Big four firms have typically been the preference of fresh accounting grads, particularly in Australian capital cities.
However, in a post-GFC environment where firms are significantly more cautious with their hiring and spending, and new recruits are increasingly prioritising culture and training over prestige and position, the demand is shifting.
“Pre-GFC, banks and the big four were the place to go. Nowadays, people want tech companies. The big four are not as attractive as they used to be,” Geoff Balmer, director at Richard Lloyd Accounting Recruitment, told Accountants Daily.
“These days there’s a lot more excitement out there, particularly with tech start-ups. People are looking for roles that are a bit more sexy,” he said, adding that the “disruptor” focus of firms is particularly appealing to new recruits.
The prestige of the big four, which remains a significant drawcard, is not as much of a focus as it once was, Mr Balmer said, with “real experience” increasingly trumping those objectives.
“The big thing that most accountants are after is training and development. They’re not as fussed about the name as the business as much as they used to be. There’s more things related to culture, training and support that graduates are looking for,” he said.
Similarly, recruitment firm Hays is finding that graduates are increasingly seeing the opportunities of small-to-medium sized firms for progressing their career early on.
However, those graduates seeking the opportunity to travel and work abroad, and get exposure to international clients, are still firmly locked on larger firms, said Susan Drew, senior regional director for Hays Accountancy and Finance.
“They are increasingly thinking about where they want to be down the track — and sometimes, there is value going to a medium-sized firm where there’s a smaller style culture,” Ms Drew told Accountants Daily.
Undergraduate accountant at Pitcher Partners, Arlen Dabinett, said his peers are being increasingly drawn to the training and experience opportunities offered by small and mid-size firms.
“The big four are always going to be popular, but I’m noticing that more and more people are looking to get into the larger mid-tiers, and not necessarily the big four,” he told Accountants Daily.
Smaller teams in particular are appealing to graduates who are keen for training opportunities, and looking for face-to-face interaction with clients, he said.