Big4 Auditor hoping to break into Management Consulting

I've been an auditor with a Big4 firm for about a year now and have passed all four parts of my CPA. I've realized that audit is not for me and now that I have my one year of required work experienced can officially get licensed as a CPA, I am looking to move out of accounting/audit entirely.

Consulting is a field that really interests me and ideally, I would like to end up at an MBB. I realize this will take an MBA from a top school and getting into a top school will require quality work experience so I am looking to move out of my current audit role to something that will look better on MBA apps and be more interesting.

I have listed a few options below, please tell me if these are realistic transitions for someone in audit and which one will position me better for admission to a top MBA program/look better for MBB:

  • Switch to transaction services: not really consulting related, but I feel this will also look good on MBA apps
  • Try to switch to Deloitte's S&O Consulting Group: I'm at a non-Deloitte Big4 currently -- not sure if they even hire auditors into this group
  • Try to get a position at tier 2 consulting firm such as Accenture: same as above -- not sure how they view auditors or if they even make experienced hires
  • What are your thoughts on this?

    How To Move From Audit to Consulting

    If you're working through an internship, you should for sure finish it and get your CPA designation. This will open many doors.

    watermark:

    Complete the internship, secure a full-time offer and then weigh your options. You will have options; I recently saw a Big 4 buddy hop from tax to advisory after 3 months of full-time work. Whatever you do, don't say anything about it during your internship.

    Regardless of your experience, networking, as always, is essential.

    IRGASMU:

    Network as much as you can and demonstrate those people the value from your audit experience. Most people, especially at the lower levels in auditing, get little or no responsibility from their seniors and executives. Focus on changing from an audit to an "advisor" mentality where you can help your clients create value and improve their overall business performance. Being strategic about what examples you share with those around your network and potential employers will be key.

    Take a look at this photos from Modern Muse for more traits of a Consultant.

    Personality Traits Of Great Consultants

    A career in consulting requires a strong combination of personal and professional skills. Be ready to share real-life examples of how you demonstrate these.

    • Problem Solving: Auditors are natural problem solvers though they will need to shift their focus further into big picture mentality. Auditors tend to focus on the task at hand more so than everything than the larger whole. This is often seen as a shortcoming of auditors. You need to be able to solve the problem as a whole rather than pieces or causes.
    • Work Ethic: Since you've worked as a Big4 Auditor, you are no stranger to this.
    • Communication: Know when to ask questions. Be good at working in a team environment. Understanding social subtleties and having strong people skills fall into this category as well.
    • Personable: Since you'll be working directly with clients, you will need to be able to relate to them on both a business and personal level. They'll need to feel comfortable with you.
    • Self-Awareness Be aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Show your most authentic self instead of who you think will get the job. Don't pretend to be someone you're not.

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Comments (49)

Aug 22, 2011

Just out of curosity: do you mind explaining to me why Big 4 wasn't what you expected? Work? Lifestyle? Hours? Boring, unfulfilling work? Busy season? I want to know because at one point I wanted to do the same but decided I'd hate being an auditor

Aug 22, 2011

Similar case, but in 4th year undergrad. For me it's not that i hate auditing, but other fields eg ib/er/s&t seems more rewarding relative to the time it takes to invest in that career. Both $ and intellectually stimulating wise.

Also, i find that big 4 tends to not tell it as it is. Unlike ibanking jobs, where hours are brutal, but pays well. Big 4 recruiting tends to over-emphasize the good parts to make it seem like it beats all other jobs out there...just my personal take.

Definitely interested in what happens. If I were you, (I probably will in 2-3 years) I may leverage exp to get into F500 role, get a couple of years of solid exp/management diff, then apply for MBA. => associate.

dunno if it's any good tho...

Aug 22, 2011

DreamMonkey, Audit is the most soul destroying work ever.

You create no value for anybody accept your partner who you will spend the whole time hating due to the large quantities of shit he/she continuously shovels onto your head.

I found it incredibly demotivating to do do repetitive, monotonousness work for terrible money ($13 per hour) for people ("the client") who don't want you there and only tolerate you out of politeness.

PS. Hours are far from great either (Jan-march 60 per week, all other times 40-60) and I'm looking at this from a euro perspective where there is arguably more upside to the big 4 brand/ACA qualification

Aug 22, 2011

dream monkey, i never wanted a long-term career in audit. i always knew i wanted to pursue grad school (either law or MBA). was leaning towards law for quite some time but the awful legal market has me looking at MBA options and mgmt consulting seems like it would be a good fit for me. as for why audit sucks, as maherj mentioned above, you create no value, its repetitive and monotonous work. i honestly feel i have gotten dumber from working as an auditor. and for me our normal weeks are 45-50 hrs and during busy season (jan - marchish) they spike to 70-80 hrs with other busy periods in between (quarters).

