The Complete Guide To Big 4 Consulting

define big four

By the spring of 2012, however, PwC was beginning to take a bolder and more ambitious approach. Unlike the other firms, PwC featured a main legal service line as a hypertext integrated within the collection of its global services and linked to a PwC Global Legal Services Network website. The GLSN site reveals that the network was engaged in a full range of business-related legal services, resembling those typically promoted by a business law firm. At the same time, the site also highlighted a global, multidisciplinary, and solution-oriented approach as the network’s main source of differentiation from traditional law firms.

define big four

With the explosion in market value of consulting services over the last few decades, the Big 4 has begun systematically capturing consulting market share as well. KPMG, headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, was launched in 1987 and today it employs 173,965 employees worldwide. The company offers audit, tax, advisory, and industry-specific services, placing great value on its customers and quality of service. In 2015, KPMG’s revenues reached $24.5 billion, with double-digit growth in the emerging economies of India (18.3%), Middle East and South Asia (12.7%), Africa (9.5%), and China (8.5%). Woodrow Wilson (28 December 1856 – 3 February 1924) was elected President of the United States based on domestic issues in 1912, and re-elected in 1916. He based his 1916 re-election campaign around the slogan “he kept us out of war”, and had worked hard to broker a compromise peace.

Market Concentration And Alleged Collusion Amongst The Big Four

Many of the most profitable of these new areas—e.g., corporate restructuring, insolvency, litigation support, and forensic accounting services—intersected significantly with law. In recognition of this new reality—and to exploit its potential—the Big Five ceased calling themselves accounting firms and began marketing aggressively as a new brand of multidisciplinary professional service organization . It wasn’t long before the “disciplinary” services offered by these increasingly large and global organizations included a broad Certified Public Accountant range of legal services. Moreover, as impressive as the expansion of their legal networks has been over the last decade, there are good reasons to believe that the Big Four will be even more successful in penetrating the corporate legal services market in the decades to come. It is by now common knowledge that corporate clients are increasingly seeking globalized solutions that integrate law into a wider category of “business solutions”—precisely the approach these globally integrated multidisciplinary firms now champion.

This information should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. In February 2011, the Irish Director of Corporate Enforcement Paul Appleby said that auditors “report surprisingly few types of company law offences to us”, with the so-called “big four” auditing firms reporting the least often to his office, at just 5% of all reports. The Big Eight gradually reduced due to mergers between these firms, as well as the 2002 collapse of Arthur Andersen, leaving four networks dominating the market at the turn of the 21st century. In the United Kingdom in 2011, it was reported that the Big Four account for the audits of 99% of the companies in the FTSE 100 Index, and 96% of the companies in the FTSE 250 Index, an index of the leading mid-cap listing companies. Such a high level of industry concentration has caused concern, and a desire among some in the investment community for the Competition & Markets Authority to consider breaking up the Big Four. In October 2018, the CMA announced it would launch a detailed study of the Big Four’s dominance of the audit sector. Recently, they started to offer digital transformation consulting to serve the needs of the digital age.

define big four

The conflict of interest involved in providing tax advisory services to audit clients. KPMG, for instance, has locations in the U.S., Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the U.K. If you have an interest in international tax law, you could advance from a U.S. location to one overseas. Beyond the professional benefit, such employment opportunities can offer you the chance to see more of the world while growing your career. Graduates who have earned an online Master of Science in Taxation from Northeastern University are well equipped to work in the constantly changing tax industry. According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s Annual Report to Congress, the tax law of the U.S. is perpetually changing to manage problems and streamline the process.

Ai In The Accounting Big Four

Coming in just behind Deloitte in total revenue, PwC is another firm that hasn’t let its past dominance slow down it’s continued rise. The firm sits comfortably ledger account at #6 on our list of top consulting firms by revenue, and we are likely to see its’ consulting wing surpass audit in revenue within the next few years.

define big four

In addition, PwC’s GLSN website gave access to the list of countries where legal services were offered by PwC, including 20 full-scale legal practices representing 29 percent of PwC’s LTs, which were otherwise not visible at the individual country–level website. The Big Four offer a wider range of career paths for aspiring corporate finance professionals. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, more commonly referred to as Deloitte, is a UK-incorporated international professional services firm with headquarters in New York City. Widely regarded as one of the top firms within the Big Four, Deloitte is well known for its audit, tax, risk, financial advisory and consulting services. With offices in more than 100 locations worldwide, it reported the highest revenue among the Big Four accounting firms in 2016 and is considered the sixth largest privately owned organization in the United States. The “Big Four” is the nickname used to refer to the four largest accounting firms in the United States, as measured by revenue. They are Deloitte, Ernst & Young , PricewaterhouseCoopers , and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler .

