September 16, 2019

Second-tier firms

Comp Watch ’12: Grant Thornton Capital Market Servants Want Some Love

A simple request from someone out of the Purple Rose of Chicago: I know its not Big 4, but would you mind starting a thread on GT comp adjustments coming up this year? Mind? Apparently you're one of those people that think these pages devoted to the kvetching of Big 4 employees. Not so! When it […]

What Can a Big City Big 4 Auditor Expect at Small City, Second-tier Firm?

Back with another edition of “Decide My Life for Me – Public Accounting Edition.” Today, an antsy Big 4 employee in a large city wants to know if moving to second-tier firm in small city will mean a demotion or cut in salary.

Do you have trouble matching your socks? Need help making sense of your cryptic performance review? Are you worried that someone with a bun in the oven is also capable of doing their job? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and someone will try to straighten you out.

Back to our “Should I Stay or Should I Go” du jour:

Hi,

I was curious if you had any information on employees jumping from Big 4 firms (auditing) to upper-mid-tier (i.e. McGladrey). Do you find that they are often promoted? I am currently in a large city and am uninterested in staying in the city long-term. I was thinking of moving to a 300,000 person city with some firms like McGladrey, Grant Thornton, etc. If I am jumping ship as a senior or manager, where should I expect to come in at? Same level? Same salary?

Thanks
Jumper

Dear Jumper,


Had it with Big 4 life, eh? Let me guess, the groupies got to you, didn’t they? Every damn time.

As to your inquiry, here’s the deal – you won’t be promoted if you decide to accept a position with McGladrey or Grant Thornton. Why? There are a few reasons: 1) You don’t have the experience; 2) You don’t have the experience; 3) You don’t have the experience. We all know that Big 4 auditors think they’re pretty special and that anyone who doesn’t soil themselves after looking at their stellar résumés followed by an immediate job offer is simply stupid. So it comes as a shock to many when this scenario doesn’t play out. As far as second-tier firms go, they definitely want Big 4 talent when they can get it but they’re aren’t about to throw you a bone because you worked at E&Y Chicago or PwC New York.

What you can expect – if you’re senior associate or a manager at a Big 4 firm, you can reasonably expect to be offered (not a guarantee, obv) a similar position at GT or Mickey G’s that you currently have. If you’re moving to a smaller city, you could see a similar salary but you should not expect a raise. You’ll receive the market rate for your position in your new city. The firm may put you at the high range of pay for your group but be prepared to be reminded of that fact come merit increase time.

Anyone made a similar move with different results? Share below.

Happy Birthday to Us! Going Concern Enters the Terrible Twos

Yes, today happens to be the blogoversary/birthday/whatever of this here fine publication. Back on this date in 2009, I woke up unusually late on a Monday only to discover that the site was live. I somehow was able to pull myself together and bang out a few posts sans pants without anyone – including David Lat – noticing that I was officially late for my first day of work (not the first time) day since then we’ve managed to come up with enough content to distract/keep you occupied throughout the week.

What have we learned in the past year? Let’s take a quick look back.

Well, for starters an email at PwC Ireland got a little out of hand. Adrienne’s lack of a CPA has come up a few times. Ernst & Young got sued over that Lehman Brothers thing. KPMG got sued for being a boys club. Lots of partners at Deloitte are unhappy. We learned that Rothstein Kass is officially the coolest accounting firm. BDO pays snitches in caffeinated beverages. And we gave lots and lots and lots of career advice. (Jesus, that Dear Abby must have wanted to keel over.) There was also de-pantsing by an accounting professor and now an accounting student. That doesn’t cover everything, obviously – Grover Norquist and Susan Coffey obsessions, Adrienne tells EVERYONE what they’re doing wrong on Twitter, DWB’s scotch-fueled advice, etc.

UPDATE:
I shamefully forgot this:

It’s all been pretty fun and we have you, dear readers, to thank. We really appreciate every single one of you. Especially you, John Veihmeyer. If you don’t email us, Tweet us, FB us, we don’t hear about these funny, disturbing and sometimes pathetic stories. KEEP IT UP. Thanks again for your support!

But now that we’re 2, where do we go from here? We’ve already managed to go from crawling to toddling, learned a bunch of naughty words (okay, we knew those) and quit drooling on ourselves. Basically, as Grover is fond of saying, ONWARD!

