Which Big 4 firm pays most? In actuality, things aren’t always clear. PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG are all vying for talent, similar to how the big banks do. Additionally, especially in the younger ranks, their pay for comparable tasks can be extremely similar to that of top-tier institutions.
In the Big 4, there is a clearer hierarchy after you reach the partner level, with Deloitte taking the lead. In 2018–19, Deloitte partners received an annual salary of £882k ($1.5m), PWC partners received £765k ($1m) each, EY partners received £679k, and KPMG partners—whose firm is slashing costs—received £640k.
However, these noticeable variations seem to be mostly a partner-level occurrence. If you work as a junior auditor for one of the Big Four firms in London, your salary will be comparable no matter where you are employed. When you graduate from college, you begin with about £28k (more like 25 if you are outside London.) As you pass the ACA examinations over the following three years, this increases to between £44k and £50k. With each exam, your compensation increases. As such, the answer to which big 4 firm pays most is less clear at junior levels.
But according to data from Payscale, there are differences. According to Payscale, EY and PwC now pay their UK auditors the highest salaries (an average of £30,000), while KPMG and Deloitte pay the lowest salaries (about £28,000.)
Qualified Pay in Industry
Intriguingly, the market outside of practise — many ACAs will leave once qualified — has remained largely stable over the past ten years, paying between £52,000 and £60,000 for the majority of accounting roles (including FP&A/commercial finance, financial reporting/control, and internal audit). There will always be exceptions to this; more academic credentials like a masters or a PHD will get you a premium and many more people are studying the CFA as well (sometimes on their own dime).
Additionally, there is higher pay in the Transaction Services/Corporate Finance sectors. This is mainly because these fields require more technical expertise and demanding work schedules, especially when deals are active. Additionally, the benefits are a little better here.
Furthermore, all of the Big Four have just received a smack on the knuckles from the FRC. None of them succeeded in meeting the goal of having 90 percent of their audits evaluated as being of high quality. Carillion and PWC’s handling of the BHS audit are two high-profile failures by KPMG. The fifth-largest audit firm in the UK, Grant Thornton, has trouble with Patisserie Valerie. Therefore, the industry is making great efforts to raise the standard of its labour, its training, and its appeal to recent graduates.
However, the trade-off is that earning the ACA (under the ICAEW or ICAS) is still a world-leading qualification and recognised globally. Accounting businesses do not pay at the top of the graduate scale. People that pass such examinations will have a great opportunity to advance their professions as far as they want to, all over the world. The vast majority of those who complete this training contract gain priceless expertise and experience dealing with senior clients as well as on a technical level, preparing them for a variety of careers whenever they decide to leave practise.