EY to PwC, KPMG to Deloitte, consultancy firms are witnessing a war for talent

Top consulting firms are poaching senior managers from each other.
Top consulting firms are poaching senior managers from each other.


  • Consulting and audit firms enter rampant poaching as senior level hiring continues

MUMBAI : Top consulting companies are poaching from rival firms for newer skills and experienced hands, even as they lose some of their own bright minds to competitors. At a time of rising opportunities in artificial intelligence to business transformation and risk to digital advisory, a number of global consulting bluechips in India have seen top partners switch jobs and take up new roles.

In March, PwC hired Santosh Subramaniam from Accenture as partner, strategy and transformation; while KPMG hired Ankur Nishar, earlier director at PwC and later Price Waterhouse & Co LLP, as partner in its deals and tax advisory practice. In December, KPMG hired EY's Sneha Gharat as partner, deal advisory, infrastructure; in the same month, Chirag Agrawal from EY joined as head of corporate finance and investment banking at Deloitte South Asia.

All executives have updated the change in their LinkedIn profiles; PwC, Deloitte and Accenture did not respond to queries sent on Tuesday.

"The consulting market is dynamic, creating multiple opportunities for executives within and at times outside the firm," said KPMG, which has 650 partners and practice leads. "With our strong bench strength, it’s only natural to lose a handful of executives to the industry which only reflects the quality of talent within the firm. We are constantly on the lookout for good talent, especially those with proven leadership skills," a KPMG spokesperson said in an email.

Consulting companies are keen on hiring top partners, since they hold the potential to bring in additional talent from their previous employer. Reasons for the shifts vary from higher compensation, opportunity to leverage niche skills, preference for younger partners and seniors exiting the consulting practice amid stiffer targets.

A senior Deloitte executive said the audit and consulting firm, which has about 700 partners, is expanding aggressively in technology, compliance, and mergers and acquisitions. "There were 50 partners and executive directors hired last year and 100 promotions for partners rolled out in April 2023". The next batch of promotions is expected to be rolled out in a few weeks.

In January, Mint reported that consultancy firms in India would be handing out 100% bonus for the year that was "good, but not best", while their global counterparts would be getting much less. Consulting teams advising clients in areas such as AI, machine learning, cybersecurity, and healthcare have seen rapid growth in business, swelling team strengths and sparking discussions on better bonuses, the report said.

The largest consulting firms have as many as 750 partners, a base which is expanding constantly. However, the struggle to hire is universal in this domain.

Partners at consultancies earn fixed sums, or are paid on the basis of their equity investment. The first earn 1-2 crore annually, irrespective of the business, an executive at a Big Four consultancy said on condition of anonymity. The second lot are those who have invested in the consultancy firm, and get a share of the profits.

According to a top executive at a talent search company, partners are switching jobs to secure pay hikes of as much as 30%, a larger share of the business and higher designation. "In the last couple of years, some of the traditional businesses have truncated, while new-age ones are getting more visibility. The Big Four heads are dialling erstwhile teammates who have risen in the financial services space," said the executive, whose company hires for consulting and audit firms.

"Partners invest in the business and they get a cut from the revenue. But, not all businesses are growing at same pace and those in digital or AI are where the growth is," a senior executive at PwC said on condition of anonymity.

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