The Big Four is the collective name for Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC, the four firms who dominate the professional services world. Between them, they count most of the world's top companies among their clients. They all have offices across the globe, employing hundreds of thousands of employees - and between them they recruit thousands of UK graduates every year.
What do the Big Four do?
These firms work for their clients in three main areas: audit, tax and advisory services. What does each of these mean?
All companies are legally required to conduct audits on a regular basis, usually annually. An audit means investigating all aspects of company's business to ensure that their accounts accurately reflect the real status of that business. Audit work is predominantly financial, but may also cover evaluating a company's health and safety provisions, IT security and environmental impact.
Those working in tax at a Big Four firm advise their clients on what they need to do to comply with their tax obligations, the implications of new tax legislation and on tax mitigation strategies, that is, the ways in which they are legally permitted to structure their affairs to minimise the amount of tax they pay.
Advisory work covers a broad spectrum of areas. It could involve advising clients on improving the performance of their business, rearranging their corporate structure, or dealing with risks they face.
The Big Four firms may also give specialised advice in relation to areas such as mergers and acquisitions, insolvency or human resources.
What's in it for me?
Join a Big Four firm and you can look forward to being involved in fascinating work going to the heart of how major corporate institutions operate. You'll get excellent training, both on the job and through structured classroom programmes that together will usually lead to you becoming a qualified chartered accountant. With some good-looking letters after your name, your skills will be recognised worldwide and will stand you in good stead whether you choose to rise up the ranks at your original firm or a similar one, or switch to a related role within a business - a path many Big Four graduate recruits eventually successfully pursue.