Number candles

How well do you know the Big 4?

How well do you know Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC?
At least one of them features somewhere in the news daily and each recruits hundreds of fresh graduates a year.

They are the four largest international accountancy and professional services firms. At least one of them features somewhere in the news daily and each recruits hundreds of fresh graduates a year. If you’re interested in a career in consulting, tax, audit or corporate finance it’s likely you’ve applied to more than one of the Big 4. Do your employer research and be aware of what distinguishes them so that at interview you can answer this question with authority: ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ For example, did you know that…

PwC is the largest private sector graduate recruiter (and won the 2015 TARGETjobs Award for most popular graduate recruiter in accounting and financial management)

PwC regularly provides services for 418 of the companies in the Fortune Global 500 and 443 of the companies in the FT Global 500, spanning 158 countries. In the UK, tax and transaction are big players within the firm, though global turnover is principally driven by the firm’s auditing services. In particular, the firm stands out in the consumer products market. The strengths of PwC include a huge global brand image that opens doors in new markets and territories, and a diversified portfolio that spreads business risks and allows the firm to attract a wide range of big clients. In turn, having strong clientele often means repeat business.

Good to know at your PwC interview

  • How PwC started. In 1998, the firms Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand merged to create PwC.
  • How PwC is growing. Two recent examples: on 3 April 2014 PwC acquired consulting firm Booz & Company, rebranding it Strategy&. PwC Legal is in the process of expanding its global immigration practice.
  • What PwC believes is globally important. PwC identifies five megatrends, the impact of which the firm examines in its annual reports. Find the latest annual review on their website to get the lowdown on: demographic and social change, shift in global economic power, rapid urbanisation, climate change and resource scarcity and technological breakthroughs.
  • What PwC values. At all grades and in all areas of the business, PwC employees are expected to demonstrate five core attributes – whole leadership, technical capabilities, business acumen, global acumen and relationships.

Deadline info: PwC has places on its graduate schemes for those interested in roles in assurance, consulting, actuarial, financial advisory and tax. These have no set closing dates, but the earlier you apply, the better your chances.

KPMG boasts a dedicated Professional Qualifications Team

All the Big 4 firms make sure their graduates are well supported during the qualification process, but something that sets KPMG apart is that it has a full-time team dedicated to helping employees gain qualifications – the Professional Qualifications Team (PQT). These are employees who have taken a variety of these exams between them. Whilst individual study is essential for all courses, employees do not have their personal time taken away for an official course or further training. Pass rates for successful completion of various qualification papers are significantly higher than the industry standard.

Good to know at your KPMG Interview

  • How KPMG started. The KPMG network was formed in 1987 when Peat Marwick International and Klynveld Main Goerdeler merged along with their respective member firms.
  • What KPMG is investing in. In July 2014, KPMG and Imperial College London announced the launch of a major new partnership to create the ‘KPMG Centre for Advanced Business Analytics’. KPMG will invest over £20m, with the aim of putting the UK at the forefront of data science.
  • KPMG ‘firsts’. In October 2014, in an industry first, KPMG revealed the detailed diversity profile of its 11,500 staff and announced targets, across the four areas of gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation, for the next three years

Deadline info: Applications for all schemes apart from transactions and restructuring are accepted on a rolling basis. Once places are filled, they're filled, however, so it’s best to apply sooner rather than later. 

EY recruiters focus on your natural strengths

Unlike most graduate employers, EY's application process focuses on ‘strengths' rather than on skills and competencies. Stregths are things a person is naturally good at that create energy. The application provcess includes a 'Strengths Portal' in the early stages, which identifies the strongest candidates through situational strengths and numerical tests. At interview and at the assessment centre, people will be watching out for what you’re good at. They are looking for more nuanced ‘up’ behaviour than you’d get from a candidate pretending to be ‘high’ on the experience of attending the assessment centre. The firm believes that working to natural strengths, whilst still tiring, will motivate an applicant or an employee more and so produce better results.

Good to know at your EY interview

  • How EY started. Until 2013, EY was Ernst & Young, formed in 1989 when two companies, Arthur Young and Ernst & Whinney, both with roots in the 19th centuries, combined.
  • EY's recent alliances. In October 2015 EY formed an exclusive, strategic allicance with LinkedIn, which will expand service offerings and bring social selling technology and data analytics to market on a global scale.
  • What EY's focuses are. Graduates at the firm work in advisory, assurance, corporate finance and tax.
  • What EY looks for. The firm’s 2015 graduate campaign has been built around four themes fundamental to its business; leadership, collaboration, commerciality & influence. These are the attributes that drive EY to improve markets and communities around the globe.

Deadline info: EY recruits on a rolling basis, so there is no specific graduate scheme deadline. Places are filled when they are filled.

There are no career ladders at Deloitte, but there is a ‘lattice’

Deloitte has come up with its own concept to describe the career paths open to its employees – the ‘corporate lattice’, as opposed to the corporate ladder. In other words, employees aren’t restricted to a narrow climb up the management hierarchy, and can access wider career development opportunities at each level. This flexible approach is designed to appeal to the Generation Y workforce by meeting their desire to have plenty of options in terms of personal and career development. And in keeping with the theme of being flexible – 2015 candidates can still be in the running for a graduate job with a 2.2 degree for four of the firm’s service lines – tax, consulting, corporate finance and forensic technology – if you have a high enough number of UCAS points. Deloitte is not the first professional services firm to offer this flexibility, but it is arguably the most explicit about it.

Good to know at your Deloitte interview

  • What Deloitte has done. Deloitte was the official professional services provider to the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012.
  • What Deloitte is embarking on. The Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers programme, in its second year, sees staff for the company offer advice and professional support to social enterprises.
  • What Deloitte values. The firm’s four core values are: integrity, outstanding value to markets and clients, commitment to each other and strength from cultural diversity.

Deadline info: There are no specific deadlines as Deloitte recruits all year round for its various schemes, which close once places have been filled.

For more info…

Our in-depth employer hubs and Inside Buzz reviews will answer many of your questions about the Big 4 and their competitors.