Friday, October 30, 2009

No Regrets: My Experience with the Big 4

For my last three posts, I know they sound so…well, so negative. Reading through it myself, I can honestly understand why some folks out there think it’s not worth it to go to the Big 4 (or for any auditing firms for that matter). If this is the case, I would like to apologize. Scaring you was not my purpose; I just wanted to tell it as it is so that you’re better aware of what you are entering into when you go inside any of the Big 4 or the other accounting firms.

With that behind me, I just want to write some (okay a lot of) positive things about my experience with the Big 4. When I started out here in iwanttobeaca, I mentioned staying in one of the big auditing firms for more than 8 years. Truth be told, if circumstances did not turn out the way they did, I would still be there until today.

Staying for 8 years was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m not exactly the type of person who knows what she wants and goes for it. I’m more of wherever-the-wind-blows-me-I’ll-be-there type of person but I’m sure glad I was blown over that auditing firm. Suffice it to say that I have absolutely no regrets in working for that firm and given the chance to do things all over again, I would have gladly worked for that firm again.

Why did I say I have no regrets? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Let me just go through them:

First of all, I learned how to handle or deal with different people (with different personalities) during those 8 years. I’ve been assigned under partners and managers who had the temper to match a raging volcano (figuratively, of course) and who can quell their staff with a single glance. I have also been assigned under partners and managers who are the opposite of the previous ones. And I count myself fortunate I was able to survive the first and thrive with the second.

What about clients? I have handled some that are really in the extremes. I have a client whose Controller is really somebody avoided by everybody, even our partners and managers! In fact, when I was about to leave, my partner and the other partners met several times just to discuss who will replace me as the manager of that client! I also have clients that are well-sought out by the other managers because they know the clients are kind and accommodating to their auditors. Extremes? You bet.

Second, I got a lot of invaluable and extensive trainings. I attended trainings from basic auditing skills to managerial skills to audit updates to tax updates to accounting updates and (the last) to the IFRS. To top it all, they were all free! When you go out, you will spend your hard-earned money just to attend these types of seminars or trainings (unless you go to another company offering the same kind of training, lucky you). 

Do you know how much these trainings cost outside? You can literally hear your wallet or purse screaming as you pay the fees. So if you’re with a Big 4 right now or any other accounting firm offering free trainings, treasure the times when you get to attend those trainings (and your manager or partner leaves you in peace because of this) because these are part of the benefits you will receive from the firm.

Third of all, I was exposed to different industries or kinds of businesses. To name a few: hotels / resorts / restaurants, supermarkets / hypermarkets, service companies, export companies, transportation, newspapers, manufacturing, construction, real estate, parent companies, and even, to some extent, banks. Now how many other companies can offer this type of experience to the accountants out there? 

Staying with the auditing firm helped me become more aware of these types of businesses and their issues in auditing and accounting. And if you’re going to set up your own firm after your stint with the Big 4, you will surely see the value of what you have learned while you are still with that big auditing firm.

Fourth, financial analysis and financial statement understanding is a lot easier for me since I worked for the auditing firm. Because I was exposed with different financial statements, different reporting structures and different financial information (including disclosures), I became used to analyzing and understanding the financial statements. The more financial statements I get to read, the more knowledge I got and the more ‘trained’ my eyes and mind were in reading (and understanding) these financial reports.

Fifth, the networking. When you’re a junior, you get to deal with the client’s staff, managers and even the controller. But when you’re already a senior or a manager, you start dealing with the CFO, the VPs and even, the Presidents of your clients. So this is your chance to establish your networks. When you go out, don’t lose touch. Who knows? You might get a job or some business with that former clients of yours.

And these are just some of the things why I don’t regret working for a big auditing firm. Sure, I also got the late nights (even the overnights!), no-rest week-ends, low pay, cr@ppy boss, hardheaded staff and scary clients, but in the end, they were just all part of the experience. 

So if you are already working for a Big 4 and you have the chance to stay for a longer period (like 3 or more years), then do so. I can assure you, you will really learn something from your experience there. And no, I’m not giving you an empty promise on this one. Trust me, your experience will be well worth it. And that’s a promise.


  1. Great post! I love hearing about the benefits of being an auditor. Thank you!

  2. wow. let's have a break first. i am interested in taking up accountancy to become of course, a CA and then i read this blog. im so hurt. what to do now. LOL. i have brittle hands so i cant take up masonry or mechanic. errr. actually i have an older friend who is now an management consultant, he worked before in one of those big 4 and he also said his experience did not go well. but he told me i should try to go there (big4) if the Heavens allow so that i can be a victim of a sadist and will get my a_hole kicked also! hahahaha.

  3. LOL, a sadist eh? I got lucky because I did not have that kind of a boss. By all means, take up accounting, work for the Big 4 and get your CA. The experience may not go well but there are a lot of things you will learn. But just in case, at least you're warned ahead of time :).

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