The Large Regional & Large Local Accounting Firms
The Best of Both Worlds for your Career?
by Robert Belcher
I recall many years ago while attending classes at the School of Accountancy, a majority of the faculty consistently pushed the idea that the best jobs for top accounting graduates were with the Big Eight accounting firms. Well, if that was somewhat true at one time, a lot of things of things have changed since then. To begin with, as a result of mergers, we know the Big Eight is now the Big Four.
Today, accounting professionals have a wide range of options for promising jobs. For those who consider public accounting, and with a good firm, there are many good reasons to do so, it is unfortunate that many professionals believe they have to go either one route, a Big Four firm, or the other alternative, a small local / small regional firm. However, there is another better choice.
National firms, particularly the Big Four, traditionally provide training and support programs, while local/regional firms, unlike the nationals, typically offer accounting professionals the chance to work on advanced and varied assignments much quicker. Bottom line, traditionally, there have been advantages and disadvantages to either choice of career path, but you could not have the advantages of both – that is until recently.
Increasingly, there is an alternative and it can be a total win-win for accounting professionals. It’s the rapid growth of the large regional and large local accounting firms. Their growth is significantly outpacing the growth of the lauded Big Four firms, and also outpacing many among the Top Ten of accounting firms in the United States. At Belcher & Associates, we place a great many Big 4 managers and senior managers, who instead of waiting many more years for the possibility to become partner, opt for a more rewarding faster promotion track with a large regional or large local accounting firm.
Continuing Professional Education: Today, these large regional and large local accounting firms are members of national or international CPA associations. Membership in such an organization is very selective and offers these firms (and their management and staff) access to nationally developed technical support and materials that are integrated with national training programs. It also offers member firms the opportunity to network with similar-sized firms across the nation, and even internationally, to expand their base of knowledge, resources and contacts and share experiences, ideas, and jointly serve a larger and geographically diverse group of clients.
Meanwhile, these large regional and large local firms retain their traditional attractions to accounting professionals:
the chance to work on advanced and varied assignments much quicker;
more direct interaction with client decision makers;
often better work/life balance and less overnight travel;
and even surprising to some, often better compensation and benefits than earned by their comparable professionals in Big Four firms
Across the board for the past several years, partners of these large regional and large local accounting firms have confirmed with me that they have seen the Big Four firms migrate primarily to serve the Fortune 1000 companies. As a result, the large regional firms are going after large private and smaller public companies, and large local firms have migrated to very large private companies and have also become an outsource option for various Sarbanes-Oxley type projects. Even smaller local accounting firms are now focused more on companies in the $10 million to $100 million sales range.
There is a boom going on in terms of business within the accounting profession. These large regional and large local firms have increasing opportunities, infrastructure, and economies of scale to achieve their growth and expansion strategies. These strategies include a continuing effort to build their niche expertise in certain services and/or industries. This rolling competitive landscape has furthered demand for experienced professionals in order to maintain growth. It’s a terrific opportunity for many professionals to consider.