Aug 22, 2011

As a big 4 intern the best way to describe what audit is like is to read these bullet points.

"How Big 4 Employees are Like Prositutes"

My personal favorites

"6. You are not proud of what you do."

Auditing is slightly better then government work. It adds zero value and your clients can't stand you. All the while the partners will rail you constantly about "excellent client service". Like someone else said its soul crushing.

"11. You are embarrassed to tell people what you do for a living."

I never say i am an accountant to girls i just say my firm name and pray they are too confused to ask what E&Y/PWC/KPMG stands for and what these firms do to make money. I can tie numbers to other numbers like a rock star, but that aint dropping panties.

"3. You are paid well but your pimp gets most of the money."

The rate the our clients get billed per hour is insane. However literally all the money goes to pad the partners investment account. Banking hours would blow but at least you guys get paid and honestly during busy season Big 4 people get hammered for just as bad of hours. Its pathetic.

The list

http://www.narrowingthegaap.com/fun/how-big-4-empl...

Aug 22, 2011

Agreed, Big4Audit is the safest finance job around, but you pay for that in terms of the work. HOWEVER

if you can stomach it (I couldnt) you will leave with a bloody good insight into how businesses run, in lots of different markets, and a buttload of contacts. It is not uncommon for an auditor to go into the position of FD at a client, and 60% of CEO's of FTSE100 were qualified auditors.

But yes, the life is HORRENDOUS. P.S. before anyone calls bullshit, im a blood relative of some of the highest ranked auditors in the Big4 world, was working for another of the Big4's and left to pursue something I actually enjoyed.

T

Jan 19, 2018

Bullshit. I'm the blood relative of santa claus.

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Aug 22, 2011

its good to see other share my dislike of auditing as well lol, but anyone have insight on ways for me to break into consulting?

Aug 22, 2011

Thanks all for the comments. Pretty much affirmed to me why I chose to go the finance/IB route as opposed to audit despite being from a non-target. Just one quick ques: are busy season hrs typically 80+, with work on weekends? How often do people quit within the first couple years? (Pls elaborate on the turnover rate)

To i hate audit: I'm only a college junior but after 2-3 yrs you might be able to move to a consulting arm within Deloitte/PWC/E&Y, etc, or maybe move into a F500 role and go to the best b-school you can get into. Regardless, congrats on passing all parts of the CPA exam

Sep 12, 2011

I think this topic has been discussed previously but always happy to go over again.

I think you're best option at this point is your second: move into TS. The TS groups at the Big 4 are short on talent and the easiest resource are audit SA's. Top talent from that group is often poached and the easiest to obtain. I've known several people who have made that transition ending in IB & PE after MBA. One example was 3 yrs audit, 2 years TS (made mgr), went to top 5 b-school, interned at UBS and went into their IB group. One of the success stories but moving to TS will give you an option to go to b school or possibly jump ship directly into a consulting group. TS is probably also the easiest move of the three.

As for audit experience, the comments above are correct. I agree, the hours are long, the work can be monotonous and the pay is pretty sad but their is something to be said for those who have gone through it. Smart to have your vision on something longer term. Consider finding a manger or director in the group who can tell you more about it. Those people are typically the people who can get your transferred into the group the easiest.

Sep 13, 2011

Consulting looks for a few things:
- Good Problem Solvers
- Hard Workers
- Excellent communicators

In my experience as a Big4 Auditor you've got the hard worker part down. And, you can solve problems, although you will want to work on looking "outwards" as auditor are trained to look inside. It may seem strange, but despite how brilliant some of our auditors are, it shocks me how they just can't see the big picture or direction.

However, the big failing for most is a lack of communication skills. I don't mean how to write an e-mail...but knowing when to ask questions, when to read body language, how to probe a client issue...and to combine this with big picture problem solving so that you can pull back and see the issue. A lot of new consultants like to go immediately into solutioning, because you can focus and get control, but the start of any project is a bit messy. You want to be able to make sure that what you're solving is actually the real problem, not just a symptom.

That takes great communication skills, awareness of your own desire to just solve the problem in front of you, and some intellectual horsepower.

In summary: You probably need to really build your communication skills (think being charismatic and well liked - high Emotional Intelligence). I bet you can problem solve, and hopefully you can learn to think big picture...but for sure you can improve your communication skills.

Hell, Auditors have a stereotype, you'll need to break out of it.

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Sep 13, 2011

Nothing is impossible.

I wouldn't call Big 4 advisory very similar to MBB/tier 2-3 management consulting on either a working or a status level. Its a great job, but is generally more operational/process-oriented and not as hands on in nature (though this depends on group). Salary will be significantly less as well, though hours will be somewhat better. I know a few people in advisory and they seem to like it but they also want to jump to finance or pure strat/management consulting. Exit ops are much less but you can make them happen if you are good. Could be a good direction to go though as it is def closer than audit.