Ai In Government

Because of their broad geographical presence and high level of expertise, they provide most of the auditing work for the world’s publicly-held businesses. For now, we simply conclude by urging both practitioners and commentators to pay greater attention to what these important players are doing—and, equally as important, to what law firms, clients, and regulators are, or should be, doing in response. Formerly known as Ernst & Young, EY is one of the largest professional service providing firms in the world. It operates as a network of firms which function independently in different countries, collectively offering assurance, audit, tax, consulting and advisory services to companies. Although the Big Four have been quick to represent their new legal offerings as an integral part of their business model to clients, they have been less forthcoming about making this fact easily visible to the outside world.

This framework, however, is far less clear or determinate than it might appear, given the difficulty in defining where auditing ends and consulting begins. Faced with declining margins in their core audit business, the Big Five began to offer a growing arsenal of nonaudit consulting services to their audit clients, particularly in the areas of information technology and financial management.

Each firm is still lawfully permitted to target the large body of public companies they do not audit. These nonaudit clients have become the engine of growth for the Big Four’s legal practices. To accomplish this goal, KPMG, EY, and Deloitte have followed PwC’s lead of integrating their independent law firm partners into their umbrella networks. To investigate whether SOX and other related legislation has in fact signaled the death knell of the Big Four’s legal ambitions, we examined the corporate websites of the Big Four and their affiliated law firms over several years. Websites have become a “virtual storefront” used by companies to promote their products and services. As such, they offer an approved, official, and formalized account of how the company wishes to be viewed, and they provide an important way of assessing what companies are trying to achieve and how these goals may be evolving over time.

  • What this kind of study cannot tell us, however, is whether what the Big Four say about their legal networks is in fact true.
  • The Big Eight consisted of Arthur Andersen, Arthur Young, Coopers & Lybrand, Deloitte Haskins and Sells, Ernst & Whinney, Peat Marwick Mitchell, Price Waterhouse, and Touche Ross.
  • Whether or not this trend results in the death of lawyer professionalism, as Rosen intimated, it will very likely further the legal ambitions of the Big Four.
  • In September 2020, Deloitte was fined £15 million ($19.4 million USD) by the FRC for failing to apply sufficient professional skepticism in its audits of Autonomy’s 2009 to 2011 financial statements prior to Autonomy’s acquisition by Hewlett-Packard.

Rather we imply they have no choice but to say that they are on the cutting edge of AI (or they risk losing business to their better-marketed competitors). This isn’t blameworthy, it’s business – and we aren’t here to point fingers, but to lay the situation out as it is. Time will tell which of these companies is leveraging the technology most fruitfully, and we imagine that there will be a rather intense competition among these top firms to improve their service quality and profit margins through automation. According to EY, use of drones allows more data to be captured in the process of auditing. It also allows auditors to focus on risk areas rather than taking stock of inventory manually. This drone initiative seems to be in research and development mode at the time being and doesn’t seem to be a service offered broadly to EY’s client base. EY Australia has already adopted this digital auditing technology, claiming that 50% of its bank audit confirmations were lodged using the AI-enabled system.


Their clients include such powerhouses as Berkshire Hathaway, Ford Motor Co., Apple, Exxon Mobil, and Amazon. According to a 2018 report by the CFA Institute, 30% of the S&P 500 were audited by PwC, 31% by EY, 20% by Deloitte, and 19% by KPMG. The second largest professional services firm by revenue, PwC, claims to have begun adopting AI as well.

Legal Structure

Aside from auditing services, the Big Four offer tax, strategy and management consulting, valuation,market research, assurance, and legal advisory services. Finally, the Big Four are not only marshaling their financial resources to capture a larger share of this lucrative prize, they are also increasingly leveraging their already important role in the technology space through alliances with leading tech companies. In 2014, PwC announced its joint business relationship with Google for Work to cocreate solutions for clients. “We bring in the content, they bring in the technology” explained define big four PwC’s chairman Dennis Nally. More recently, EY has established an alliance with LinkedIn designed to “help companies develop deeper and more trusted customer relationships through the use of social and data analytics.” How these moves are going to impact their global legal businesses is yet to be seen. Nonetheless, it will surely prepare the Big Four for the technological disruptions that are already reshaping the global market for legal services. In the years following SOX, the legal market grew significantly, with large law firms expanding in size and geographic scope.

