What Does It Take to Become a Partner at a Big 4 Accounting Firm? Insights From Singapore’s Experience

Gary Pan, Poh-Sun Seow, Yang Hoong Pang, Kwong Sin Leong

Abstract


Due to the shift in partner’s identity, there have been growing interests in understanding characteristics, skills and behaviours of accounting partners. Given that Big 4 Accounting firms are supposedly international accounting firms that are organized in similar structures, an interesting question of whether the same partner qualities can be applied in the Big 4 accounting firms for a non-western context such as Asia. As far as we know, no such study has been conducted in an Asian context. We argue this could be of great interest to the Big 4 Accounting firms as Asia is one of their fastest growing regions and it is essential they have partners who are equipped with the right attributes to ride the waves of rapid growth. Accordingly, our research aims to identify the essential attributes of a partner in the Big 4 accounting firms in Singapore.

Our data collection involved interviewing 24 partners and ‘partners-to-be’ from the Big 4 Accounting firms in Singapore. From the data, we identified a number of attributes of a partner. Essential attributes include technical expertise, strong client relationship, solid leadership skill, team management skill, a strong sense of integrity and ethics, and good business sense. There are a few ‘good to have’ attributes that include overseas exposure, being IT savvy and having ‘X’ factor. Our study also highlighted that nurturing partner attributes may involve a development process. Mechanisms within the partner development process include having senior partners to be mentor, imitate a role model, sense-making through leadership and wide exposure to clients.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijafr.v8i2.13133

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