Young finance execs value Big Four experience but will not stay long

While young finance professionals see the experience gained in the largest accountancy firms as invaluable to their long-term career success, they will leave when the time is right, said ACCA recently when publishing its new report titled Generation Next: managing talent in large accountancy.

The report is based on a survey of the organization’s nearly 19,000 members and students aged 16 to 36, with a focus on those working with Big Four or mid-tier firms, according to ACCA.

Across the profession, 48% of all Gen Next respondents said they were happy in their role, survey results indicate.

At large accountancy firms, job satisfaction scored higher, particularly for those in the Big Four where almost 60% of our respondents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their job, according to the report.

While respondents appreciate the value of the experiences they can gain, the clear potential for progression and learning and development opportunities, 43% of those in the Big Four stated they had poor work-life balance in their role and 48% said their workload was too great.

In mid-tier firms, many respondents also had mixed views about the transparency of career paths with more than one-third suggesting these were unclear, ACCA pointed out.

In addition, 80% of Big Four respondents said they aim at a more senior position in their next role, and 75% of all top accountancy firm respondents expect to change roles within the next two years.

Looking longer-term, the vast majority of young professionals at large accounting firms said they intend to move into the corporate sector, preferably within a large corporate firm, potentially creating retention challenges for their current employers.

The changes in talent retention and skills demanded

“While our report reveals how large firms are taking steps to improve the work-life balance for staff, with innovations in telecommunications allowing for much greater ‘agile’ working’, this growing appetite for flexibility and change is perhaps adding another layer of pressure on firm’s strategies to retain the best and brightest,” said Maggie McGhee, director of Professional Insights at ACCA.

While emerging technologies help reduce time spent on process, freeing-up finance professionals to focus on delivering more value for clients, the rising demand for new client services  means the skills most-prized by accounting firms continue to change, she pointed out.

“The is an increased demand for skills such as emotional intelligence, integrity and vision. All this directly impacts recruitment and engagement strategies for the Big Four and mid-tier firms,” she said.