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by Derek Loosvelt | March 14, 2012


Each year, Vault's annual Accounting Survey asks thousands of accountants to rate their peer firms in terms of prestige. In a few weeks, we'll reveal which firm ranked No. 1 this year. This means we'll soon know the answer to these questions: Will PricewaterhouseCoopers (which ranked No. 1 the past three years) retain its title? Will Deloitte, which ranked as the most prestigious four years ago, return to the top? Or will Ernst & Young, KPMG, Grant Thornton, or another (smaller) firm rank as the most prestigious accounting firm in North America?

While the quantitative votes are being tallied (survey respondents were asked to rate firms other than their own on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of prestige), I thought we'd take a look at some of the qualitative comments we received from respondents this year (along with a rating, the survey asks respondents to provide a few words about each firm; we call this "The Buzz"). And so, below is a sampling of recent Buzz about each of last year's top 5 most prestigious firms (along with their respective prestige ranking last year).

PwC (#1): "Cadillac of the industry," "Very prestigious but kills its people with workload," "No work/life balance," "Good reputation but probably overvalued," "Resume builder," "Cutting-edge," "Pompous," "Great place to work," "Exceptional," "People burn out quickly," "Very impressed with their people," "Known as being too big to give good client service," "Overly professional," "Stuffy," "Strong competitor"

Deloitte (#2): "Good reputation," "Employees seem happy," "Good if you don't mind moving or working a ton," "Technologically-advanced," "Probably the second best firm," "Leader of the Big 4," "Impressive training," "High turnover," "Wonderful," "Best of the big guys," "Snobby," "Great benefits," "Lots of dissatisfaction," "High-powered," "Prestigious with a hint of arrogance," "Everybody speaks highly of them"

Ernst & Young (#3): "Top firm in the nation," "Super prestigious but highly competitive," "Best of the Big 4," "Lacks personality," "Moving in the right direction," "Friendly culture," "Treats people well," "Behind competitors in some areas," "Less friendly and flexible," "Least regarded of the Big 4," "Fantastic," "Sweatshop," "Class act," "Laid-back but professional," "Reputable international firm with good employees"

KPMG (#4): "Great place to build a career," "Reputation for over-hiring," "Ethically-challenged," "Losing some of its Big 4 credibility," "Top-tier prestige," "Shrinking," "Unsatisfied clients," "One of the oldest and well known," "Plays with the big boys," "Throws good parties," "Weakest of the Big 4," "Most laid-back culture of the Big 4," "Great place to work," "Redheaded step child of the Big Four," "Party firm"

Grant Thornton (#5): "Great firm," "Good reputation," "Nationally known," "Second tier," "Should be a Big 4 (Big 5) soon," "Growth-oriented," "Nice people, "Wishes it could audit bigger clients," "Solid," "Somewhat prestigious," "Less knowledge and fewer resources than Big 4," "Very very good," "Good alternative to Big 4," "A player," "Great breadth but not much depth," Big 4 experience without the Big 4 negatives"

Read More:
21 Interview Questions the Big 4 Ask
Vault's 2012 Accounting Prestige Rankings