17 It is also noteworthy that similar reforms have been implemented at the European level by the European Commission, in the form of a new EU regulatory framework on statutory audit, due to come into force in 2016. Suddaby and Greenwood’s analysis of the arguments for multi-disciplinary partnerships, where the PSFs argued that the commercial benefits of partnerships would not interfere with their professional integrity and independence. Failure to alert authorities and regulators about the risks posed to the British economy by the leverage, liquidity, and lending practices of the banks that were audited.

However, there are also a growing number of altruistic applications of AI that are being leveraged today. Our analysis reveals that the Big Four are investigating the concerns of workforce automation – though most all of their published thought leadership paints an assets = liabilities + equity optimistic future of augmentation, rather than one of automation. Time will tell when it comes to the effects of AI on the knowledge workers within the Big Four. My fingers are crossed that their industry – as with many others – have insight and ability to adopt.

However, although the level of skills is equally high, the approach is different. These groups perform “financial due diligence” on behalf of acquirers of companies to analyze the target companies’ financial statements and overall financial health. A career in the financial due diligence team can require long hours when on a transaction and requires forensic level accounting and analysis. Ernst & Young, more commonly referred to as EY, is another Big Four firm with headquarters in London. EY was ranked as the 29th best company to work for in the United States, as well as the 11th largest private organization in the world.

Indeed, as we indicate below, the Big Four’s practices have now been recognized by major ranking services such as Chambers and Partners and the Financial Times as among best in their respective markets. At a minimum, the web presence we document reveals the Big Four’s ambitions for their legal services arms—as well as what they think will appeal to potential clients, and what they fear will be revealed to potential competitors and regulators. The regulatory response was swift and, for the soon-to-be Big Four’s legal ambitions, apparently devastating. The U.S. Congress passed the Sarbanes–Oxley Act , prohibiting audit firms from providing certain nonaudit services to their clients, including legal services unrelated to the audit. A Public Company Accounting Oversight Board was created to oversee implementation of standards and ethics rules related to audit practice aimed at strengthening auditor independence.

Financial Career Options For Professionals

Also, in 2016, Deloitte ranked in the 90th position as one of the 100 best companies to work for. In the wake of industry concentration and the occasional firm failure, the issue of a credible alternative industry structure has been raised. This creates the complication that smaller firms have no way to compete well enough to make it into the top end of the market.

The mantra for international law firms has been “premium work for premium clients,” thereby leading many firms to exit the commodity businesses in order to concentrate on high-margin assignments. This new approach, in turn, dovetailed with the Big Four’s own organizational transformation from multidisciplinary firms, offering a variety of separate service lines, to integrated problem-solving networks with deep industry expertise. Leveraging their skill in process management and IT expertise across their increasingly large global footprint, the Big Four easily moved into spaces that the law firms were abandoning. This group is the result of mergers amongst the prior Big Eight public accounting firms. They also have a significant presence in other areas, including tax, consulting, actuarial, and legal services.

Gaps In The Regulation Of Auditor Independence

As one of us has argued elsewhere, in the decade since Rosen’s article was published, changes in the economic and regulatory climate have only accentuated the trend he describes. Whether or not this trend results in the death of lawyer professionalism, as Rosen intimated, it will very likely further the legal ambitions of the Big Four. To the extent that the world of law is increasingly turning to traditional business methods such as unbundling, outsourcing, process management, and partnering to reduce costs and increase effectiveness, the legal networks of the global accounting firms have a distinct advantage. The Big Four have successfully utilized all of these processes to transform themselves from accounting firms to professional service organizations offering integrated global business solutions to complex problems at the intersection of finance, tax, strategy, organization—and increasingly law. Contrary to popular perception, section 201 of SOX did not establish an audit-only rule for the accounting firms. Instead, it provides a list of nonaudit services that are off-limits for registered public accounting firms regarding their U.S.-listed audit clients and empowers the audit committees to preapprove the purchase of tax services and other “SOX-permissible” NAS from the auditor.

Given the impact that AI is poised to make, there has to be a discussion about the extent to which we rely solely on machine-based intelligence and decisions. Every industry embracing AI for a business solution is concerned with the impact that this technology can have on humans in the workplace. For the Big Four, this is reason for greater concern, as they operate in a people-centric business – and one that some experts would presume to be ripe for massive disruption through automation.