How to make partner in a Big 4 accounting firm (EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC)

To make partner in a big 4 accounting firm (EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC) is often seen as the pinnacle of achievement for an Accountant or Consultant. However, many talented professionals fail to make it to partner at a Big 4 firm. In the second part of this two-part article, I reveal the last five secrets of directors who have made it to partner at their Big 4 firm. (First part here)

5. Build a strong personal brand internally and externally within the firm

  • specialising earlier rather than later in your career
  • becoming known as a ‘Go-To Expert’ for some technical or sector specific knowledge.
  • allocating time every week to building and maintaining a strong professional network. E.g. attending young professional networking events, deepening relationships with other professional advisors you work with
  • prioritising building your own referral networks which will provide you with a regular stream of high quality new client leads.

The Big 4 firms, EY, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG, are all big firms. If you want to stand out enough to make partner in a Big 4 firm you need to have a strong personal brand and high profile internally and externally of the firm. This means:

6. Start building your business case as early as possible

It is widely known that to make partner in a Big 4 accounting firm you need a strong business case. The directors at Big 4 firms, EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC, who successfully make it through to partner have been working on their business case for at least a couple of years. It is not impossible, but very hard, to build a strong business case within only 12-24 months of actively building a business case for partnership.

“This book is a secret weapon for your career”

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

7. Build your fan base outside of your own department

The partners at a Big 4 firm (EY, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte) will regularly and openly discuss about who they will make partner at their Big 4 firm. How many partners would be ‘pitching’ you, and ‘fighting your corner’? To make partner in a big 4 accounting firm you will need more than just your sponsor fighting for you! Like a panel based job interview, you will not be at the table when the final decisions are taken on who should get partnership this time or even get put onto Partner Track. This is why the successful Directors who make partner at a Big 4 firm have taken the time to build up a strong fan base within the partnership BEFORE they are considered for admission to the partnership.

Within a strong fan base there will always be degrees of support. At the lowest level the successful director will have built enough relationships with partners within their Big 4 firm so that they have a broad base of support for their partnership ambitions. However, successful directors who make partner at their big 4 firm know that they need to have more than just their head of department and sponsoring partner (who are likely to be the same people) raving about them to the other partners.

8. Be prepared to relocate

The more mobile you are prepared to be, the greater the opportunity to make partner at a Big 4 firm. What this could mean in practice is you are prepared to relocate your family to a completely different country. I was recently speaking to an EY director who had relocated from India to work on his biggest client’s affairs in Africa. Now, this may be slightly more drastic than you may be prepared to do. However, the more flexible you can be with your mobility the more opportunities available to you to make partner at a Big 4 firm.

9. If necessary change firm

If you want to make partner in a Big 4 accounting firm, you may need to consider moving firms to speed up your progression to partner.

Whilst it may be nice to say that you are ‘man and boy’ at a firm, the directors who successfully make partner at a Big 4 firm, are prepared to change firm if it means they are able to significantly strengthen their business and personal case.

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