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Helpful (22)

If all else is equal, PwC is the best within its industry

  • Work/Life Balance
  • Career Opportunities
  • Comp & Benefits
  • Senior Management
Current Employee - Audit Senior Associate in Houston, TX
Current Employee - Audit Senior Associate in Houston, TX

I have been working at PwC

Recommends
No opinion of CEO
Recommends
No opinion of CEO

Pros

First off, the most negative comment anyone can give for a public accounting company has to do with work-life balance. Well, that is the industry norm. If you're entering into this industry with an expectation of a leisurly work schedule then you're in for a rude awakening. Heck, any deadline-based job comes with a bit of crazy work hours especially during deadline time.

So, if we remove what I would say is a constant across all accounting firms, here are the pros of why PwC is the place to be for a public accountant:

- Great client base: PwC is the leader when it comes to having the most Fortune 500 companies as clients (E&Y has the most in the Fortune 1000 range, by the way) which means you can experience a diversity of clients unlike anywhere else. Moreover, if big clients are not your cup of tea, PwC has a specified PCS group for smaller, private clients. This group allows you the opportunity of getting to know your clients on a very personal, mom-and-pop-type level while still having access to the resources of a large, global company.

- Excellent resources: PwC's technical research tool is very helpful and easy to access. More than that, PwC has put in a great effort to organize a network of specialized groups where folks who are experts in certain topics are readily available to you for technical advice, and this is not just on a national level (which is common with most firms) but on a local office level as well.

- Great benefits: I wasn't too sure about whether my health benefits were any good or not until my doctors and dentists pointed out that my benefits are better than most. They have decent vacation packages. In the summers, they offer a flex 9/80 schedule (of course, depending on your client commitments). They do offer a reduced pay sabbatical option as well. PwC is well-known for its all-inclusive cultural environment. They have amazing social networking groups for pretty much any kind of sub-group you may belong to, esp. for working moms. In addition, in most offices, they have split their groups up into smaller sub-sets based on client industries. Doing so, provides a smaller network of colleagues, HR help, coaches and resources.

- Good leadership: Look, these guys aren't dumb when it comes to compensation talk. They fully know how much they can afford to pay out to be competitive yet still have a good profit margin for themselves. Simply put, they can't compete with most industry pay scales. However, when it comes to having truly genuine leaders who are not only some of the best people to learn from but also there to look out for you, PwC has some of the best of them.

- Great teams: This is common in most public accounting jobs that most of your colleagues are in the mid-20s to mid-30s range which means it's a good group of like-minded people who do make the long work hours bearable.

Okay, so all of these pros are based on my personal experience. Guess what? You ask another person in the same position and in the same office and I guarantee they will have a much different experience. It's very true that there are a few (probably many) rotten apples when it comes to horrible clients or horrible teams. What I've seen is that if you're open and close with your coaches and HR folks, then they will try their best to accomodate your needs.

So why do public accounting? Well, if nothing else, this is still a good career-starter. The "perceived" value given to a public accounting experience is tremendous. I say "perceived" because up until the associate/senior associate level, it's mostly grind work that you can train a monkey to do (mostly but not always). It's usually towards the latter part of senior-ship and upwards when you truly start to analyze matters, provide true advice to clients, etc. But guess what? Most of the times, your clients are much more clueless than you are. Even after two years in public accounting, you probably know more than someone who's been in the same accounting role for ten years in industry, mainly because you see a diversity of things and are expected to run things pretty much on your own. So, yes, if you want that career builder, do public accounting. Having said that, if you have the stamina and desire to challenge yourself at the cost of other personal things in your life, then hey, stick around even longer - it does get worse before it finally starts to get a little better... just a little!

One last comment, if you feel like these comments are pretty harsh on industry jobs, well, it's based on the generalization of most clients we see. But yes, there are some industry jobs out there who give you all the diversity, learning, etc. you seek without making you work as hard. It's just a matter of truly searching for those opportunities.

Cons

Okay, why ignore the obvious cons. Here they are:

