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Is Big 4 the ONLY way out?

Hilda Lau, alumni stories
BBA Accountancy'10
Hilda Lau

Many would have imaged that choosing the accounting major would mean going to a Big Four firm after graduation and slowly working up the hierarchy. In fact, it is true and our professors encourage students to apply for Big 4 firms. And so under the advice of her professors, parents, and peers, Hilda Lau started working at one of the Big 4 firms immediately after her graduation.

But is Big 4 the only path for accounting majors?

Working at Big 4 firms is great; you have the chance to learn the practical sides of accounting with sufficient training and resources, but the tradeoff would be working longer hours due to high turn-over rates.

The cycle begins with the increase in HR and related training costs for hiring new employees, which leads to budget cuts and fewer new hires. This will then increase the workload and working hours of current employees ---some of them actually resign.

This vicious cycle continues until the firms realize the root problem behind the high turn-over rates --- LACK OF EMPLOYEES. These are not new employees, but experienced employees that are familiar with the company operations and culture.

Hilda endured long working hours and experienced low team morale during her first 2 years with the company. She started to wonder if Big 4 was her only way out.

“I learned a lot of specific and technical skills in the past, but now I want to see a broader view, from a different angle.” Hilda explained why she switched job recently. Previously, she was an auditor and now she is a financial analyst at the accounting department of a large logistics company in HK and China.

Hilda believes that the benefit of working at an accounting department is the opportunity to learn about the company’s different operations. She can see other parts of the business outside the accounting department. Even though many professionals prefer to specialize in one or two fields, Hilda wishes to develop a broad skill set, interact with people, and work with numbers.

"Think about what you want in the future. If possible, apply for internships and use this time to understand the nature of the jobs. There’s always more than one path to success."

— Hilda Lau (

So, Big 4 is definitely NOT the only way out for accounting majors.

( Jan 2013 )