I’ve worked in a consultancy job at one of the Big Four firms in Singapore since I moved here from Malaysia in 2017. Let me tell you first about the good parts of my role – i.e. the reasons I’ve stuck around to date.
There’s the variety of the projects on offer. One month, I’m working on a big investment evaluation project for a hospitality firm (e.g. a resort or hotel), and then the next month, I’m working on the valuation of a transaction between two oil companies.
I also get the opportunity to experience working across a wide range of industries. This means my firm is filled with people who know a lot about all these sectors, so whenever I have a question there’s always someone within my team or department who has a good answer.
But before you rush out to join the Big Four as a consultant, keep in mind some of the downsides. All the Big Four firms generally have a lot of office politics, and their Singapore offices are no exception. The way people are treated or evaluated at my firm sometimes appears to be tied to who they associate with and support inside the company. If there’s one thing I’d change about my firm, it would be to reduce the bureaucracy and office politics.
The working hours can be long and very intense on some projects, but that will always depend on the team leader, so it doesn’t happen all the time. I've had projects in which I worked for two months from 9am to 1am everyday including weekends. I've also had projects in which I worked from 9am to 6pm with no work on the weekends. In general, I'm happy with my hours because the director who I generally work for is a very reasonable person. But I have colleagues who are definitely having a much worse work experience than me.
I’m not so satisfied with my base salary. If I examine my pay on paper without taking into account any additional factors, it seems ok. But if I factor in the amount of stress and responsibility, and my occasional (if not frequent) long hours, I don’t think my salary is that competitive.
The bonus is actually ok, but it’s dependent on an end-of-year evaluation, which in my opinion is not a transparent process. I don’t receive any written feedback about my work, so if I try to find out what people said about me, it frequently turns into a “he said, she said” situation.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I don’t intend to work at a Big Four firm over the longer term. Career paths at all these firms are too predictable, and the salary isn’t high enough to compensate for the responsibilities, stress and problems that you face on the job. As to where I would move…I’m thinking about venture capital firms or tech firms. I also like the idea of working in the business intelligence sector.
Bellarose Gong (not her real name) is a Big Four consultant in Singapore.
Photo by Mila Di Bella on Unsplash