Monday, 27 April 2009

The Big 4

Some people have been asking me… “Zewt, what is this big-4 that accountants talk about?” Many non-accounting people are quite oblivious about this jargon while some perceived the big-4 as some accounting principles. I just think they are lazy to check Wikipedia or even google it.

Well, the answer is plain and simple. The big-4 refers to the 4 biggest audit / accounting firms currently still exist in the world. I said “currently still exist” because the big-4 used to be the big-8. After a succession of mergers, it became big-5. In fact, when I first entered the accounting world, it was already big-5.

Big-5 became big-4 when Arthur Andersen (“AA”) collapsed due to the Enron scandal. What happened was AA, being the auditor for this big company in the USA called Enron, failed to detect large amounts of debts and losses within the Enron group, thus causing the profit to be over reported. The question is of course, did AA fail to detect or... …?

When the secret got out, the shares plunged from US$90 to less than US$0.50 and Enron, together with AA; transformed from corporate giants to corporate history.

Some may ask, what exactly is the role of an auditor? Well, perhaps I can talk about it another day.

So, for those who wants to know who exactly is part of this big-4… they are…

PriceWaterhouse Coopers or famously known as PwC;
Klynveld Peat MarWick Goerdeler or famously known as KPMG;
Ernst & Young or famously known as EY; and
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu or famously known as Deloitte.

All of the above have presence in Malaysia and they have been ruthless slaves-masters to many accounting graduates for years. Their recruitment strategy is one that centres upon ensuring that they are always under-staff. That is why late nights are a norm.

It’s like a corporate symbiosis where accounting graduates joined them to obtain what is perceived as priceless experience while in return, the Big 4 squeeze the life out of them. I believe some are even reading this blog, right?


2 years go…
Signs of timesTax and cheapEver wondered?

26 comments:

leyaw said...

I wonder if anyone thought the big 4 refers to MU, Liverpool, Arsenal & Chelsea.

Maybe we should have law that would prevent these companies from treating their employees as cheap labour or at least to compensate them for the extra hours.

Crankster said...

Zewt-man, sometimes I really wonder if you're Chinese. Not trying to be a bigot or anything but your race is the one willing to work hard and get bullied without defending themselves.

Which is why china-man companies mostly take only Chinese.

Fi-sha said...

Dear Zewt,
i can't wait for your post on auditors...

Ms Crankster, i'm a malay and im hardworking too even my chinese and japanese colleagues were surprised. Aiyo....what kind of generalisation you are making there...

-eiling- said...

You're absolutely right! Many graduates would die to join this company not knowing that they really squeeze every drop of blood and sweat from them!

Tekkaus said...

The truth is life would not be a bed of roses once you joined them! Politics are aplenty in these Big 4 companies! You have to be smart in "there" or else you might get slaughtered in no time! ;D

Faisal Admar said...

i got friend who quit working here and work in PwC now :)

pinknpurplelizard said...

U don't always get the best experience in the big places. The little and medium or those firms with less of a celebrity status will offer better experience and environment. Ok... This is not always true but it has been rather true amongst my frens, relatives, etc. Each individual thrive and grow differently.

kenwooi.com said...

lol i only know about the Big 4 in the Premier league.. =P

Ms. Lili@ said...

hi, i've been reading your blog and find it especially interesting whenever you write about modern slavery and its relation to big 4.

whilst i agree that i've heard and seen a lot of auditors whose lives being squeezed out of them, i, being part of big 4, would like to beg to differ as a matter of sharing.

i'm neither part of the audit group nor the tax group, but rather in the specialist group. to which i would like to say, yes, i've gone through those days whereby i had to stay back until late night in office.. but i thought that's normal for someone to start establishing his / her worth at work, no?

anyway, after those months / years of hard work i am now living a work-life-balance life and i must say working in big 4 has its perks too. it is indeed a priceless experience.

but i dont deny the part where one has to go through and find ways to survive the office politics, of which again, i thought they exists elsewhere too.. no?

i've always thought -- work sucks no matter where you go, it's always the people around you who makes you go through. so i'm glad i have some nice people & bosses around... =)

okie dokie, that's my 2 cents.

keep on writing! i've always liked to read your insights on all the issues / facts you wrote about :)

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

looks like my big 4 colleague beat me to answering to this...

hahah im probably the odd 1 out who actually has a light schedule and yes..working in a big 4..

now lets hope my employer finds out, sacks me without me paying back the bond i owe them so i can b a free man...hahaha

zewt said...

leyaw - well, that's called good labour law... to which...we dont have.

crankster - i am one, proud to be one but at the same time, ashamed at the evil one can do in the name of profit.

fi-sha - post on auditors can be boring u know :P

-eiling- - and they may not know it at all eh?

tekkaus - politics are everywhere... just have to be smart.

zewt said...

faisal admar - oh my... whatever makes him/her happy.

pinknpurplelizard - true... but some, they just want to make sure they are in the biggest... thus, professional mistake.

kenwooi.com - hello there. hahaha... that one, i know too!

