The Big Four Accounting Firms

“The Big Four”

The largest US accounting firms, also known as The Big Four, are Deloitte LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (E&Y), and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG).

Deloitte’s revenue outstrips that of PwC by just more than $3 billion. Next, E&Y claims $14 billion in revenue while KPMG is more than $5 billion behind them. Deloitte employs almost 5,500 partners; PwC has 3,500 partners; and Ernst & Young the same. KPMG employs 2,213 partners.

Combined, the Big Four generated more than $148 billion in revenue in 2018. Aside from revenue, people interested in an accounting career should know what each firm does. If you’re looking to work for one of these firms, you should know the types of jobs available, the average starting salary, and how to have a better chance of receiving a job offer. Finally, future accountants should know the difference between consulting services and accounting, as that is an important factor in available positions with the four massive companies. In the 2000s, each firm made large investments into the consulting arms of their respective businesses.

Deloitte

Deloitte’s mission is to “Make an impact that matters – for our clients, our communities, and our professionals.”

By the numbers, Deloitte employs more than 286,200 employees. It is a private company with revenues of more than $10 billion annually. Its headquarters are located in New York City, where it is ideally located to offer consulting and accounting services to clients from the U.S. and around the world. Deloitte was founded in 1850, offering accounting services. Today, the firm employs more than 70,000 people here in the US. With their wide variety of services and the company’s depth of resources, Deloitte has the potential to create an impact on almost any career.

Deloitte professionals are closely allied with organizations creating social change, funding new cures for diseases, helping to implement sustainability solutions, foster and support inclusive cultures, prevent identity theft, and develop trust in capital markets. Employees at Deloitte are doing more than accounting and consulting. They are contributing to the development of cognitive technologies, helping to improve access to healthcare, and addressing climate change.

In 2009, 2018, and 2019 Deloitte won the Glassdoor award for being one of the best places to work.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ mission is: “Innovative solutions, breakthrough thinking, new perspectives—they all start with you. We connect people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets to solve important problems together—for our clients and the world at large.”

PwC employs more than 250,900 people as a private company. It earns revenues of $5 to $10 billion annually. The firm is headquartered in New York City and was founded in 1998.

PwC focuses on developing leaders at all company levels, employing digital training that helps new employees to accept the innovative technologies of tomorrow, giving support to help career development and relationship-building with people from all backgrounds and multiple industries.

PwC assists its clients in meeting the challenges and opportunities within the US marketplace. Its specialties include advisory services, assurance, and taxes. PwC is one part of a global network of firms that have detailed knowledge of local, state, and US national issues. Employing people in more than 158 countries, PwC has a global network. The firm encourages collaboration and teamwork; it rewards excellence and respects diversity.

Ernst & Young (E&Y)

E&Y has over 225,000 employees worldwide and 34,500 employees in the US. Founded in 1989, the accounting firm has its headquarters in London, England. E&Y is a private company with more than $10 billion in revenue.

E&Y’s mission is: “Building a better working world.”

E&Y provides services such as tax advisory services and assurance. The company has built its quality services and insights so accountants can help to build trust and confidence within the capital markets. Because of its worldwide presence, it does the same in worldwide economies.

E&Y works hard to develop strong leaders who then team up together to deliver on promises made to stakeholders and clients. E&Y knows that by developing its leaders and delivering on promises to stakeholders, it is helping to build a better working world for clients, communities, and its employees.

Klynveld Peet Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG)

KPMG, based in New York City, employs almost 26,000 people in the US and over 207,000 worldwide. It falls within the subsidiary or business industry and was founded in 1987. The firm brings in revenues of $2 to $5 billion annually.

Within the US, KPMG LLP offers tax advisory and audit services. It also has more than 100 offices and partners located within the United States. The company’s purpose is to help convert knowledge into value for client benefit, its employees, and the global market.

Globally, KPMG offers a consistent menu of multidisciplinary services that are based on a deep knowledge of the industry. By remaining focused on a specific set of services, the professionals at KPMG develop a deeper understanding of their clients’ businesses, as well as the skills, insight, and resources needed to address specific issues within the industry.

