Grant Thornton or Big Four – an Associate Director’s view

One of the Associate Directors within the Tax team in Birmingham, shares their thoughts on the Grant Thornton or Big 4 dilemma…

I started my career in audit with a Big 4 firm, studying towards my ACA. From there I moved into tax and a few months later the compliance centre was born! Keen for some computational experience I requested a secondment; however, at the time it was not possible so I therefore decided to go to a mid-tier firm to gain this experience. I stayed there for around two and a half years (leaving as an Executive and with my CTA qualification under my belt) and then moved to another Big 4 firm. I spent six months in the compliance team and realised that I wanted more than compliance work and permanently transferred to the national Transaction team which is where I spent the next 9 years (moving from Executive to Senior Manager). I have been at Grant Thornton for the last 15 months (moving over as an Associate Director).

My move was due to a variety of reasons including the desire to gain wider experience in the firm and in particular regionally . At Grant Thornton I had the opportunity to continue with my specialism i.e. manage the transactional work locally and in addition to this undertake client facing work (e.g. retain the clients post transaction) and have an outward facing role and really be part of a lead team that is instrumental in growing the department.

Grant Thornton is more than what I was expecting. Whilst I had expected all of the above from my interview, the Partner who recruited me has not let me down. I came and am doing the job that I expected to do. What I had not necessarily expected was the flexibility and the variety that I would have in my role and this is genuinely each and every day. It is also a growing business and that sense of growth is noticeable throughout the office with all the activity in proposals, new opportunities and meetings etc that we are able to participate in. I really enjoy my role at Grant Thornton and this is more enjoyable as I work with a great team.

Whether that added variety I have found since my move to Grant Thornton transcends all job roles is difficult to say.  I believe that as a graduate, wherever you work, all of your experience is varied as there is so much to learn in those first five years whether it be about the firm, systems, technical areas, the job itself etc. It’s the variety post qualification that I found harder to find, resulting in my move to Grant Thornton.

In terms of the responsibility entrusted to trainees I think this is quite a personal area. I know that I have always handed a significant amount of responsibility down to trainees to stretch them etc whilst being there to support them. However, I know this does vary and it is from person to person and therefore I cannot say that there is a distinction necessarily between Big 4 and Grant Thornton. Everywhere I have worked delegation and responsibility downwards is encouraged and this should be the case.

The final perceived difference is the prestige that a Big 4 job holds and it is true to say that when presented with opportunities by agencies I have been told that the experience I have in particular the Big 4 names and roles on my CV have been important in me being selected for interview etc. However, being on the other side of things i.e. undertaking interviews myself in the past and currently this is definitely not something that I would consider to be a differentiator as many more things need to be taken in to account when considering an applicant.

Hopefully this blog has provided you with an insight into my experience of working within other large firms and here at Grant Thornton, if you should have any further questions then please leave a comment below and the social media team will get back to you in due course.

2 thoughts on “Grant Thornton or Big Four – an Associate Director’s view

  1. avatarNayla


    Thanks for your very informative post.

    Could you please expand on what you mean by the variety and flexibility of work at Grant Thornton? Is there a larger variety of work because there’s a wider spectrum of clients? Does flexibility come from Grant Thornton being able to accommodate our preferences in the work we undertake?

    Kind regards,

  2. avatarRhys

    Hi Nayla.

    As a trainee, the variety and flexibility of work comes from the size of our clients for the most part. Due to having slightly smaller clients than the huge corporates which the Big 4 might audit, at Grant Thornton you can expect to work on a wide variety of clients. This will also give the opportunity get involved throughout the process.

    It is also true to say that you won’t specialise here as early as you would with the Big 4. This gives you a broader base of knowledge which will allow you to explore which area you would like to specialise in later on and move between departments. Secondments are very much encouraged and often lead to people working in new roles throughout their time with the firm.

    Hopefully that answers your question. Anything else, just give me a shout.

    Kind regards,


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