Amid continuing global headwinds, many senior execs from tech companies join ‘big four’ as partners

Nearly two dozen senior executives from technology firms have joined the ‘big four’ professional services firms – Deloitte, PWC, EY and KPMG – as partners in the past year, amid continuing global headwinds for the technology industry, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Tech firms such as Accenture, IBM and Genpact have lost talent, said the people, along with Infosys, Wipro, TCS, HCL Tech and Tech Mahindra, with some of their senior executives moving either to consulting roles as Partners or senior level implementation and operations roles at the top four professional services firms.

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Many of the senior executives have joined the big four firms with a 20-30% jump in their salary packages, the people said.

A push from the volatile global business environment for tech companies, stagnating career growth and lack of visibility for the next two years coupled with a pull from a growth in technology consulting at the professional services firms fuelled such crossovers, said industry executives.

In addition, they said, the partnership model, entailing multiple partners, at the professional services firms offers more opportunities for career progression than the vertical hierarchy at the tech companies.

Some of the recent moves, tracked by ET on LinkedIn, include Jaikumar Subramanian and Mantosh Verma moving from IBM to join Deloitte as partners; Satish Pai, partner, Deloitte, who joined from Tech Mahindra; Vishvesh Prabhakar, partner, supply chain transformation, PWC, who joined from Accenture; and Bhaskar Bhattacharya, partner, financial transformation, shared services and digital finance technology, PWC, who joined from Accenture.ET’s queries to Deloitte and EY did not elicit a response. PWC refused to share names of its recent partner appointments.“Many at the big IT companies are finding their career stagnating and the volatile business landscape is a major trigger,” a senior partner at one of the big four professional services firms told ET on condition of anonymity. “On the other hand, there is a more visible upside potential in the next five years at the professional services firms.”

Another senior partner, who did not wish to be identified either, said, “Most of the tech services companies are at a vulnerable spot. They don’t see growth for the next two years. Many teams have shrunk and the permission for replacement hires is a difficult process. On the other hand, all the professional services firms have a huge appetite for people in advisory.”

The big four firms are expanding their technology function, even in areas such as audit and taxation, apart from advisory. AI, cloud, cybersecurity and data analytics have become major focus areas, requiring the firms to add talent and capability.

Despite aggressive poaching from one another, the big four firms are able to only partly meet their partner talent demand from within.

“The big four have grown quite a lot in the last three-four years. Despite significantly increasing the partner pool from within the industry and twice a year promotions in the last few years, they can only meet 60-65% of their talent demand internally,” said Navnit Singh, chairman of India for Korn Ferry. “Hence they are prompted to look outside.”

Together the big four firms have approximately 2,500 partners in India. EY has the largest pool of about 700-750 partners.

PWC has added about one-third more partners this year than it did in the past two-three years, said Shirin Sehgal, chief people officer, PwC India. Its partner pool is around 650.“We have seen a substantial increase in partner intake,” she said.

Deloitte promoted about 70 people to partner level this year, majority of them from tech, according to people in the know. The company has nearly 600 partners in India. Romal Shetty, CEO, Deloitte South Asia, had earlier told ET that the company planned to increase its partner count to more than 1,000 in the next four years and aimed to surpass revenue of Rs 20,000 crore.

“Business transformation, workplaces of the future, environment sustainability and governance (ESG), risk (including cybersecurity and forensics) and contract and compliance are areas in which we are seeing the maximum intake… Technology is an underlying skill and goes hand in hand with the competencies mentioned,” said Sehgal.

Akhilesh Tuteja, national leader, clients and markets at KPMG in India, said, “Big four is a very attractive platform for leaders coming from the technology industry…. Companies like KPMG provide an excellent combination of industry-specific strategic advice and transformational solutions powered by technology to deliver tangible benefits, and also offer ongoing value through managed services proposition.”

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