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The big accounting firms aren’t having it easy in Tokyo.

Kevin Naylor, team manager of the financial services division at Wall Street Associates, says not only have the Big Four been making less of an effort to retain staff over the last six to 12 months, in some cases there has even been restructuring on a scale he says is unprecedented in recent memory.

“The impact of the global financial crisis has been delayed on these firms and they have hung on until now. But the ramp-ups in financial services have not been enough to counteract the effects of the slowdown and lack of recovery across other industries and Japan in general, resulting in a need for cost cuts and staff cuts in the Big Four,” he says.

But that’s not where the Big Four woes end. Now that banks in Tokyo have started hiring again, accountancy firms are also struggling to keep hold of their top talent, says Lionel Kaidatzis, operations director, Morgan McKinley Tokyo.?And candidates with Big Four experience are particularly in demand.

“The challenge faced by accountancy firms is that banks are now offering very competitive packages to attract the right talent. In some instances professionals moving into front office banking roles have been able to secure significantly increased salaries – around 30% to 50% more than these same roles would have paid last year,” Kaidatzis says.

As a result, some talented junior to middle level accountants have been leaving practice firms to join investment banks.

“At this level, accountants are typically taking up roles in financial controlling and accounting divisions within the banks. Qualified accountants with experience in IFRS conversion are especially high in demand,” Kaidayzis says.

M&A divisions are also interested in hiring talented accountants who have worked in the large practice firms, as they possess sought after skills such as corporate valuation and financial analysis, as well as due diligence skills in M&A and finance transactions.

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