Big 4 Audit vs Rotation Program (Not GE) Given my Goals (not PE/HF)

Hi all,

I have an offer with a big 4 audit firm in a major metro area and a Rotation program with a F500 company and don't know what to do. I was wondering if you all could help me out given my goals, which differ from many on here.(+ = pro, - = con just to clarify)

Big 4 Audit
+Exposure to a variety of industries and clients
+Lots of young people my age
+Geographic flexibility (I do not want to work in megacity long-term and want to live in a place that's slower-paced and has cheaper COL) within the US
+Opportunities to work abroad
+Potential to work on M&A/Advisory projects
-Could get pigeon-holed as an accountant
-Work-life Balance sucks
-Pay is way below what the rotation is offering

Corporate Program:
+Ability to potentially get on finance-oriented rotations and network with finance professionals in the company
+Exceptional pay, especially given the city I'm located in
+Work-life balance is exceptional
+On fast track to be promoted within the company
-The city that I work in sucks when I'm young and single
-No control over what rotation I get until the last one
-Zero geographic flexibility
-I am 95% sure that I will not want to stick with this firm long-term since it's in an industry I loathe
-Potential to get pigeon-holed in an industry I want to be no part of
-Corporate politics mean that I could either rise up quickly if I get on peoples' good sides or stagnate and get surpassed by my big 4 counterparts who are essentially guaranteed salary increases
-Less people my age and didn't like the people I spoke with as much in general

I'm wondering what WSO has to say about this. Unlike I lot of people, I'm not looking to become financial wizard of the universe and getting into PE/HFs. My long-term goal is either a strategic finance/corporate development position where I'd be quantitatively analyzing what the firm should be investing in and what makes financial sense for the firm to undertake or being the chief manager of a business unit and being involved in managing the operations of it and helping it expand strategically. I also really want to work in an emerging market in Asia or abroad in general, which is why geographic flexibility is something I keep harping on.

Since my goals are fairly reasonable, I don't think I necessarily need to aim for an MBA business schools">M7 school either. I'm open to getting my MBA, even if I go Big 4, but am aiming at the very least for a school in the UVA, Michigan, UCLA, etc. range (with a scholarship to reduce costs) instead of HSWB. I imagine the MBA will mostly be needed if I either get blocked from promotion (if I start corporate) or if I need to shed my image as a bean-counter and move into a corporate finance role (if I start in audit), so those are my thoughts on that.

If anyone can help me out, I'd greatly appreciate it as my offers are going to explode soon and I need an informed decision.

Thanks!

WSO Elite Modeling Package

  • 6 courses to mastery: Excel, Financial Statement, LBO, M&A, Valuation and DCF
  • Elite instructors from top BB investment banks and private equity megafunds
  • Includes Company DB + Video Library Access (1 year)

Comments (20)

Nov 6, 2013 - 12:15pm

This is a very tough call, I made a very similar decision a couple years ago and decided to go the rotational route.

The first serious pro here is the money. Trust me that the additional salary is very nice, and it seems that a lot of industry jobs have much higher bonuses than Audit. I also think that you have a better chance to set yourself apart in the rotational role. If you perform very well that will be recognized by your company, and usually followed with promotions. In your applications and interviews you would be able to talk about all the improvements you made and how you were one of the first analyst's to get promoted to senior analyst or whatever.

There's a lot to consider here, just wanted to give my perspective. Neither is a bad choice. I have been happy with my experience so far.

Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Best Response
Nov 6, 2013 - 12:53pm

Just to clarify, I'm not leaning one way or another right now. If the firm I was at were like a GE where they are involved in a variety of industries or hell, even if it were in the industry I want, I wouldn't even hesitate to take the corporate job. The issue is that it's NOT at a company I want to stay at long-term or in an industry I like, so the main pros for the industry job are the pay (this is definitely worth considering since it's almost 15k higher), the lifestyle, and the fact that I'd have a chance at getting a finance rotation (whether or not I get it and whether or not the company deems me to be a "good fit" for finance once I graduate is another story though).

I guess what I'm asking is if, for my long-term goals, I'd still have a shot at an FP&A/strategic finance type position from the Big 4 if I do it for 5 years and make manager. Again, I'm open to doing an MBA, ,but I don't want to pay out of my butt for HSW given that I'm NOT interested in PE/HF and just to prove to my employer that I do have an interest in learning the bigger picture fundamentals/strategic implications outside of GAAP (whether or not the coursework of an MBA actually does that is not something I'm convinced of, but I guess you gotta play the game or get played). That's why I'd rather go to a solid state school that I would likely get a scholarship at or an executive MBA program.

I don't know, I'm just ranting now. I'm just wondering why people are so vehemently recommending the Big 4 since it seems everyone else hates the Big 4. Is it just because my interests are more limited to the corporate finance function rather than IB/PE/HF or what?

