The “big four” accounting firms are planning staff increases of 20-30 percent this year – driven by staff shortages, and heavy workloads as companies prepare for the introduction of new accounting standards - according to reports in the FT and other papers. This is how they stack up:
- PWC: Adding 1,500 graduates and 500-700 experienced staff (to its existing 6,450 staff in Hong Kong and mainland China).
- Deloitte: Adding 1,500 new staff by the mid 2007 (to its existing 4,960 staff in the mainland and Hong Kong).
- KPMG: Adding 1,000 graduates and 300 experienced staff (to its 4,500 existing staff)
- Ernst & Young: Adding 800 staff (to its existing staff of 3,500 in mainland China).
As has been seen in the legal sector it is likely that the big foreign firms will be poaching people from local rivals – perhaps paying top dollar, and ruffling a few feathers in the act. As big firms such as Deloitte and Ernst & Young have already had some bad press recently (see here and here), I would suggest those firms beef up on their PR as well as on their bean-counters. I would not be surprised to find some defensive action being taken by the local industry.
One leading Chinese law firm is already taking some offensive action. Following the recent attack on foreign law firms in Shanghai (see here), The International Herald Tribune reports that King & Wood, China’s biggest law firm (with 450 lawyers), is planning to hire about 100 more lawyers in a direct challenge to foreign competitors.
For all those using accounting and law firms (big and small) in China, be aware of the pressures that are being brought to bear, and make sure that you know what resources are available to you in your (always unexpected) hour of need. Your trusted contact at the firm you usually rely on may not be around forever. For that matter, consider buying your long-suffering and unloved in-house accountant or lawyer a drink some time soon…
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