Our recent data study reveals that the number of finance professionals leaving the Big 4 continues to rise. This is also the case in Belgium.
But while in the Netherlands the Big 4 leavers mainly moved to e-commerce organizations, Belgian talent chose for more diverse businesses, including supermarket chains. Why is that?
Marie Parmentier, Manager at Robert Walters and a specialist in the recruitment of finance professionals, explains.
Robert Walters analyzed employee data from social networking site LinkedIn. This shows that in 2021 no less than 670 finance professionals left one of the 4 large audit & consulting firms in Belgium. In 2020, there were 'only' 370. A substantial increase.
Robert Walters also researched which companies these Big 4 leavers were heading for. In the Netherlands, it turned out that it was large banks such as ING, Rabobank, and ABN AMRO. But tech and e-commerce companies such as ASML, Booking.com and bol.com were also popular. "In Belgium things are different," says Marie, "although there are some similarities with the Netherlands. There are a lot of professionals who move to different banks, including Belfius, BNP Paribas Fortis and KBC. Consultancy companies such as BDO, Accenture and Trifinance are also very popular.
For finance professionals, the banking sector offers a lot of nice challenges. This sector is increasingly developing as fintechs and is becoming more of an IT service platform than a traditional bank. It is therefore logical that a lot of financial talent that is not necessarily familiar with the banking world can still find work there."
So where is the difference with the Netherlands? There, finance professionals are much more likely to be employed by e-commerce and tech companies. Booking.com and bol.com, but also takeaway.com, are proving popular. This is not the case in Belgium. The e-commerce giants are not even in the top 10. Instead, financials switched to supermarket chains (Colruyt and Delhaize) or to other institutions such as KU Leuven or the European Commission.
The departure for banks also happens in Belgium, but much less for technology and e-commerce companies. Why not? "Years ago, Dutch companies immediately responded well to the growing need for e-commerce. In Belgium we lagged behind, which is why there is still a significant difference in how much we buy online. This reluctance towards new sales channels is the reason Belgium cannot offer fully-fledged competitors to companies such as Bol.com or Coolblue," says Marie.
In 2020, 26.6 billion was spent on online purchases in the Netherlands alone and the turnover of online web shops continues to grow. (Source: Emerce.nl). In Belgium, too, substantial increases are measured, but still a gap remains. The Dutch were therefore quicker to join in with the whole e-commerce business, and that may also be an explanation why professionals there are quicker to make the switch to these companies, and Belgian talent is looking for other options.
It remains striking that more people are leaving the Big 4. According to Marie, the high work pressure plays a role in this. "Young professionals in particular value a good work-life balance. And although the workload within organizations other than the Big 4 companies is not always necessarily less, it is more evenly distributed throughout the year."
Also, the 3.6 years that finance professionals spend at the Big 4 on average seems to be less and less really sustained for that long. For some employees, it is already clear after two years that the Big 4 is not really for them. Nevertheless, according to Marie, a period at the Big 4 remains an excellent starting point for a further career. You get a great education, and you work together with sensible and driven people. If the job does not suit you in the end, you still have an excellent basis, and you can go to work for almost any other company. Big 4 leavers looking for a next step often step into a controlling position.
Organizations are desperate for Controllers but have difficulty attracting experienced Controlling professionals. For them, the increase in Big 4 leavers is therefore more than welcome, and they are prepared to offer them the necessary support in their next career step, so that they are quickly operational," concludes Marie.
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