Ms. Lili@ - hello there. welcome to AZAIG. i agree, during the formative years of our career, that's when the slogging is. and that is true... slogging should only be kept within formative years, once it is over... one should be able to reap the rewards. my friends who have gone through the formative years are still slogging away. i am glad you managed to find work life balance now... long may it continue :)

constantly craving joe - that is why... corporate symbiosis haha!

Jun said...

so issit a requirement to have a big 4 experience before u come to oz?

as for ur earlier post on doctoring, to be honest, sure, on a general scale, specialists do earn more, but if u take into account of the workload and stuff, u'd tend to see a slight discrepancy in the remuneration.

keeping in mind wat i'm telling u applies to working in the public and not private sector, for instance, ppl think surgeons earn a lot. true, but do they think of the hard work they put in? how many hrs per day do they work, non-stop, on their feet all the time? and when a surgery goes wrong, they get all the blame. for wat? for an annual income of 150k?? (i may be wrong, dun quote me on this) so unless u reli like to cut, being a surgeon is not the most cost-effective (u'd prolly know the more accurate term) specialty.

on the other hand, some specialties do earn a lot without as much effort as surgery. psychiatry (believe me, the oz gov pumps A LOT of money into mental health), radiology, anesthesia, rural GP etc. i dunno abt the situation in msia, but over here, most ppl do choose their field of specialty based on their interests and not so much on income. i believe that if u're genuinely interested in an area of specialty, u'd be more passionate abt it, and money only comes second. which is why, even tho cardiology is like a money making field, no way u'd coax me into it cos i jt dun like it :)

foongpc said...

Lucky I'm not working for them. Haha!

Purple~MushRooM said...

I was once a slave for them... and my hubby still is. Haha!

Crankster said...

Zewt, you should be proud to be whoever you are. It's just that I presume your culture is such that you're not allowed to question and thus, employers take advantage of the situation.

It's not about being hardworking. I'm here in the UK and they don't work like maniacs - the way Asians do.

There must be something wrong in this equation. Asians work harder and are paid less. Don't forget, most foreign companies bring their business over here because of the cheap labour.

Rin said...

LOL...my parents once slogged in two of the big 4, I once interned in 1 of them, but all of us are no longer there now (Hurray!)...most of my ex-colleagues have moved on as well...but some of my friends, recent graduates, are slaving there...and a few others are planning to join this modern slave trade...
I guess if they enjoy the job, it ain't slaving...hope they do...=P

rachel said...

i am going to be training in one of the big4 soon... how?? T_T

but i think i will pull through. i hope..

Andrew Ho said...

I read "a profesional mistake", and I wanna do accountancy in Uni soon oh, so how ahhhhhhhh? +_+

mistipurple said...

my friend quit one of the big 4 after the silk air crashed killing her colleagues. she was supposed to be on it. happened to miss because she chose to stay one more day in bali. she took it as a sign that she has been given a second chance at life. she is now happy in another profession. she said her job then was like a frog being cooked slowly starting from cold water then warming up and finally when it boils she wouldn't have noticed.

Ulquiorra said...

those who know nuts about the accounting industry would think PWC is a water filter company.

zewt said...

Jun - generally, experience in big 4 can bring u to most places. anyway, u sure the annual income is 150k? but you're right, if you have the passion, u will do it right and proper.

foongpc - hahaha... but are u in the profession in the first place?

purple-mushroom - and i know which firm haha.

crankster - indeed, that has always been my criticism... asians are being constantly exploited. it's like the colonisation never really ended.

Rin - well, a lot of ppl just want to flock there regardless. they need to experience it for themselves.

zewt said...

rachel - hahaha... you, intern should be ok lah.

Andrew Ho - you will be a professional mistake maker lor...

mistipurple - hahahaha... well, i am glad she had a divine intervention.

Ulquiorra - and EY is probably some youth herbal formula eh?

Crankster said...

But Zewt, the colonialism HASN'T ended at all. Certainly not in the mind of the average asian.

I see a lot of your readers think it's about the accounting profession. Or purely the Big Four of accounting.

Let me assure you, Zewt, that asians allowing themselves to be exploited is across the board. It's NOT an accounting thing. It's also an engineering thing.

zewt said...

Crankster - yeah... we just have to break away from the wester-is-master mentality. and sorry to know that engineering is also suffering. sigh... let's rise up!

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