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How to make partner at a big 4 firmWhy do professionals want know how to make partner at a Big 4 firm?

How to make partner at a Big 4 firm? This is often seen as the pinnacle of achievement for any accountant or consultant. In the last part of this two part article series, I dig into exactly how to make partner at a big 4 firm. (click here for the first part How to become a Big 4 partnerThese blog posts discuss how to make partner at a Big 4 firm and how this differs from mid-tier firms. 

The Director role – is it a dead end for your career?

I have worked with the accountancy profession for more than a decade and seen the expected career progression of directors change, and sometimes change back again. The profession is in a quandary because it doesn’t know what to do with highly technical experts, who are immensely valuable to the firm, but not really suitable for partnership. Therefore, sometimes firms select from their senior managers and only promote to director if they feel there is partnership potential.

On the other hand, some firms leapfrog the director stage and promote from senior manager to partner, leaving the director role for the technical experts.This is an approach KPMG has taken in the past, although now they are using director for potential partners again.

It doesn’t really matter what firm you are in – Big 4 or mid-tier – what you have to do is find out what qualities, skills, and behaviour are required at the different levels within your firm and how your firm’s promotion process works. Within a Big 4 firm, this is usually transparent, and extensive documentation should be available.

Another example of the more hoops you need to jump through if you want to become a partner in a Big 4 firm, is the partnership admissions process. In most other firms you are likely to just have one partnership panel interview. Whereas at a Big 4 firm you will need to get through your service line partnership admissions process, before getting through potentially up to 3 more partnership panel interviews at sector team and geography levels.

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How to make partner and still have a life
How to make partner and still have a life

The Big 4 have more flexibility

Because of their size, Big 4 firms have more partnership slots to fill than mid-tier firms. This means they can be flexible about who they have within the partnership. You will still need to have strong evidence of how you will develop and win business but (and this surprised me) when going for partner with a Big 4 firm, you will not need such a large client portfolio as you will need with BDO or GT.

?However, if a Big 4 firm is having a lean year, the number of partners they plan to admit that year may be well down on previous years. For example a client from a Big 4 firm who I am coaching is going for one of 30 partnership places. Last year it the firm admitted 63 new partners. There are still the same amount of directors going for these 30 places as there were going for the 63 places last year!

Big 4 firms are more interested in your potential for building a partner-sized portfolio. Read on to find out the typical size of a Big 4 partner’s client portfolio.

You’ll be expected to earn the rewards of partnership

You should now be getting a good idea of how to make partner at a Big 4 firm. There’s plenty more on the site, so take time to read further.

Having started you off, it would be remiss of me not to mention the amount of input that will be expected from you as partner. You’ll be handsomely rewarded, but remember that every firm wants its pound of flesh, and the Big 4 partners are expected to work very long hours and continue working at networking and formal social functions as well.What does it really mean to make partner? There may be plenty of aspects you had not considered!

At the start of this article I posed the question, How to make partner at a big 4 firm? At the end of the day, it’s your choice. If you do want the rewards of a partnership in a Big 4 firm, remember you will need to earn them!

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