Should/Can Big 4 Employees Unionize?

Though the following inquiry from what we assume to be a Going Concern reader was addressed to my dearest, most lovely editor, I’m hijacking it because I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time. While the idea of CPAs unionizing seems ridiculous to some, I’m sure more than a few of you have dreamily drooled at the prospect of collective bargaining power while two months in to the most horrendous busy season ever. Is it that silly of an idea?

Hi Caleb,

I am a Big4 Tax Senior and had a question regarding the possibility/benefit of having a union. To my knowledge, one currently does not exist, but why? Entertain me for a second.

If every staff through manager (there ing managers in, so maybe just staff and seniors) were to band together and create a union across all service lines and all of the four firms, what would stop us from getting fair compensation and slightly better hours? If the threat of a strike of 70% of each of the firm’s workforce (who probably actually do 90% of the work on any given engagement) could happen at any time, would the partners really treat their subordinates the way they currently do? Maybe there’s something written somewhere that CPAs can’t join a union?

Imagine if this raise/bonus season were to go poorly, and the union decided that on March 1, 2012…every staff, senior and manager FROM ALL FIRMS would stage a walk out and go on strike until our compensation demands were met. What could the partners do? Could they realistically try to do all the work themselves? Could they really try and replace 60,000 employees (I am guessing on that figure)? Could they try and get all the work done out of India? I HIGHLY DOUBT ANY OF THESE WOULD BE REALISTIC OPTIONS. I can’t imagine the possibility of replacing a dozen auditors overnight with Accountemps personnel in the middle of an audit for a fortune 100 client.

I understand that the possibility of being able to coordinate such a union across all the firms would be next to impossible, but can someone tell me why/how it wouldn’t work assuming it was legal for us to do? Could you post up a poll of those who would be interested?

Wait a second, are you trying to tell us that you don’t feel you are fairly compensated? Are you prepared for the burden of union fees and the inconvenience of having to picket your downtown Big 4 office chanting “Hell no we won’t go!” in business casual should it come down to that?

Why stop at the Big 4? Second-tier capital market servants are just as mistreated as you are (or at least feel that way, and who are we to tell them they don’t get enough engagements to feel burned out?). Think of the collective bargaining power then.

I think part of the reason why anyone you suggest this to might think you’re one tax season away from the funny farm is that CPAs already have a large, powerful trade association which allegedly exists to serve its interests. Granted, the AICPA does more lobbying in Washington than it does to accounting firm partners about easing up on you poor shlubs who have to do all the work, but it’s still a trade association.

In an article about the recent showdown in Wisconsin between teacher unions and Governor Scott Walker, Ann Coulter wrote “the need for a union comes down to this question: Do you have a boss who wants you to work harder for less money? In the private sector, the answer is yes. In the public sector, the answer is a big, fat NO.” Well shit, there’s your answer. We already know how most of you in public accounting feel, no need to elaborate.

Former Congressional candidate and CPA Krystal Ball is all for unions, especially when it comes to balancing the gender inequality that still exists in this country. If criminals in Canada can unionize, why not CPAs? Well for starters, though it may not feel like it, most of you are paid pretty fairly compared to, say, McDonald’s cashiers, Starbucks baristas and Walmart greeters. It may not feel fair based on the service you provide (understandably) but in the big picture, making $50,000 a year fresh out of school in middle America ain’t too bad of a gig. You get vacations, safe work conditions, bonuses, insurance and even free CPA review materials if you’re lucky. I bet OSHA has never seen the inside of a Big 4 office to investigate a fatal Excel accident or random intern decapitation at the coffee machine.

Let’s keep in mind that, if necessary, the Big 4 probably could scrape up a motley crew of Indian and Sri Lankan accountants and reluctant partners to do the work while you’re out front calling Raj a scab. Is what you do all that difficult? Look at the moronic intern in your office… a little training and that guy is going to be doing your job in a few years.

Lastly, there’s the legal issue. With all the money the Big 4 throw at lobbying and keeping some of the country’s best lawyers on payroll, do you really think you stand a chance? Someone has to give you the OK to unionize and I just don’t see the Big 4 lawyer machine slipping up and letting that one through. You really are one busy season away from the funny farm if you believe otherwise.

But I’m 100% behind you guys if you try to go for it anyway. Si se puede!