Battle of the Big Four Firms: A Former Number One Reclaims the Crown

Every year, CFO Innovation tallies the revenues of the Big Four accounting firms in US dollar terms and takes a look at their priorities and the structure of their business to help CFOs and other finance executives with their due diligence on assurance, tax and advisory engagements.

For fiscal year 2015, the bragging rights as the biggest of the Big Four accounting firms went to PwC, which reported revenues of US$35.4 billion.

And in fiscal 2016? The distinction of being the world’s largest accounting firm is back with  . . .  Deloitte, which reported annual revenues of US$36.8 billion – 2.5% ahead of PwC’s US$35.9 billion.

All the Big Four firms notched record sales, the seventh consecutive year for Deloitte, PwC and EY, and a return to record territory for KPMG

Add one more feather to Deloitte’s cap. From 2007 to 2015, PwC had topped the revenue leagues six times. It was in 2010 that Deloitte first got to No. 1 – beating PwC by a very narrow margin of just US$9 million. Since then, Deloitte has been the leader three more times.

Now, Deloitte has pulled away by a substantial margin in fiscal 2016. Its revenues were around US$900 million larger than those of PwC. In last year’s league table, PwC’s lead over Deloitte was a much slimmer US$200 million.

Big Four Revenues by Firm, 2007-2016
Click image to enlarge
Fiscal year to 31 May 2016 for Deloitte, 30 June 2016 for PwC and EY, 30 September 2016 for KPMG. Gross revenues are inclusive of expenses billed to clients. Local currencies were translated to US dollars at the average exchange rate for the fiscal year. Sources: Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC, CFO Innovation

All the Big Four firms, however, notched record sales, the seventh consecutive year for Deloitte, PwC and EY, and a return to record territory for KPMG (its revenues in fiscal 2015 were 1.6% lower than in the previous year, but were up 4.2% in the year to September 2016 to a record US$25.4 billion).

Deloitte has now become the first accounting firm in history to smash through the US$36-billion revenue threshold.  It has grown revenues by 48% from 2007, more than ten percentage points than PwC at 35%. Revenues at both EY and KPMG grew relatively slower over the same period, at 30% and 25%, respectively.

As a result, the gap between Deloitte and PwC has grown larger, as is the gap between them and EY and KPMG. 

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