Eight out of 10 millennials reject Big Four careers

A third (33%) of millennials at small-medium sized accounting firms want to remain within this sector while 21% wish to pursue careers at the Big Four, challenging the assumption that smaller firms are a stepping stone to larger employers, according to ACCA’s recent global study

ACCA’s global study into the aspirations of millennials working in smaller firms found that out of the 67% that want to leave the small-medium sector, the Big Four and large companies are the most popular destinations.

In contrast, the not-for-profit sector and smaller businesses are the least popular.

Globally, 31% would like to move to a new role in one year and 64% in two years. This compares to 22% in one year and 54% in two years when only looking at the UK.

Most popular sectors for millennials to move to:

Big Four firm


Large business


Public sector


Medium business


Consulting organisation


Mid-tier firm


Small business




Just under half (48%) of those working in small-medium firms are satisfied with their current role, which is consistent with other sectors.

Talent retention and staff turnover rates at smaller firms remain high due to increased competition from other sectors and a limited talent pool.

The study found that almost all millennials (94%) are attracted to an employer by the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

However, attraction based on acquiring a new skill set was much higher in developing countries such as Malaysia (45%) and Pakistan (42%) than it was in the UK (21%) and Ireland (9%).

The top five factors that attract millennials are: opportunity to learn and develop skills (94%), career progression (92%), salary (88%), interesting work (87%) and job security (83%).

Of those studied 83% believe that a finance career background will be valuable for business leaders in the future with 78% seeing a long term future for themselves in the accounting and finance profession.


Ben Baruch, Head of SME Policy, said: ‘These trends clearly have implications and place new pressures on small-medium firms to rethink how they attract, develop, and retain young talent. Employers must acknowledge that this goes beyond the pay cheque; it’s the whole package that matters.

‘The aspirations of younger professionals working in small-medium firms are focused on gaining more seniority and leading a team within finance. ‘On-the-job training and mentoring are seen as the most effective learning activities. If employers are to retain the best and brightest, they must look to develop effective talent management strategies that are suited for a generation with ambition.’

ACCA says that one way for employers to promote their employee proposition effectively might be to engage directly with millennials, in order to communicate the value of career experience. Another way is for a firm to become a registered training practice and allow themselves to be monitored by a professional qualifications body.

Retention is often the biggest challenge that small employers face. To retain talent, employers need to consider: how the working environment can be improved; how technology can be used to support business models; and what skills millennials will require in the future.

ACCA’s study - Generation Next: managing talent in small and medium sized practices is available here.

Report by Amy Austin

Amy Austin |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2016-2019]

Amy Austin was reporter, Accountancy Daily and Accountancy magazine, published by ...

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