The recent restructuring and job cuts in the Big Four accountancy firms reported nationally which some attribute to previous ‘overhiring’ following the pandemic, is surprising to some in a market which continues to grow.
News that Deloitte is to shed 800 roles and EY is to cut 5% of its staff in its financial services practices, along with others in the Big Four, could prompt a closer examination of career development and job security in the accounting industry today.
Amidst the shifting dynamics and challenges within the major firms, there's a notable contrast emerging in the landscape of the established, independent accountancy firm, which can offer increased structured career development and job security in this sector.
While larger firms may be grappling with staff reductions due to excessive hiring and a slowdown in staff departures, independent accountancy firms, smaller in size and more specialised in their services, present a more promising scenario for career growth and stability for accountancy professionals at all stages of their career.
Some may consider that a larger firm with a national or international presence may offer a more stable structure and security for professionals but there is undoubtedly fertile ground in independent accountancy firms for individuals seeking a robust career trajectory and job security.
Independent firms often have a specialisation and niche expertise; often having a higher degree of specialisation in specific sectors or services, creating opportunities for professionals to develop expertise in niche areas. This focus allows for a deeper understanding of industries, leading to career growth and further, more specialised roles.
Smaller firms also tend to be more agile in response to market changes. Their adaptability enables quicker shifts in focus and strategy, ensuring a more efficient utilisation of staff resources without excessive overhiring or layoffs due to market fluctuations. Naturally, leading to more job security.
Employees in independent firms typically have more hands-on experience and increased responsibility early in their careers. Particularly in firms like Hall Morrice with a track record of career development and training for graduate trainees. This exposure contributes to rapid skill development and growth opportunities, fostering a sense of job security through individual skill diversification. Staff at all stages of their career can look around them in our office and see colleagues who have progressed through the ranks to senior roles. Job satisfaction also tends to flow from this increased responsibility and the professional growth development opportunities.
Smaller firms often cultivate a closer-knit, supportive work culture, leading to higher job satisfaction and a reduced turnover rate of employees. This stable work environment provides a sense of security and belonging that might be lacking in larger corporate environments.
Independent firms frequently work with a more diverse clientele, exposing employees to a wider range of projects and direct client engagement. This diversity offers professionals a broader spectrum of experiences, fostering career advancement and job security.
Smaller firms are often more cautious in their recruitment processes, maintaining a balanced approach to staffing that prevents overhiring, ensuring the workforce aligns with market demands and growth. They approach finding new team members with a balanced viewpoint, looking to recruit staff who can complement the existing workforce and who will grow with the firm.
By nature of their size and specialisation, independent accountancy firms are often more resilient to economic fluctuations, reducing the impact of market downturns on job security and career progression. They can have a more robust resilience to local and national market fluctuations.
With flatter hierarchies and often less bureaucratic structures, employees in independent firms often have more opportunities to innovate and assume leadership roles, providing a clear path for career advancement.
This is important for any firm seeking to increase their staff from the ‘millennial’ 18 to 34 age group. A recent Virtuali/WorlplaceTrends.com study shows that 91% of millennials aspire to reach leadership positions; 51% of them believing they have this trait.
Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce while baby boomers are gearing up for retirement. They are the rising stars for any firm poised to take the helm as the boomers step back, so giving them experience and empowering them is crucial. Those who don’t feel engaged are work are far more likely to job hop. Retention is key especially when it’s estimated that the cost of employee turnover to a company is 150% of a salary. Not to mention the costly effects of overworking existing staff.
While the recent staffing cuts in larger outfits highlight the repercussions of overhiring, a slower turnover rate, the stability and growth prospects in established independent accountancy firms stand out. The present era, marked by greater specialisation, market resilience, and diverse opportunities, highlight why individuals seeking a secure and progressive career should consider gravitating towards independent firms.
Professionals in all sectors of accountancy recognise the increasing attractiveness of fulfilling, stable, and progressive careers in smaller firms and the career development and job security which they can provide in a competitive market.
Des Petrie trained at Hall Morrice and has been promoted internally throughout his career to his current position of partner in the firm. Three senior managers and one director also began at Hall Morrice as trainees and have continued their career journey with the practice.
More about career opportunities at Hall Morrice can be found in our careers's pages.