- Work-life balance: This job really isn't for those who have a strong family structure with whom you want to spend all your time. This is not to say there aren't several people who do manage their family life (they have flex work programs for those not wanting the crazy hours but, of course, then your compensation is reflective of that as well), but the point is, it really can be a challenge to keep up with your personal commitments. First off, you pretty much don't exist to your friends and families during January - March (I wouldn't say you work crazy busy hours ALL throughout those months, but you def. work more than 50 hours through most of it. I think depending on your client's deadline, you do work upwards of 80 hours for about 2 weeks or so). After that, you have your quarters (not totally crazy but have the potential to be busier than usual), then SOX work, then interim, and let's not even mention all the special little projects that your clients spring on you when they're going through acquisitions, IPOs, etc. The two direct contributors to the horrible hours are [1] inefficient clients who, for the most part, have no clue what they're doing and are usually busy playing mind games with you and [2] inefficiency within the audit teams. Let's face it, auditors aren't perfect either. Sometimes, I feel like it's the blind leading the blind because you have a bunch of young auditors set loose with minimal instructions trying to figure out how to do an audit contrasted by a bunch of clients who are probably resentful of the fact that a 20-something is asking them questions about their job and seems pretty clueless doing it. There tends to be a lot of "spinning-the-wheel" between managers making unrealistic budgets way early in the year, inexperienced associates usually working on areas with little guidance and a huge communication gap that tends to cause panics esp. near deadline times. And sure, most of this can be mitigated by our leaders and clients' leaders sitting down and coming up with a unified approach to the whole process and associates and seniors and managers being realistic and constantly keeping in touch with expectations (and yes, I've seen it happen on some occasions) but the sad truth is that more often than not, people get zoned in on their areas and lose focus of the big picture, and hence, end up working longer hours.

- Compensation: So speaking of those crazy clients who seemingly don't know what they're talking about. Imagine how you will feel when you find out that they probably make a good 20% to 50% more than you and work less than you. It sucks! But as I said before, public accounting, as decent their pay may be (well, not so decent compared to the hours you put in), can't compete with their counterparts in the industry world. So there's a trade-off. You won't get the learning experience that you do in public accounting anywhere else and it's true what they say that your learning starts to plateau once you enter industry, but then again, maybe that supposed "lack of learning" won't matter when you're going home at about 5 every day, enjoying time with your friends and family and are making about $20K+ more than you would in public accounting.

- Clueless leadership: So I counter this con with my earlier pro about good leadership. The point is, yes, you do have some really smart managers and partners out there who are willing to help you out. But the flip side is also that most partners and managers care about the bottom line - "Were you able to file on time while not breaking the budget?" If you can manage to do that, you're gold. Of course, it doesn't matter the sacrifice it took for your associates staying later and on weekends and other issues that tend to arise in these situations. Sometimes, it takes a lot of prodding before the partners realize there's an issue. They tend to commit to clients' expectations before even checking to see if their team has the capacity to fulfill those needs.

Advice to Management

One can give many advices to upper management within this industry, in general, but to those of PwC, I say, you're doing a relatively decent job compared to most of your peers. Keep it up! I can say pay me more money, but I know they can't and won't, so I'm keeping my advice as realistic as possible.

We know you can't pay us more, but guess what? You can try to get more in touch with the pulse of your people. Throwing chump change and calling it a bonus is more of an insult than a reward. Asking associates to think logically and providing quality work at 2AM is unrealistic. Better planning and more involvement from upper leadership is imperative to having a better audit quality and, frankly, less disgruntled employees.

I know your employee turnover cycle functions like an upward pyramid and I know you know it because you can't exactly convert 100 new hires into partners 10 years down the road. But your reward system doesn't have to be so generic either. You tend to reward people virtually the same regardless of competency. Yes, I know there's a slight bit of variation between the top performers and the bottom-feeders, but the spectrum in between is not that great. You tend to lose more top talent because they don't feel as appreciated. You're afraid of spending all your effort and resource on the ONE top associate who may or may not stick with you 2 years down the road, so you spend about an equal amount on all, with the hopes that you at least retain some mid-level performers at best. And with 30K+ employees it may seem like a daunting task, but each office and each sub-group within the office can truly take ownership of grooming their employees they consider as worthy. Does it sound more cut-throat? Most definitely, and I'm one for fair treatment of all, but it's a vicious cycle we've put ourselves in where we gamble on our chances of who's going to stay or not vs. who do we think fill our need now vs. who we can groom to be our next leader.

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  1. Helpful (1)

    Great experience; focus on giving better compensation

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Associate - Advisory in Los Angeles, CA
    Former Employee - Senior Associate - Advisory in Los Angeles, CA

    I worked at PwC

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Smart people
    Great teaming environment
    Great experience
    Challenging work

    Cons

    Compensation needs to be improved

    Advice to Management

    Compensation sucked at the firm. People started leaving to other firms for a 20% pay boost. Pwc got smart with better comp packages to retain people. It should never get to this point.


  2. Helpful (1)

    Overall, a valuable career experience.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Associate in Chicago, IL
    Former Employee - Senior Associate in Chicago, IL

    I worked at PwC

    Recommends
    No opinion of CEO
    Recommends
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Great experience at a fast pace. Tons of resume-building opportunities, leadership roles, and technical experiences. work with some of the biggest/best companies in the world.

    Cons

    Obviously the hours can become overwhelming at times and schedules can be unpredictable. Compensation is just average and bonuses are significantly less than corporate, but most people know that going in...personal agendas and grudges can get carried out in the evaluation room and you're left with little chance to defend yourself.


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