will need to switch to a role where they are doing much more than tax.

Most people who start their own accounting firm are doing bookkeeping and tax services for small businesses because those services are much easier to sell. I've never heard of an accounting startup surviving purely on audit. If that is your goal, I would recommend working at a local or regional public accounting firm where you will be doing both audit and tax. The audit experience will allow you to do the bookkeeping and the tax experience, obviously, will allow you to do the tax.

I agree with this - I will say though that I know of two individuals (parents age) who worked in Big 4 tax for a few years doing individual returns, etc. (not sure what all that group covers) and they have started their own firms and have been extremely successful.

They both do tax returns for wealthy families and estate planning etc. as well as money management. So, if you wanted to take that route, you can def. make good money. I know that both of these men keep close contact with their Big 4 firms and every few years pick off an all-star from the individual tax group and pay them great money.

Sep 18, 2012

I am interviewing with a valuation advisory group right now (M&A, equity/transaction valuation, forensic accounting). It's a small shop, but the skills are unbelievably transferable, which is why I'm so highly drawn to it. Of the five partners, a couple are complete accounting nerds with JDs that are hired to advise and assist in legal proceedings. The other three have their CFAs and consult with hedge funds, private equity funds, and buy side firms on deals ranging from M&A to equity offerings. Analysts/associates that don't stay with the firm can go into law, IBD, accounting, consulting, ER, HF research, essentially anything..

Point being: the essence of advisory is that it is multifarious. You build direct relationships with clients (sometimes even at the analyst level) and learn far more about a business than just its taxes or SOX controls. If you're like me--and it sounds like you are--you aren't exactly sure what you want, just that you want to work hard and be good at it. If nothing changes, a few years down the road I'll want to go buyside, having years of equity valuation under my belt. If I like M&A, maybe I'll go IBD or get my JD and join a law firm. If it turns out I enjoy working with the client and traveling, I'll stay with the firm or pursue a similar consulting career. This is extremely biased because I've never worked in Big 4, but I would be surprised if those same outlets are available. Just my $.02

Sep 22, 2012

You know I've been reading this forum on and off and I know this is primarily a finance/banking forum so people may be biased, but it seems like a lot of people either trash accounting or want to transition into finance from a big 4 or something similar.

I'm still in school, and as an accounting major, it is pretty much the only thing I get exposed to. I go to career fairs, business frats and they tell me about my internships, difference between audit/tax and other such things. But I still really don't know what it all means. I haven't taken an audit/tax course yet and I sure as hell don't know what you guys mean when you talk about investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, etc.

So my question is, where do I learn all of this? How do all of the people on here who seemed to have been an accounting major, got a job at big 4, end up knowing about finance and actually wanting to move into it despite not being a finance major or having a CFA or related qualifications but a CPA and accounting degree?

Is this something I should be concerning myself with? Should I not only be looking at industry exit-opp but also the finance side of things, especially once I land a job at the big 4?

Sep 22, 2012
themightycat:

You know I've been reading this forum on and off and I know this is primarily a finance/banking forum so people may be biased, but it seems like a lot of people either trash accounting or want to transition into finance from a big 4 or something similar.

I'm still in school, and as an accounting major, it is pretty much the only thing I get exposed to. I go to career fairs, business frats and they tell me about my internships, difference between audit/tax and other such things. But I still really don't know what it all means. I haven't taken an audit/tax course yet and I sure as hell don't know what you guys mean when you talk about investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, etc.

So my question is, where do I learn all of this? How do all of the people on here who seemed to have been an accounting major, got a job at big 4, end up knowing about finance and actually wanting to move into it despite not being a finance major or having a CFA or related qualifications but a CPA and accounting degree?

Is this something I should be concerning myself with? Should I not only be looking at industry exit-opp but also the finance side of things, especially once I land a job at the big 4?

I dont actually have an accounting degree as I'm still in college, but I basically learned about the finance side of things just by reading on here. Come across a term you dont know? Google it. Thats about it. It takes time, but you'll start understanding things.