Internship Opportunities

Deloitte

Accounting majors stay busy during their internships at Deloitte. They offer experiences that show undergraduate and graduate students how it feels to work in a top-tier accounting firm. Interns work with clients, take on projects, and provide deliverables. Deloitte also offers on-site mentorship and support, allowing interns to be more successful once they begin working full-time.

Various internships are offered to students (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors), showing them the different areas in which they may work. Interns may receive opportunities to work with a client or within internal services. The Discovery Internship exposes sophomores to various client service businesses within Deloitte.

PwC

An internship at PwC will give you access to a world of knowledge and the opportunity to work alongside and learn from skilled professionals. A summer internship at PwC allows you to develop the interpersonal and professional skills you’ll need. You won’t be filing or answering phones; instead, you’ll be able to effect change and begin developing your brand. Depending on your performance, you may be offered a position with PwC.

Take part in a PwC internship and gain new opportunities, build partner relationships, and develop personally and professionally. The Leadership Development Experience allows you to do all of this. Learn more about PwC internship opportunities here.

E&Y

Embarking on an internship at E&Y, you’ll be able to choose an international experience or work with clients. An internship at E&Y means you’ll be able to develop your skills working alongside some of the sharpest minds in the accounting services industry.

No matter your educational level, you will develop the leadership skills that you need to lean on throughout your career. When you start and complete an internship at E&Y, you’ll be able to grab the attention of recruiters when it’s time to find your first job. A six-week internship allows you to work as a team member.

KPMG

In a KPMG internship, you’ll be exposed to general audit, and banking and financial institution audit opportunities. These are six-month internships beginning in October and concluding in March of the following year. Once you complete your internship here, then graduate, you’ll begin to field job offers for assistant positions.

A summer internship allows you to learn business skills, build your network, partner with a mentor, and get real-world or global experience, all before graduation. KPMG offers a Global Internship Program, which allows you to begin globally with a four-week rotation in a different country.

Historical Context

Beginning in 1910, the Big Four were still composed of eight smaller accounting firms. These were Coopers and Lybrand, Arthur Andersen, Ernst & Whitney, Peat Marwick Mitchell, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, Price Waterhouse Touche Ross, and Arthur Young. More than one hundred years later, eight firms have become four, moving around and merging. These are PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young.

About one-third of their business is made up of audits on Fortune 500 companies. Financial consulting services regarding regulations, mergers, financial transactions, acquisitions, operations, and business strategy make up about 65% of their revenue.

The Big Four have acquired professional talent via a “University to Big Four Pipeline.” The Big Four firms have also shifted their primary focus from accounting to consulting, mostly because business is changing. AI technology and automation have had, and continue to have, an impact. Today, major corporations and businesses also have to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and balance competing interests. The Big Four firms are also among some of the best places for employment in accounting, read more here.

Current Runners Up

Grant Thornton LLP

Founded in 1924, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Revenues are $1.87 billion annually. It is one of the world’s largest, independent audit, advisory, and tax firms. It works closely with a broad range of privately held and publicly held companies, financial institutions, government agencies, civic, and religious organizations. The company has 59 offices, more than 550 partners, and 7,000 employees.

BDO USA LLP

This firm was founded in 1910 and is also headquartered in Chicago. It has revenues of $1.47 billion annually. The company has about 1,330 offices in 150 countries. Its services include corporate real estate, tax, assurance, transaction advisory, and investment banking.

BDO’s consulting division offers investigation, litigation, business restructuring, and valuation services. Through BDO Capital Advisors, the company offers investment banking and services.

Crowe Horwath LLP

Founded in 1924, this business is headquartered in Chicago. Its revenues are over $900 million annually. Seen as a viable alternative to the Big 4, Crowe Horwath has 3,000 employees working in 28 offices across the US. It provides tax services, audit, and performance risk consulting to companies in a wide range of sectors.

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