Would you be better off with the Big Four?

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As anyone with a passing relationship with reality knows, investment banks are in the process of unloading many of the staff they acquired over the past five years. Accountancy firms, however, are still a) hiring, and b) making money.

Last week, Deloitte said revenues will be up 11% this year, thanks to all the 'downturn work' (Financial Times). And analysis by Accountancy Age suggests that while investment banks' corporate finance revenues are falling off a cliff, combined revenues at the Big Four have been growing at a rate of 13%.

Combine this with the fact that Grant Thornton is busy raising cash to help pay extra wages as it battles for market share (Accountancy Age), and it all looks rather promising.

But looks are deceiving. Accounting firms are doing a little hacking of their own - KPMG has sliced 90 corporate financiers, and the Big Four have a history of nastiness almost equal to banks'. KPMG (again) is said to have made 700 staff redundant by email in 2001 (FT).

Keith Dugdale, global head of recruitment at KPMG, says there are "small numbers being let go, but nothing on the scale that banks are experiencing.

"On the whole, we want to hang onto people," he adds. "Corporate finance may be going down, but areas like corporate recovery and forensic are countercyclical and we'd rather redeploy people internally than let them go."

Brendan Collins, head of HR at Mazars, which ranked 12th among UK accounting firms last year, says there are no plans for redundancies, but they're not hiring any more corporate financiers. "We are still hiring for audit, recovery, business and tax, however," he assures us.

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