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PwC, Deloitte, KPMG or EY, which Big Four firm pays the most?

Is there much to choose between Big Four accounting firms when it comes to pay? Much like top tier banks, PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG are all competing against one another for talent. Also much like top tier banks, their pay can be very similar for similar roles.

If you make to partner level in the Big Four, there’s a clear hierarchy.  In 2016, Deloitte’s UK equity partners were paid an average of £837k ($1.1m) each, while partners at PwC, KPMG and EY earned an average of £706k, £582k and £662k respectively. Across firms as a whole though, this doesn’t necessarily hold up: average pay per head for KPMG’s 13,000 staff in the UK is £73k – higher than the £69k average for people at PwC.

However, if you’re a junior auditor with a Big Four firm in London, Tom Stoddart, a director at recruitment firm Eximius Finance, says your pay will be roughly similar wherever you work. “When you leave university, you start on between £24k and £27k depending upon whether you’re in Central London or not, and this rises to between £42k and £46k over the next three years as you pass the ACA exams. – Your salary rises with each exam.”

Nonetheless, figures from Glassdoor, shown in the table below, suggest there are discrepancies. On average, Glassdoor suggests that Deloitte now pays its UK junior auditors the most, while EY pays the least. This is in line with previous figures from pay benchmarking firm Emolument, which suggested that KPMG and Deloitte are the most generous with their junior auditors, and that PwC and EY lagged behind.

In consulting, however, Deloitte and PWC stand out for their generosity. Glassdoor’s figures suggest PwC pays its average junior consultant around 14% more than EY.

Stoddart says consulting pay varies widely across the Big Four and is more dependent upon your actual consulting role than the firm you work for. Stoddart says technical consultants in the quantitative risk space earn the most, with pay for senior managers in technical consulting rising to around £120k as the Big Four try luring quants from banks.

Nonetheless, there does seem to be something to the notion that Deloitte and PWC pay their consultants the most. Managementconsulted, a website which tracks pay for consultants in the U.S. says PwC and Deloitte pay newly hired graduate consultants $93k and $101k respectively, while KPMG and EY pay $75k and $80k.

If you want to get paid in consulting when you leave university, though, the Big Four are not the place to be. The highest junior consulting salaries are reportedly on offer at McKinsey & Co. and Boston Consulting, where juniors start on $112k and $113k respectively.

Photo credit: 185 by Andreas Wecker is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Comments (2)

  1. Although an interesting read, I’m afraid the figures here are way too aggregated to provide any meaningful insight for a multitude of reasons:

    1) Pay varies across service lines. TS/CF pay better than audit. Who are we looking at here?
    2) In the 0-5 year gap you have very different salaries from a newly joined grad to someone who’s qualified. As such taking some sort of average of them I’m afraid is aggregating data from people who’s pay is very different to one another.
    3) London vs outside of London makes a huge difference as well to pay levels as everyone pays Londoners much more.

    I think a more meaningful insight could be given if you looked at the salary of a new grad/ newly qualified ACA in each of the firms across different service lines. (basically looking at comparable roles- right now they’re just not)

    Iworkatbigfour Reply
  2. Considering KPMG gave pay rises to most individuals across the firm from 1/10/2014 I do not think this is representative. I know in London pay went up by 2k for graduates who weren’t qualified.

    iworkatbigfour2 Reply

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