Just be warned, before I started learning about HF, PE, ER, and the like, I was feeling good about my post-Big 4 career and salary prospects. Now, I'm finding $200,000 a year to be not all that impressive, when its in fact a very nice cushy income.

Sep 23, 2012
Art.Vandelay:
themightycat:

You know I've been reading this forum on and off and I know this is primarily a finance/banking forum so people may be biased, but it seems like a lot of people either trash accounting or want to transition into finance from a big 4 or something similar.

I'm still in school, and as an accounting major, it is pretty much the only thing I get exposed to. I go to career fairs, business frats and they tell me about my internships, difference between audit/tax and other such things. But I still really don't know what it all means. I haven't taken an audit/tax course yet and I sure as hell don't know what you guys mean when you talk about investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, etc.

So my question is, where do I learn all of this? How do all of the people on here who seemed to have been an accounting major, got a job at big 4, end up knowing about finance and actually wanting to move into it despite not being a finance major or having a CFA or related qualifications but a CPA and accounting degree?

Is this something I should be concerning myself with? Should I not only be looking at industry exit-opp but also the finance side of things, especially once I land a job at the big 4?

I dont actually have an accounting degree as I'm still in college, but I basically learned about the finance side of things just by reading on here. Come across a term you dont know? Google it. Thats about it. It takes time, but you'll start understanding things.

Just be warned, before I started learning about HF, PE, ER, and the like, I was feeling good about my post-Big 4 career and salary prospects. Now, I'm finding $200,000 a year to be not all that impressive, when its in fact a very nice cushy income.

I think it's very easy to be overly ambitious while you're still in school and haven't really worked yet. I used to think that to make good money you can't be an employee. My parents own millions of dollars in real estate and they make bank, rent from residential properties and commercial ones like shopping centers. My parents basically told me to study whatever I wanted in college and that I didn't really need to concern myself too much, just that I enjoyed myself. So by this I assumed that they had plans for my future career, but they never actually told me what that was. But right now, I say screw that. I don't wanna sit around waiting for things to happen so I'm gonna go ahead and major in accounting, get my CPA, work at a big 4, and that's all I have right now. I based my decision on the fact that this route will give me a solid foundation on financial expertise that pretty much will carry over to anything I do in the future. I never intended to be an accountant but I believe there is a wealth of knowledge and experience waiting for me out there to further my career.

I'm just trying to think. What happens after that? Should I be looking at banking-related careers? I guess I'll read up on it like you said. I also wanted to look into a real estate program that my university has but I honestly don't see how I'm going to manage that with my accounting program plus I'm probably biting off way more than I can chew right now.

Oct 12, 2012

Does anyone know how much Big Four Advisory pays? Specifically in EPM/BI practice?

I'm actively interviewing with one of them right now.

Also, how easy is it to switch from EPM advisory to something like Strategy or Financial advisory?

Oct 12, 2012
slim_ibd_shady:

Does anyone know how much Big Four Advisory pays? Specifically in EPM/BI practice?

I'm actively interviewing with one of them right now.

Also, how easy is it to switch from EPM advisory to something like Strategy or Financial advisory?

What city? What level?

Oct 12, 2012
slim_ibd_shady:

Does anyone know how much Big Four Advisory pays? Specifically in EPM/BI practice?

I'm actively interviewing with one of them right now.

Also, how easy is it to switch from EPM advisory to something like Strategy or Financial advisory?

What city? What level?

Oct 13, 2012
Highway Robbery:
slim_ibd_shady:

Does anyone know how much Big Four Advisory pays? Specifically in EPM/BI practice?

I'm actively interviewing with one of them right now.

Also, how easy is it to switch from EPM advisory to something like Strategy or Financial advisory?

What city? What level?

For EPM practice - Atlanta, GA; I dont know what level they will put me in yet if i do get selected, I have less than 2 years of experience though.

I should also specify, it's Hyperion. My current salary is already at 65k

Jan 9, 2013
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Jan 9, 2013