Nov 6, 2013 - 1:27pm

I read through that thread. The consensus I gathered was that GE FMP was mostly accounting-heavy anyway and that if you want to stay at the company, then it kicks audit's ass since you get fastracked and an audit associate trying to come to GE will be behind the networking curve. If you are unsure about staying at a firm, then B4 audit would likely have similar exit opps. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seemed to me as if the Rotations are mostly great if there's a good chance you want to be a lifer or very long-lifer at a company (i.e. I want to stay at GE till I'm upper-middle management and only after that, I might decide to jump somewhere else), but otherwise, audit would open similar doors and give you more exposure to other clients. Maybe I misinterpreted what I read, but I didn't see any consensus even about a top FRP being better per se. Just depends on what you want to do later on.

Also, just to clarify, this is a well known brand. If I told the average person on the street what company it's for, they'd most likely recognize it. That said, it's not GE/JNJ that are more established, so I don't know where this could fall under in that umbrella of prestigious FLDPs.

EDIT: OK, after re-reading that last post, I know see how you guys think I'm leaning toward the Big 4 lol. That's not my intention though; I promise. I'm just trying to be thorough in making the best decision for me.

Nov 6, 2013 - 1:50pm

If you PM me the company I might be able to give you some better insight into the program. Also, if you shoot me the location I can confirm/deny whether you're right about it being a shitty place for a young person to be. I've never revealed any information someone on here wants to keep quiet, so if you're worried about that you don't have to be.

Looking at your pros and cons list, even though you didn't mean to, it looks like Big 4 might be your best bet. The truth is, Big 4 *apparently* only really hurts for the M7, and even more specifically HWS. According to one adcom I spoke with, don't expect a slot at Stanford unless you're a non-white Big 4 applicant.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee
  • 1
Nov 6, 2013 - 3:24pm

D M:

Looking at your pros and cons list, even though you didn't mean to, it looks like Big 4 might be your best bet.

This. Your list of pros and cons make it seem like big 4 is more aligned with your interests. Another thing- keep in mind while the higher salary would be great, it's not going to be hugely significant if you're only staying in that kind of role for a couple of years and could make a similar salary a few years into big 4/leaving big 4 after a couple of years to go the same kind of job you could get after the rotational program.

I personally would prefer to learn about what's involved in running a large company/work in a large rotational program over audit- but that's irrelevant, and perhaps would be miserable if you really dislike the industry as much as you do.

Out of curiosity, what industry is it in? And why do you dislike it so much?

Nov 10, 2013 - 8:05am

Equities-In-Dallas:

Was in a similar spot as you. Feel free to PM me with specific questions, but I would say Big 4 is in fact more aligned with what your looking for.

PM Sent.

Also, it seems as if the majority of people are recommending Big 4 audit. I'm just wondering if anyone can let me know how possible it is to transition from audit to FP&A at a company after working there for 3-5 years? That's seriously my only concern, otherwise I would have already accepted my offer by now. There seems to be a variety of responses on WSO as to whether or not this is possible, and I'm wondering if anyone can give me an honest answer about how possible an industry finance (not industry accounting, although I know the two are related) position is from the Big 4.

Thanks!

Nov 10, 2013 - 1:23pm

Lester Freamon:

Equities-In-Dallas:

Was in a similar spot as you. Feel free to PM me with specific questions, but I would say Big 4 is in fact more aligned with what your looking for.

PM Sent.

Also, it seems as if the majority of people are recommending Big 4 audit. I'm just wondering if anyone can let me know how possible it is to transition from audit to FP&A at a company after working there for 3-5 years? That's seriously my only concern, otherwise I would have already accepted my offer by now. There seems to be a variety of responses on WSO as to whether or not this is possible, and I'm wondering if anyone can give me an honest answer about how possible an industry finance (not industry accounting, although I know the two are related) position is from the Big 4.

Thanks!

Audit won't transfer to FP&A necessarily (FP&A isn't an accounting role ), but it will transfer to corp fin in general. I just wouldn't spend too long in audit, or you may get pigeon-holed.

Nov 11, 2013 - 4:39pm

In my mind, the situation you layed out has the F500 job acting as a personal sacrifice for professional benefit. The F500 program sounds like it aligns with what you want to do long-term, at least on a functional/experience basis, even though I understand you don't want to stay with that company or industry. But FP&A at Marlboro or something is relatively similar to FP&A at J&J, and the two definitely share more professional similarities than Big 4 audit. I don't think getting pigeon holed in an industry (inside of FP&A) should be a serious concern as a young professional.

I'm not as familiar with Big 4 audit, but I can stay that F500's absolutely can help you with your goal of working abroad. For instance, I am currently learning another language, where the training is being paid for by my company. I am looking to move abroad (probably europe) within the next few years. My company has been quite encouraging and accommodating in that regard, though it is contingent on being a high performer.

