BYU students attract ‘Big Four’ accounting firms

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Aaron Anderson, dressed as Waldo for an annual ‘trick or treat’ activity on Oct. 24, explains KPMG as a “Big Four” firm to junior business minor Branden Hansen. (Holly Ferguson)

Nathan Ritter used his junior core in BYU’s accounting program as a time to investigate and build relationships with future firms he might want to work for. The interview process for the internship started in January, requiring him to get the ball rolling quickly.

BYU’s accounting program was ranked by College Choice as the No. 1 “best accounting degree” in the nation in 2018. With the reputability of the program, companies come from around the world to recruit BYU students, according to the BYU MBA Program Placement Profile.

In the accounting world, there are four famous firms recognized for developing “their revenue in the audit/assurance/audit and enterprise risk services segment,” meaning their worldwide revenues by function, according to Statista, a database company.

The four firms include Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY) and KPMG (Klynveld, Peat, Marwick, Goerdeler).

In 2017, 46 percent of the undergraduate accounting class was recruited by one of the four firms, according to the BS Accountancy Placement Profile. The SOA Annual Report for 2017–18 listed the companies in four of the top five spots where BYU alumni were employed.

Brian Voigt, director for the accounting and masters of accounting programs in the business career center, said they work with recruiters to get them ready for students and vice versa.

“We work with the students to help them prepare for those specific recruiting events, how to network, how to interview, how to give your elevator pitch, how to prepare your resume, etc.,” Voigt said.

An illustrative example of these firms is KMPG, which hosts several events at BYU each year including an annual ‘trick or treat’ activity and other internship information sessions.

Ruth Olsen, an associate director of campus recruiting for KPMG, works alongside another co-worker to head the recruiting efforts of KPMG at BYU. She said KPMG is a public accounting firm that provides tax audit and advisory services.

Olsen said KPMG comes to campus to network with students and engage in repeated interactions.

“We recruit BYU students because we think they are a quality student. We are selective in whom we hire. We feel like it aligns with our firm goals and culture,” she said.

Voigt said the career center encourages students to do internships that are not only the best fit for the company, but for them as well.

“If you are going to do a ‘Big Four’ or public accounting career, they like for you to do an internship the year before you graduate,” Voigt said. “We really encourage that and help students identify and place in a company.”

Aaron Anderson is a 2016 BYU accounting graduate who works for KPMG as a senior audit associate. He said KPMG gives its employees the tools necessary to do anything they want, whether that be staying with the company or going elsewhere in an industry.

Anderson said KPMG has associates at its events who are willing to talk to students who were in their shoes a year or two prior. He said this helps students get the information they need before deciding where they want to go, or what they want to do.

“It shows them that we are willing to be out there and interacting with them and investing so much time into them, even before they have accepted an offer or gotten an internship. We are here to let you know anything … that you want to know,” he said.

Nathan Ritter, a student obtaining his accounting master’s, will intern with KPMG during next summer. During this internship, he will help with audits and firms in the Orange County, California, office.

Ritter said many students enter one of the ‘Big Four’ firms because it’s what most people do. He said having KPMG on his resume is very recognizable and that fact alone signals to other companies that he is competent.

He said events and other recruiting opportunities expose students to professionals and the culture each firm has. These events play a role in building relationships that will lead to getting answers about the pros and cons of each company.

“It really helps to just come and stop by, and you start recognizing people,” Ritter said. “Those are the contacts you are going to want when you have to ask real questions.”

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