Stakeholder Value and the big Four

Posted by Mike Kaaks

15 October 2020

The big four accounting firms have always intrigued me. By the way, what is the magic about 4 - Big 4 Accounting Firms, Big 4 Banks. Must be the right number for something albeit that recent times suggest its only the right number for shareholders and CEOs, not for all stakeholders, society in particular.

In my working years I was never a fan of their business model. Engage top to top - their senior partner with our CEO or CFO and then deliver with a graduate just out of Uni whose interest was in getting a fast start on a pathway to CFO rather than solving the clients problem. All this supported by a process that approached the issue at hand from a narrow and deep view that most frequently overlooked the competition for priority from other parts of the business when looked at through the more realistic lens of shallow and wide.

The experience of these engagements is generally short term, not long term and highly structured to deliver the next engagement. These two qualities are clearly visible when we look back at the GFC and before that at the collapse of Enron. In the latter McKinsey was a part of that business and did not see what was coming and Andersons as auditors were prepared to sign off on flawed if not illegal accounts in the interest I can only guess of keeping the account.

We need better. You need better when seeking external inputs to your business.