The tight labour market poses double risks for Big 4


The Big 4 are desperately seeking new financial talent, according to an analysis by international recruitment specialist Robert Walters based on figures from Jobfeed. Problem: the large audit & consulting firms - like many other organizations - are struggling with a tight labour market and therefore face increasing competition from the rest of the business world. 


In the fourth quarter of 2021 the number of financial vacancies at the Big 4 was no less than 45% higher than in Q4 2020. In the first half of 2021, the number of financial job adverts among the Big 4 declined, but since then the number of vacancies has been rising every quarter. 

The increasing demand from the Big 4 firms follows a national trend: many other organizations are also having difficulty finding qualified financials. In the fourth quarter of 2021, for instance, there were over 22,000 financial vacancies in Belgium, the highest number of vacancies for finance professionals in the past year. 

Competition and staff turnover  

The tight labour market not only makes it difficult for the Big 4 to recruit new professionals, but it is also a reason for finance professionals to move to other organizations, notes Christophe Paquay, Manager at Robert Walters. "The already heavy workload at the Big 4 is intensified, as staff shortages mean that the work can be distributed among fewer people. As a result, the workload becomes so intense that even more finance professionals than before leave for other companies. There, the workload is not necessarily less, but it is spread more evenly over the year." 

The four large audit and consulting firms are also facing another risk because of the tightening labour market: other companies are more often trying to solve their own staff shortages by actively recruiting talent from the Big 4. Robert Walters has noticed that increased companies are trying to attract Big 4 talent by, for example, taking over their student debt when making a move. Some courses combine work and study, and the employer even advances the training costs. 

Finally, a move to the corporate world or a smaller audit & consulting firm is attractive because there is less pressure from supervisors, according to Christophe. "Many therefore find the work at a smaller firm with a less strict separation between audit and consultancy much more enjoyable and varied. In addition, the atmosphere there is often more relaxed, and the communication lines are shorter." 

Big 4 remains an excellent start to a career  

Despite the less pleasant aspects of working for the Big 4, a career at one of the Big 4 firms remains an excellent starting point for a further career in finance, according to Christophe. You receive an excellent training programme at the Big 4. Through the post-master courses, of course, but also ‘on the job’ and through international training courses. Moreover, you work together with highly motivated and smart colleagues who push you to great heights. If it turns out that a further career within the Big 4 does not suit you, at least you will have a great basis and you will be able to work for nearly every other company.  


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