Lately many internal audit job postings either prefer or require Big 4 experience. The Big 4 are the four largest firms specializing in accounting or other professional services. They are PwC, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Deloitte), Ernst & Young (EY), and KPMG. They are considered elite when it comes to industry exposure and training. Many new graduates can expect good salaries, long hours, lots of travel and lifelong contacts. Many will function as “external auditors” or financial statement auditors. The work consists of providing some assurance that the financial statements are fairly presented. Most will become familiar with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAA) and will definitely know how to interpret “the numbers” of an organization.
Now, internal auditing deals with evaluating business processes to determine if they are effective in design, efficient in operation, in compliance with laws/rules/regulations/policies and supportive of the organization’s mission. External and internal audit are separate but related disciplines. Internal auditors are often seen as those going “beyond the numbers”. Many Big 4 accounting firms now have internal audit operations. Internal auditors at these firms can expect benefits similar to those in external audit roles (i.e. good salaries, long hours, lots of travel and lifelong contacts). But the question still remains…Does Big 4 equate to good employee.
My opinion is that Big 4 does not necessarily mean that you will have a stellar employee. Big 4 firms provide great opportunities, however, it is up to the individual to take advantage of the opportunities. Additionally, the career ladder in Big 4 is somewhat different to that in the private industry. As a result, I would not totally rule out a candidate with a decent background for lack of Big 4 experience.
As a note of full disclosure, I have audit experience in a Big 4 environment as well as public and private industry.