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by Derek Loosvelt | April 14, 2014


Today we celebrate Tax Day with the release of the latest Vault Accounting 50, a ranking of the best accounting employers to work for in North America. Recently, we asked more than 10,000 accountants to rate their peer firms in terms of prestige; we also asked them to rate their own firms in numerous workplace categories, including culture, work/life balance, hours, compensation, training, overall satisfaction, and business outlook. And in this year’s Accounting 50—which takes into account prestige as well as workplace category ratings—although there was some movement near the top of the rankings, the same firm came in at the very top: PwC.

PwC: On top again
Not only did New York-headquartered PwC again rank No. 1 in the Accounting 50 (and thus held onto its title of “best accounting employer to work for”) but it also again ranked No. 1 in our Prestige Rankings. In fact, it was the sixth year in a row that PwC took the top spot in prestige. And this year accountants at peer firms told us that PwC is “still the gold standard,” “the firm to beat,” “a good firm for large clients,” “highly thought of,” “top notch,” and “the best of the Big 4.” But peer accountants also called PwC “conceited” and said the No. 1 firm in America “will work you to the bone and spit you out.”

In addition, PwC ranked No. 1 in three new categories. This year, for the first time, we asked accountants to rate their peer firms in three practice areas: tax accounting, forensic accounting, and audit and assurance. PwC ranked No. 1 in all three. PwC also fared very well in our diversity rankings, earning the top spot for LGBT diversity, military veteran diversity, and overall diversity.

And PwC rated higher than its Big 4 competitors (Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and KPMG) in nearly all of our Quality of Life Rankings, which are typically (and were again this year) dominated by midsize accounting firms. PwC ranked No. 2 in formal training, No. 4 in business outlook, No. 13 in firm culture (it jumped four spots in this category), No. 15 in work/life balance (also up four spots), No. 13 in compensation (up two spots), and No. 18 in overall satisfaction (which might seem like a less than impressive ranking but it was better than the rest of the Big 4 firms fared in this category).

Ernst & Young: Gaining ground
Despite PwC’s exceptional performance this year, it was challenged by a formidable opponent in Ernst & Young, which jumped two spots to No. 2 this year in the Accounting 50. New York-based Ernst & Young’s performance was bolstered by a strong showing in prestige: it repeated its position at No. 2 and saw its raw prestige score rise by 3 percent. In addition, the firm showed a remarkable improvement in business outlook and compensation. It ranked No. 8 in business outlook after not making the top 20 last year, and ranked No. 2 in compensation after being shut out of the rankings last year.

According to accountants at peer firms, Ernst & Young is “the most respected firm,” “competitive and well run,” “good to its employees,” “impressive,” a “great firm,” “talented and aggressive in tax positions,” “the best for employees and clients,” and the “most competitive firm to PwC.” At the same time, accountants noted that Ernst & Young is “weak outside the US” and “its benefits are less than impressive.”

Deloitte: Down a notch but doing well
Ernst & Young’s success came at the expense of Deloitte, which fell one notch to No. 3 in the Accounting 50. Still, Deloitte put in a strong performance in the rankings. Deloitte repeated as the No. 3 firm in prestige and saw its raw score in that category rise by 4 percent. In addition, Deloitte went from being unranked in compensation last year to landing at No. 9 in that category this year. Meanwhile, accountants outside Deloitte called the firm “aggressive,” “prestigious,” “highly reputable,” and “hardworking,” and lauded it for its “global footprint” and “high quality work.” However, they also said Deloitte “overworks everyone,” resulting in “high burn-out and attrition rates.”

KPMG: No longer a distant fourth
KPMG, the perennial punching bag of the Big 4, rose two spots to No. 4 in the Vault Accounting 50 based in part on its strong showing in prestige; although it still trailed its fellow Big 4 firms in the category, KPMG’s raw prestige score increased by 6 percent this year (which was the largest score rise by any of the Big 4). KPMG also scored the No. 1 spot in formal training, beating out all of its Big 4 competitors. Accountants at peer firms called KPMG “highly prestigious,” “a great company to work for,” “cool,” “laid-back,” “fun-loving,” and a “well known firm with a global presence.” But they also said the firm is still “dealing with past trouble and needs to clean up its image.”

Here’s how the entire top 10 of the Vault Accounting 50 looked this year:

1. PwC
2. Ernst & Young
3. Deloitte
5. Grant Thornton
7. McGladrey
8. Plante Moran
9. Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
10. Crowe Horwath

And here are the links to all of the new accounting rankings: Vault Accounting 50, Accounting Prestige Rankings, Accounting Quality of Life Rankings, Accounting Practice Area Rankings, and Accounting Diversity Rankings.

Follow me @VaultFinance.

Read More:
To Big 4 and Mid-Size Firm Accountants, Which is More Important: Prestige or Culture? (Vault)


Filed Under: Finance|Workplace Issues

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