Date posted: 08/11/2022

What’s it like working for... a mid-tier firm?

How do you know which workplace will be right for you? Will it be the Big Four? A mid-tier firm? Or perhaps a startup?

You may work with organisations of all sizes during your career. In Part two of our ‘What’s it Like Working for…” series we uncover the realities of working for a mid-tier accounting firm.

Jessie Alison CA grew up in New Zealand’s northernmost town, Whangārei, and knew she wanted a professional job one day. During a home visit whilst on holiday, Jessie was offered a job that would put her through university and the CA Program while working full time.

Jessie jumped at the chance. That was 12 years and one small child ago, and now she’s both a parent and Senior Chartered Accountant at mid-tier firm BDO Northland.

Jessie’s unique perspective on the benefits of working for a mid-tier accounting firm highlights flexibility, both professionally and personally.

Jessie Alison

Collaborative workplace culture and broad practical experience

Mid-tier firms sit between a small local firm and the Big Four in size and can employ anywhere between 11 and 10,000 employees. BDO Northland is part of a global network with 1,809 offices around the world including 19 in New Zealand, which employ more than 900 people.

So, what kept Jessie from the pull of the Big Four or the excitement of a start-up?

“It's the complexity of work that you are given to work on. Outside big city firms, in the regions, you get given the whole job to work on and so you see all aspects of it. In the Big Four, you'll always get to that level of work eventually, but in the mid-tier, you'll get there a lot faster, and you'll get a broader experience with it, " Jessie said.

According to Jessie, career trajectory in a mid-tier firm has you start off by working with small businesses, sole traders, and your local fish and chip shop, doing tasks like tax returns. From there comes work with larger businesses trading millions of dollars, or trusts, and then onto groups subject to financial reporting standards.

“We've got the really big entities that require special reporting, deferred tax, all those sorts of complex things. It gives you a really strong foundation and you can go anywhere with it."

“I could be working on 10 or more different clients in a day, doing all levels of work with small business, big business, charities, nonprofits, multiple businesses. It's very varied.”

A day in the life of a mid-tier accountant

One of the most striking elements of working for a mid-tier accounting firm is the variety of tasks a CA might regularly undertake. According to Jessie, her clients fall mostly within two categories: those that want to learn and be self-sufficient, and those who want a full service with minimal input. Both kinds of clients value a personal relationship.

“In a day, I could be doing an advisory session with a client or teaching them how to use accounting tools. I could be deep inside a set of accounts, doing a preparation of accounts. I could be helping the junior staff members learning on the job. Phone calls constantly,” Jessie said.

“I could be working on 10 or more different clients in a day, doing all levels of work with small business, big business, charities, nonprofits, multiple businesses. It's very varied.”

Flexibility and non-corporate culture

In high school, Jessie knew she wanted a career, even if she wasn’t sure what that looked like. An encouraging accounting teacher praised Jessie’s skills and told her how the Chartered Accountant qualification was flexible and interesting, and would allow her to earn well and work around the world.

"I actually knew I wanted to have an office job. I didn't quite know what that was, but my accounting teacher told me I was really good at accounting at high school. And that's why I did it. She used to tell us about her son who was a CA and he was off in the UK doing some fancy job. And I just love it and I love my job,” Jessie said.

When Jessie became a parent, the workplace flexibility made balancing work and life a satisfying experience. Jessie returned to work part-time when her daughter Eva, now three, was nine months old. She started with three days a week of work, and slowly increased her hours.

“BDO really supported me while I learned how hard it is to be a mum and also have career success. Flexibility around needing to attend events and working with me while I figured out how to maintain that work-life balance. Kids are able to come to the office after school and do homework in the lunchroom, and of course there’s working from home if needed.”

Jessie summarised working at a mid-tier firm as having all the training and exposure of the ‘Big Four experience,’ but in a smaller community where she could access broader knowledge and have flexibility in a non-corporate culture.

“Someone brings a morning tea every Friday, and you get to make friends with all your colleagues. I've got cool hours. My work is flexible so that I can still be a mum and have a great career. It's a great place to be.”

What's it like working for...?

If you’re thinking about where to take your career, be sure to read the other articles in our ‘What’s it Like Working For...’ series and discover if a small business or the Big Four is the right fit for you.

Small businessThe Big Four