Investment banks may be cutting jobs, but professional services firms are only getting bigger.
EY is on track to hire around 220,000 people in the 12 months to July 2023, having achieved its highest growth in nearly two decades in the previous period. That’s before a potential break-up of its auditing and consulting divisions takes effect, which could further ramp up a recruitment drive that reached about 160,000 in the 2022 financial year.
As part of the push the firm expects to sift through more than 3 million resumes this year, Trent Henry, EY Global vice chair for talent, said in an interview. The company is using automation to help its recruitment professionals and match candidates to job postings, he said.
Its Big Four rivals, as the top accounting firms are known, are on hiring sprees of their own. PwC welcomed 148,000 new joiners in the 2022 financial year and is on target to hire a net additional 100,000 professionals by 2026, the company said in October.
Deloitte and KPMG are also adding to their workforce. Together, the four companies already boast more than one million employees.
The growth underlines the continuing boom in demand for professional services, even as job cuts hit other industries. Wall Street firms including Citigroup Inc. and Barclays Plc have been culling investment bankers. Tech companies chopped almost 10,000 jobs last month, with Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy saying cuts will continue into next year.
“While there is a cooling off in the job market overall, accountancy has stood up pretty well,” said Simon Wingate, managing director at job search website Reed UK. “If you look at traditional comparators like banking or legal, accountancy is by far and away the biggest in terms of job postings on our website.”
Accountancy job postings in the UK in October rose to around 21,000, according to data from Reed UK. Legal and banking each saw less than a third of that. The sector is on track to overhaul tech to becoming the platform’s top employer. In the US postings are still around their July peak, and are holding up better than other finance roles, separate research from Indeed showed.
Growth and diversification help partly explain why the appetite for talent at accounting firms is resistant to market turmoil. Over the last decade, the Big Four have started adding new services as they broaden out their offerings. Deloitte’s UK consulting arm recently announced it’s recruiting 3,500 new people over the next five years, including for roles like app designer or machine learning engineer.
Another part of the answer is a post COVID-19 staff exodus. Even though the pandemic had a limited impact on the Big Four, the top accountancies froze bonuses, promotions, or pay rises at that time, according to Chris Sale, managing director at Prism, a management consultancy recruiter. That left “an awful lot of very cheesed off people in the Big Four, many of whom became part of the wave of leavers between mid-2021 and 2022,” he added.
The recruitment numbers are “ludicrously large,” Sale said. “What they don’t tell you is the reason they’re hiring 200,000 people is because they’ve probably lost 50,000.”
The Big Four have also pushed up salaries and accelerated promotions to fight attrition, he said.
PwC increased most UK salaries by at least 7 percent this summer in response to the cost-of-living crisis and the fight for talent.
Meanwhile, EY has already promoted 42,000 since July, Henry, the firm’s global vice chair for talent, said. That number could reach 60,000 by next summer, up from 56,000 in its 2022 financial year and 49,000 in 2021.
The hiring comes with some 13,000 partners at EY set to begin voting on a possible break up. If the breakup goes ahead, the firm plans to accelerate recruitment as it will need more staff in areas such as technology, according to Andy Baldwin, global managing partner for client service.
“A demerger creates jobs it doesn’t reduce jobs,” he said.
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