Why banks still love the Big Four accountancy firms

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The experience bean-counters gain from working for a Big Four accounting firm is proving invaluable when cashed up i-banks and asset managers come calling for their services.

Cameron Heaney, managing director, Imagine Accounting and Finance Resourcing, says chartered accountants offer an appealing skill set. "The Big Four firms lead in controls and compliance. Today, more so than five to 10 years ago, controls and compliance are much higher on the agenda. This knowledge is very attractive to most large corporate firms," he says.

Luke Heath, chief executive of Chandler Heath Executive Recruitment, says partners in Big Four firms tend to have a blend of commercial savvy and gravitas. "These attributes are relevant to banks and asset managers."

Bob Olivier, director of Olivier Recruitment, reckons the Big Four only recruit top-notch graduates. "They provide high quality training, personal development and exposure to a range of clients, both locally and overseas, covering complex issues," he adds.

Ex-Big Four employees are securing roles in commerce, corporate and project finance, risk and general management. But they often receive lower base salaries (between AU$250k and AU$500k) in banks than in accounting firms, says Heath. He adds: "It is by their bonuses that they can significantly increase their total compensation. Bonuses could be several hundred percent of base for high performers."

In a bid to stem the outflow of employees to banking and asset management, smart accounting firms are treating former staff as alumni and cultivating new business as a result. Oliver comments: "They are doing a lot more to ensure that their staff enjoy a work-life balance. The Big Four also encourage 'boomerangs' - opening their doors for their alumni to return to the firm, richer for their experience in other roles."