Management/strategy consulting is a very competitive field and Big 4 in general has a sort of label attached to it that will make it difficult to make the jump without an MBA (consulting firms are pretty elitist). Big 4 does give you a good shot at a top MBA program so thats probably your best bet. I do know a guy who went Big 4 audit>top 10 mba>McK

Don't take my word as gospel though, I totally failed at getting into consulting and ended up in finance;)

Sep 13, 2011

I'd say one exception to the above comment is Deloitte's S&OP practice, which has been discussed in my MBB office meeting as a competitor on multiple proposals.

If you are working at Deloitte and can transfer to the S&OP consulting group, you would have a chance to get looked at as a lateral to MBB. Otherwise, looking at business school (or an exit opp that leads to a better business school) is probably the only high-probability option.

Sep 13, 2011
signposts:

I'd say one exception to the above comment is Deloitte's S&OP practice, which has been discussed in my MBB office meeting as a competitor on multiple proposals.

If you are working at Deloitte and can transfer to the S&OP consulting group, you would have a chance to get looked at as a lateral to MBB. Otherwise, looking at business school (or an exit opp that leads to a better business school) is probably the only high-probability option.

I work in this group, and I can tell you that we don't even consider anyone from audit for an interview when there's an opening.

Sep 13, 2011

big 4 audit 3 yrs >M7 MBA> MBB. Works every time bro

Still I Rise

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Sep 13, 2011

Swallow 3-4 years in audit, and with a great GMAT (700+), you will attend a top 10 MBA program. The rest will be up to you.

Advisory is good but if you do the change, do it after the 1st year, then you will work 2 years in advisory. That can give a bit of leg up in interviewing during your MBA.

You will have a hard time getting into an MBB after 2-3 years of experience without an MBA; they will not want to hire you as a "new hire" nor will they give you "post MBA" position.

Sep 13, 2011

maktec5 said it pretty well...

signposts, I'm going to assume you work at Deloitte...

Sep 13, 2011

As for getting into an MBB...no clue. I do know two auditors who made the jump from Big 4 audit to Big 4 Advisory.
- KPMG
- PwC

Be aware, they both had their letters (CA) AND their Master's in Professional Accounting (which has a strategic component to it, amongs some other additions).

Also, the big difference between Deloitte and PwC/KPMG is that Deloitte has never lost their consulting arm (and associated intellectual property) so I would imagine have some more established internal processes and people.

Best of luck with your move.

Sep 13, 2011

I can't comment on moving to S&OP within Deloitte - I'd defer to MBP on that point.

Going from Deloitte to MBB is, I think, more likely than people realize. I have run into a few former Deloitte S&OP folks on projects here. Most came after bschool, but two joined directly (one lateralled and spent 2 more years in the same position, one actually took a step back from relatively new project manager at Deloitte to the equivalent of a 2nd year consultant).

Sep 13, 2011

i think it is much more realistic to make the jump from audit to a big 4 advisory group, or a financial advisory/consulting shop, such as navigant, FTI, or huron. if your heart is set on a traditional management consulting job i would recommend trying to get out sooner, rather than later.

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Sep 13, 2011

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Sep 13, 2011

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Sep 13, 2011

Do the audit gig man. I have seen kids after the offer getting consulting gigs thereafter- it wasn't Deloitte though.

Also, keep in mind that if you get the offer, you can always reject it if you get something better next year.

Sep 13, 2011

Sound advice above me. Complete the internship, secure a full time offer and then weigh your options. You will have options; I recently saw a Big 4 buddy hop from tax to advisory after 3 months of full time work. Whatever you do, don't say anything about it during your internship.

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Sep 13, 2011

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Sep 13, 2011

internal audit is total garbage if you are trying to make the switch to a field like IB/MC. get something more finance-related, this position should be your absolute backup.

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Sep 13, 2011

Why do you think that's the case?

Sep 13, 2011

because external audit is total garbage and severly limits your ability to get into IB/MC and external audit > internal audit...btw i work in external audit at a big 4 and im not the biggest fan if you cant tell (see my username LOL)

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Sep 13, 2011

^^ haha - SO true.

Though I must say while IA is not glamorous or prestigious by any means you can climb the ladder in that position.

Sep 13, 2011

I know someone that did a similar switch at another big 4. I think it just comes down to the need of the consulting group and you knowing the right people. I would approach it carefully though, as you don't want to tell your audit bosses to fuck off before you've secured a new position in the consulting service.

Did you fly over my helmet?

Sep 13, 2011

It's definitely possible - though you may have to go through a few tiers of consulting before you get into the strategy group.

