Is it a good career path? Is there such a thing as work-life balance? I’m frequently asked by friends, family, clients, job candidates and random people I encounter on my travels what it’s like to work on the advisory side of a Big 4 firm. Typically, if there’s time to discuss and there’s mutual interest in the exchange, I’m immediately bombarded with a slew of follow-up questions like: What do you do exactly? How does one get into that line of work? The reason I’m so consistently willing to discuss my perspective with so many people, especially young professionals, is that I was once in their position and had many of the same questions.
When I received answers to my inquiries from people in the profession, many of whom continue to this day to be my friends, I was intrigued. To be clear, this article has not been written under the guise of any Big Four recruiters. Its goal is not to solicit top talent or self-promote services offered or whatever other angles you might have running through your head right now. I respect all of the Big Four firms, especially mine, a great deal but feel that the only way to offer up a truly unbiased perspective on the lifestyle is to provide genuinely candid insight. The article is structured with bold headings and key takeaway bullet points for those only interested in a quick scan. Feel free to bounce around if you already have a solid understanding of certain sections.
What we sell is the space between these two ears. This bit of Yoda-like wisdom was followed by a slowly pointed finger to my forehead. Young provide clients with the right subject matter experience via resources at the right time and place and, of course, at the right price. Now that you understand the demand from the client side, let’s take a look at the delivery or firm side. Firms as you might expect are structured in such a way as to meet client demand. Let’s forget what these groupings actually do for the time-being.
PAS which falls under the RAS umbrella. This is a possible scenario, I might add, given today’s market conditions. The new regulation will have a significant impact on these companies for obvious reasons. Advisors at professional services firms sell the space between their ears. Industry perspective, experience and subject matter experience are what clients are really paying for. Firms are equipped to address client demand by providing the right resources, at the right time and place and at the right price. The professional services industry is a very dynamic one, which does not follow a flat or rigid organizational structure.
Young, but more than likely holds true for other firms in the Big Four. The content intentionally touches on only two of the four divisions, since its purpose is to help further distinguish the concept of organizational groupings used in major professional services firms and to provide some practical perspective on their differences. Assurance mainly encompasses classic audit services, including financial audits. Advisory, on the other hand, is more similar to a classic management consulting mold.
Which group is right for me, Assurance or Advisory? Well, they are significantly different from one another. Hopefully, the following explanation sheds some light on this early career decision that you’ll need to make. Assurance work is typically very analytical and often time-consuming. Based on my conversations with audit colleagues within the firm, this type of work can be quite grueling at times and not very dynamic in the sense that, once mastered, the process becomes rather routine. However, I know many senior resources who absolutely adore the audit career path they’ve chosen and wouldn’t have it any other way. Assurance work is also a great opportunity for young graduates who are looking to get into the field of accounting, audit, etc.