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Big 4 Vs Grant Thornton – 8 Subtle Differences

The ‘Big 4’ firms (Deloitte, KMPG, EY, and PwC) are the largest and most prestigious professional services firms in the world. In comparison, Grant Thornton is a mid-sized professional services firm.

Both offer similar services – but what are the differences?

8 subtle differences between the Big 4 and Grant Thornton are:

  1. Size and reach
  2. Client base
  3. Services offered
  4. Reputation and prestige
  5. Culture
  6. Workload
  7. Career Opportunities
  8. Travel

I’ve been researching this question for some time while I’ve been looking at getting into consulting, and in this post, I’ll look more closely at these 8 subtle differences between the ‘Big 4’ and Grant Thornton.

Before we start, grab our free ebook – 10X Your Chances of Becoming A Consultant.

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Big 4 vs Grant Thornton

8 Subtle Differences Between The ‘Big 4’ And Grant Thornton

1. Size And Reach

Big 4

This is the most obvious and striking difference between the two.

The Big 4 operates in around 150 countries throughout the world. And each has hundreds of thousands of workers.

Also, the amount of revenue generated by each of the Big 4 is somewhere between 5X and 10X that generated by Grant Thornton.


Grant Thornton

On the other hand, Grant Thornton is a mid-sized professional services firm. Somewhere in the region of 56,000 staff work for them, approximately one fifth of the size of one of the ‘Big 4’. (source)

Grant Thornton is focused on the United States and Europe, rather than the more global Big 4.

2. Client Base

Big 4

The ‘Big 4’ works with the biggest multinational corporations in the world in a diverse range of sectors.

They work with:

  • Large public sector entities
  • Large organizations
  • Multinational corporations
  • Fortune 500 companies

Examples of some corporations that the ‘Big 4’ audit and work with include:

AmazonOnline Retail
Johnson & JohnsonPharmaceutical
Procter & GambleProduct
Exxon MobilEnergy
Berkshire HathawayFinance
General MotorsTransport

Grant Thornton

On the other hand, Grant Thornton generally works with smaller firms and institutions, such as:

  • Mid-sized businesses
  • Non-profits
  • Government entities

3. Services Offered

Big 4

Both the Big 4 and Grant Thornton offer a similar range of professional services. In some cases, however, the scale and scope of the services offered by the Big 4 can be greater.

The Big 4 all offer:

  • Auditing
  • Assurance
  • Tax consulting
  • Management consultancy
  • Advisory services

The Big 4 tends to have a stronger presence in the global market.

Grant Thornton

On the other hand, Grant Thornton offers a more focused and specialized range of services.

They are often more adept at serving niche industries.

They offer similar services to the Big 4, but with an emphasis on serving mid-sized businesses.

Big 4 Vs Grant Thornton services offered
The Big 4 and Grant Thornton offer similar services, but are targeted at different types of corporations

4. Reputation And Prestige

Big 4

The Big 4 are the largest players in the professional services market.

They are the largest and most prestigious firms of their type in the world. They are known for:

  • Global reach
  • Extensive resources
  • Deliverying high-quality services to complex clients

Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton is still a highly prestigious firm, but they do not have the same level of global recognition as the ‘Big 4.’

They are well-known and recognized for:

  • Serving mid-sized businesses
  • Serving niche industries
  • Delivering bespoke and specialized services

5. Culture

Big 4

While the culture of both is similar, they do both have their own unique ‘flavor’.

The ‘Big 4’ has a culture that is shaped by their firms’ size and history.

There is a strong emphasis on large and hierarchical structures.

They often follow long-established processes and procedures. Many employees have stated that they are more formal and bureaucratic than firms such as Grant Thornton.

Employees often work long hours in a highly pressurized environment.

Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton’s smaller size helps it to be more flexible and entrepreneurial in its culture.

They place a strong focus on innovation and employee power.

They attempt to achieve a more relaxed working environment, placing a higher value on work-life balance.

6. Workload

Big 4

You’re going to work hard whether you’re at the ‘Big 4’ or Grant Thornton!

Employees at the ‘Big 4’ can certainly expect a fast-paced and pressurized environment. They will usually have:

  • Demanding workloads
  • Long hours of work
  • Peak periods, such as year-end audit season

The size and complexity of their clients will often require services to be more comprehensive and time-consuming.

Grant Thornton

Although things are unlikely to be much different at Grant Thornton, there will still be an intense work schedule.

However, Grant Thorton does publicly proclaim that they support work-life balance. I have heard ex-employees say that the workload is slightly less than the ‘Big 4’.

7. Career Opportunities

Big 4

Both the ‘Big 4’ and Grant Thornton offer career advancement opportunities.

The ‘Big 4’, by nature of their size and diversity, are able to offer a wider range of career paths.

They also expose their employees to a wider range of industries and clients and corporations with a larger global reach.

Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton, on the other hand, offers good-quality professional development opportunities.

They may offer greater opportunities for taking on leadership roles and making a significant impact within the organization.

8. Travel

Big 4

In general, employees at the ‘Big 4’ firms will expect a higher level of travel as part of their schedule than those who work at Grant Thornton.

‘Big 4’ employees will regularly travel for:

  • Global meetings with clients
  • Professional development and conferences
  • Visiting businesses in locations
  • Meeting with businesses at their location

Though the amount of travel is dependent on your specialization, many employees of the ‘Big 4’ find they travel most weeks, with some living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time.

I wrote an article all about why Big 4 consultants travel so much, which you can read here.

Grant Thornton

On the other hand, Grant Thornton focuses their operations in the United States and Europe, so less global travel is required.

Though employees will still travel, it is unusual for it to be as extensive as those that work for the ‘Big 4.’


  • Will Bennett

    Will Bennett is a Cambridge graduate. He worked as a Consultant and Senior Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in London. Will is the Founder of The Cambridge Consultant.