On a personal note, in my experience, where you geographically work really plays a big part in enjoying your youth. I currently work and live about an hour from a major city, and am seriously thinking about doing the reverse commute, because cities are just way more fun (but those city taxes are brutal). Doing a rotation or being full time in nebraska or something sounds absolutely miserable as a twenty-something who is single.

I know those thoughts are contradictory in which job you should take, but hopefully the insights are helpful. Feel free to ask some additional questions...happy to help where I can.

Nov 11, 2013 - 5:15pm

Aspirant21:

In my mind, the situation you layed out has the F500 job acting as a personal sacrifice for professional benefit. The F500 program sounds like it aligns with what you want to do long-term, at least on a functional/experience basis, even though I understand you don't want to stay with that company or industry. But FP&A at Marlboro or something is relatively similar to FP&A at J&J, and the two definitely share more professional similarities than Big 4 audit. I don't think getting pigeon holed in an industry (inside of FP&A) should be a serious concern as a young professional.

I'm not as familiar with Big 4 audit, but I can stay that F500's absolutely can help you with your goal of working abroad. For instance, I am currently learning another language, where the training is being paid for by my company. I am looking to move abroad (probably europe) within the next few years. My company has been quite encouraging and accommodating in that regard, though it is contingent on being a high performer.

On a personal note, in my experience, where you geographically work really plays a big part in enjoying your youth. I currently work and live about an hour from a major city, and am seriously thinking about doing the reverse commute, because cities are just way more fun (but those city taxes are brutal). Doing a rotation or being full time in nebraska or something sounds absolutely miserable as a twenty-something who is single.

I know those thoughts are contradictory in which job you should take, but hopefully the insights are helpful. Feel free to ask some additional questions...happy to help where I can.

PMing ya. Thanks!

Nov 15, 2013 - 7:45am

If you actually "loathe" the industry, taking the corporate job might be very deeply unsettling and even damaging to your personality. E.g., if you are strongly against alcohol or tobacco on personal\political level and the offer is in alcohol\tobacco industry, might want to pass as working for what you hate is no fun. If the industry just seems "boring" to you though and "loathe" was a figure of speech, the choice is less clear.

Nov 15, 2013 - 9:16am

@Lester Freamon - I'm in an FLDP and rotating around the country right now. I'm just about to finish up my first year. Having dealt with auditors from the big 4 on several occasions now, I've never been more happy that I did my F500 FLDP. Some things I've noticed about auditors, especially young ones. Disclaimer: Every auditor I've dealt with has been under the age of 30.

1. They don't know anything. You're going to spend your time asking the same questions over and over again to different companies and as long as that company is decently organized with management controls structured appropriately, you're not going to find shit. You'll ask dumb questions about AR and AP and whether or not something was invoiced correctly.

2. There's no operational experience. You're going to spend all of your time "analyzing" controls and account reconciliations, then writing a summary about how you found nothing but recommend something else gets signed by the controller just to show some add value. In this FLDP I'm working regularly w/ the GM's / Ops. Managers to analyze every facet of the business, which means I get to actually learn a lot more than accounting / finance.

3. Compensation. Auditors get paid like shit. I think the average here is about $50k from Deloitte and EY. I know in some areas of the country it can get up to 60k but honestly thats b/c its a high COL area. Most FLDP's pay much more and it makes quite the difference.

4. Exit Opps. After most dev programs, F500 companies PAY the people who stay on. I know after my program its like a 40% increase in overall comp on average. And most of the time, if you're any good, you have a wide range of options and locations to choose from. On the contrary, an auditor is applying for the positions you've already been in and coming in at your FLDP salary (maybe a shade more) w/o the company experience.

If you were talking about transactions advisory, that'd be a little different b/c I believe that exp. provides a lot of various exit opps. Not so sure about audit.

Nov 15, 2013 - 10:19am

Sent PM, thanks for the info, SB!

Edit: Oh snap, finally made it to Almost Human...

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee
Nov 15, 2013 - 4:20pm

Molestiae quisquam est quaerat et dolor quod eius. Quia debitis quae eum reprehenderit sed. Qui tenetur sit doloribus explicabo quisquam excepturi. Aut autem deleniti dolore. Atque tenetur nostrum voluptatum tenetur suscipit quia et.

Ab totam nisi labore rerum quaerat. Ipsam sint modi similique. Quo tempora quae molestiae nihil adipisci et. Eveniet ad exercitationem atque qui rerum voluptas.

Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

September 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (10) $853
  • Vice President (38) $367
  • Associates (216) $231
  • 2nd Year Analyst (129) $151
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (30) $147
  • Intern/Summer Associate (102) $144
  • 1st Year Analyst (474) $135
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (373) $82