Public Practice – Moving between firms and what to consider


Public_Practice_PersonAs everyone knows the current market for qualified Audit, Tax, Corporate Finance and Advisory professionals is extremely tight. Intake of qualified talent from overseas is on the up and there is a constant battle (or perceived battle) between the Big 4,

Top 20 and smaller firms are in this battle to attract talent. While this is obviously challenging and frustrating for the firms in question it is also a great market to be in as a candidate, where opportunity abounds.

As a trained professional from one of these environments the challenge is identifying a reason to move between firms. Be it Big 4 to Big 4, mid to Big 4 or vice versa. The perception is often that “isn’t it all the same?” Well no is the answer, and here are the reasons why:

When deciding what it is you want ,each have their pros and cons, but what is a pro to you is often a con to someone else.

Perception is key. More complex and challenging work in a Big 4 may be perceived as long hours, less interaction with the client and just being seen as a number in a big organisation. However, to someone else it means opportunity to build skills and understand the larger corporate clients, work harder to be seen and having a clear career path.

In smaller firms it may seem like standard work, in the audit side; a mix of accounting and audit & some tax, or in corporate finance where the perception may be of smaller and less complex work. However another view is that it is about hands on with the client, having a flat structure, having good exposure to your partner and less rigmarole in getting promoted.

Finally, what in fairness is the biggest issue, and that’s remuneration. When we compiled the Abrivia Salary Survey 2016 we noticed that there was a big difference between the size of the firms and the salaries and benefits on offer.

This comes down to a few things. Infrastructure for one; the fees charged by the bigger firms have to cover the large HR function, the large IT bill and the lease of a property in a prime location!

The smaller firms don’t have the same fees from clients but they also don’t have the same overheads .They try and make up the difference in salary by offering other benefits such as shorter working hours and job flexibility.

Ultimately when you are considering a move, know what you want out of it, talk to someone and be realistic and ultimately be prepared to compromise. If hands on closer contact to your clients with a work life balance is what you want, then be prepared to take a hit on your personal finances. Alternatively, if what attracts you is the  opportunity to work on complex multifaceted clients, be responsible for cross selling and be a specialist in your area,; then you may have to work longer hours, play the game and be prepared to meet the challenges head-on. If you are looking to stay within the same size of firm, then know why, is it a different portfolio, better benefits, better culture? Know your own motivations.

Nothing in life is easy, it is all a compromise but you need to do what makes you happy, feel valued and feel like you have a path in place. Finally talk to someone when considering a change, find someone who has made the change, talk to a good recruiter who knows what they are talking about and take your time and take action once your decision is made.


Georgina Kirwan heads up our Public Practice & Tax division at Abrivia. She has over 10 years’ recruitment experience, 5 years recruiting within the Big 4, the remainder being in-house with telecoms and banking companies. Georgina has developed an in-depth knowledge of the market and has an extensive network of contacts with the ‘Big 4’ and ‘Top 20’ accountancy firms. – See more here.

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