Young accountants shun Big Four firms

by Nick Huber

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13 Dec 2010

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Trainees prefer small firms

TRAINEE accountants would rather work for a small to medium-sized accountancy firm than a Big Four because they believe smaller firms will provide them with wider experience and more freedom early in their career, a new survey suggests.
Only 40% of accountants with less than three years' experience surveyed by recruiter Marks Sattin said it was important to work for a big firm -- compared to an average of 67% for all of the 450 accountants surveyed in practice and industry.
"We are entering a new era in financial services CV building, in which candidates want to sell themselves not by reeling off lists of FTSE 100 clients, but on their experience on smaller accounts providing higher levels of responsibility," said Laura Wilson, associate director of the professional services division at Marks Sattin.
She added: "Whether it's true or not, candidates think they'll be doing work that is more involved at an early stage in their careers by joining a smaller firm. The perception is counting against the Big Four because candidates think that smaller firms offer more variety and more autonomy - and candidates are increasingly willing to sacrifice exposure to the FTSE 100 to get it."
The research also found that trainee accountants are more willing to work long hours than more experienced accountants. 
Around nine in ten of experienced accountants said that work/life balance was important to them, compared to eight in ten of trainee accountants.
Jack Easton, recruitment partner, at UHY Hacker Young, the UK's 18th biggest accountancy firm by fee income, said: "One thing our younger recruits are always interested in is the variety of work you get when you work for a medium-sized firm: the opportunity to work with lots of businesses that differ in scale, profile and sector.
"Many of our interviewers are 'Generation Y' (people born after the early eighties) themselves, which shows to potential recruits that our staff get early responsibility and it also presses the empathy and friendly buttons."
The UK jobs market for accountants is showing signs of recovery, according to separate survey by Marks Sattin, published earlier this month.
A number of the Big Four firms were unavailable for comment on the survey.
The survey found that 35% of accountants leaving their post are now being offered a raise to stay, up from 12.5% at the same time a year earlier.
The average salary increase offered is 15%, up sharply from 5% in 2009.

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