Typically, they expect you to stay for 2-3 years in audit. At that point, you might be able to apply for groups like ERS (Enterprise Risk Services), Human Capital Consulting, etc. Once in, you could make the jump into Strategy/Operations Consulting.

A lot of this depends on your ability to network - this can't be overstated. That said, it's relatively easy at the Big 4. I know at EY, we had an internal messenger service. Should be easy enough to look someone up in the group through the internal directory and ask for a coffee. I secured a couple of interviews in the transactions group (a lot more exclusive than the consulting arm) through this method, though I ended up leaving for equity research instead.

Sep 13, 2011

Sovjet, would taking secondments abroad skip the process you mentioned of gradually making it to S&O?

From your networking, how much of the transactions work is actually similar to IB?

Sep 13, 2011

Secondments usually won't speed up the process - as they usually force you to sign a contract if you go (where you agree to come back to your host firm and work for some time in the same business line). From their point of view... they want you to go on secondment so that you can learn the same business line (i.e. audit) in another jurisdiction and with another set of management. You can then come back, and combine what you know into "best-practices". Secondment is a very powerful tool for getting partner-tracked, and is looked favourably upon for that purpose.

In terms of switching, a secondment puts you out of touch with your home office, and makes networking nearly impossible. As you sign a contract to come back, networking in your host location is of somewhat limited use.

The transactions group at the Big4 is fairly varried. They have a front-office function (M&A Lead Advisory) which functions exactly as a boutique/MM advisory shop. You'll pitch and execute small deals there. They also have a transaction services group that's primarily responsible for post-deal due-diligence and merger integration.

Sep 13, 2011

Agree with Sovjet for the most part - one thing I would double check is the value in switching to ERS at Deloitte. They came to interview at my campus and everyone thought it was 'consulting' b/c i do believe it falls under the consulting arm. After they gave a little presentation to our class I left with the impression that it was a far cry from tradational consulting.

It is more like auditing with a little IT mixed in here and there. Also, starting salary for audit was 50k and for ERS was 52k - obviously not reflective of a true consulting gig

I think you would be better off staying in audit and putting in time there ( they want you to do at least a year ) and switch from audit, rather than doing audit then switching to ERS and then trying to jump ship again.... You'll get caught up looking like you just can't make up your mind and it will take longer.

Sep 13, 2011

ERS is a fairly diverse group, but at the undergrad level it's IT Audit. They do the IT controls testing work for the audit teams. However, it is considered part of the consulting arm (as in EY), and therefore has access to some of the same resources, contacts, etc. It's also a much smaller team - you become more than just a "number". You're also eligible to be in the generalist "consulting" pool, and may get pulled in to do a small IT part of a bigger consulting project. Impress, and you may be pulled in more often. I've only seen this done once though - so be wary of randomness and luck here.

The downside to ERS is if you aren't actually able to leverage your group, connections, etc. into their consulting arm - you'll be stuck in IT and risk. You never learn a sufficient amount of accounting to truly be comfortable, and you'll have a hard time pointing to similarities between ERS and IBD (for example). The hours are significantly better, the pay is slightly better, and the work may be just marginally more interesting (not always the case).

Sep 13, 2011

Having been in D&T audit for 3 years I can assure you it is near impossible to switch to the consulting arm. ERS is just internal controls and other IT auditing.... not consulting.
You have a better shot trying to find something outside of the firm.

Sep 13, 2011

Which consulting group? I'm in Deloitte S&O and we never hire people directly out of the audit practice. We've hired people who interned in audit when they were still in school but that's about it.

Sep 13, 2011

I made this transition and it was very hard.... basically you need to network like a maniac and get out as fast as you can - the more audit experience you have the more entrenched you will become in that horrible profession

Sep 13, 2011

But should I do an MBA or take any other action, or just prepare for the interview and trying to make a jump with current status?

The MBA I'm considering is a joint programme with HEC and London Business School. I could join this programme next september. By this time I will be working in audit unless I find something in consulting.

Does it make sense?

Sep 13, 2011

Network as much as you can and demonstrate those people the value from your audit experience. Most people, especially at the lower levels in auditing, get little or no responsibility from their seniors and executives. However, pull from your experience and show the people in your network that you thought through business processes, how companies run themselves, and the areas of value that were lost and how as an "auditor", you rarely had the opportunity to discuss those aspects with your clients. Focus on changing from an audit to an "advisor" mentality where you can help your clients create value and improve their overall business performance. Being strategic about what examples you share with those around your network and potential employers will be key. Good luck and report back on your success! I'm looking to move from IT Audit into M&A Integration, so, don't lose hope.

Sep 13, 2011
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Sep 13, 2011
Sep 13, 2011