“Attention to detail is probably one of the most important things, especially when you’re young in a career,” says John Ricco, CPA and Co-Founder of The Atlantic Group, which has placed 1,000 professionals in the financial services industry since the company’s inception in 2006.
Ricco is also an experienced public accountant who has worked with KPMG and understands how to instruct those looking to climb the rungs on The Big4 corporate ladder. He says understanding assigned tasks enough to produce good work documents lays a solid foundation to start an ascent.
“Then things start progressing into technical skills,” he says “How you can interpret pronouncements and the complex issues that go on in accounting and bring it through to the field work.”
The climb gets more strenuous as you enter senior territory on the way up to becoming manager. Ricco says this is where understanding the overall business of the client you’re working on is paramount. He says some of the real issues start here at what he calls the “twenty to thirty thousand foot level,” with analytics, different items on the balance sheet and how specific businesses get broken down in the details.
“That’s what separates really good auditors from general auditors,” he says adding the division between the audit and consulting that’s been going on for some time is worth noting.
“The interesting thing about accounting is it’s not just accounting anymore,” Ricco says. “You need to understand everything that goes along with it from the business to the consulting side to the controls and risks. You need to understand the business through and through.”
He stresses what’s referred to as soft skills are essential to climb the ranks as well and honing client relationships is invaluable right to the top.
“Even partners,” Ricco says. “These guys sell their services to clients.” He added although the pipeline to partner has become harder to navigate after the recession, there were two prototypes before 2007.
“There’s guys who can sell and bring in business and then there were the technical guys.”
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Ricco also supplied an overview of the best areas to break into accounting in general and The Big4 specifically.
“The hedge fund private equity industry, asset management or the banking capital markets groups. In those private industries, there’s a ton of hiring going on right now,” he said adding these are the places where The Big4 are focusing their attention.