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KPMG, Deloitte, PwC, EY Are Snapping Up More MBA Consultants — Here’s Why

Growth of Big Four's advisory wings is surging

Wed Mar 16 2016

The “Big Four” professional services firms are stepping up their recruitment at business schools amid intensifying competition for consultancy talent.

KPMG, EY, PwC and Deloitte are edging into the terrain of the elite management consulting firms McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in a hunt for both business and talent.

“All the accounting firms, KPMG included, are growing significantly their advisory practices,” said Stephane Ponce, global consulting careers lead at INSEAD.

The fast growth of the Big Four’s advisory divisions has led to a surge in demand for hires. The consultancy practices of PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG grew by 11.5% to £2.5 billion last year — faster than the UK market as a whole, according to analysts at Source Global Research.

“Deloitte, EY, PwC and KPMG are all experiencing growth. The number of offers has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years and we expect that trend to continue,” said Larry Verbiest, associate director for MBA careers at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

Nick Frost, partner at KPMG UK, said: “There are immense benefits from those who come from formal programs such as MBAs and certainly we need to tap that source actively.”

Leading the surge are digital and technology services. The Big Four have pushed heavily into areas such as data analytics and cyber security, snapping up a smattering of boutiques in a search for scale and expertise.

“The demand has come through the smaller and more ‘premium’ companies they have acquired,” said Stephen Pidgeon, associate director for careers at Dartmouth Tuck, such as the Parthenon Group and Monitor Deloitte.

“In each case the demand for consultants has risen, and these companies are competing more and more with the ‘Big 3’ — McKinsey, Bain and BCG,” he said.

Chris Weber, a careers director at UCLA Anderson School, said: “Digital skills are currently important in the more specialized firms or practice areas” such as Deloitte Digital.

The trend comes as the Big Four move away from their roots in auditing and into more lucrative consultancy work.

Source put the growth of consulting down, in-part, to increased demand from financial services firms. Risk and regulatory consulting in particular grew by 11.7% to £507 million. Banks such as Citi and HSBC are grappling with a wave of new regulation designed to prevent another crisis.

“McKinsey has come to our campus specifically for risk recruitment,” said Zoe McLoughlin, London Business School’s head of consulting. “It’s a ‘watch this space’ area.”

Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School, highlighted the increase in M&A activity as a source of careers growth.

“The Big Four firms have been expanding their [M&A] teams,” he said. “There has been a rise in mega-mergers over the last 12 months, fuelling expansion.”

The consulting market for pharmaceuticals and biotech also surged by 14.6% to £238 million, according to Source. Regina Resnick, associate dean for careers at Columbia Business School, said specific industry expertise is valuable — along with leadership and problem solving skills, and relationship management and quantitative abilities.