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7 Subtle Differences Between EY And The Other ‘Big 4’

I’ve been checking out all the ‘Big 4’ recently, finding out how each differs from the other. I’ve found that Ernst and Young and the other ‘Big 4’ do have some subtle differences in their culture and organization. EY has its own ‘purpose’, and also they are more competitive in some areas than the other ‘Big 4’.

The key 7 differences between Ernst and Young and the other ‘Big 4’ are:

  1. EY Serves more firms in the X & P 500
  2. EY is a global leader in digital business
  3. Organizational structure
  4. Focus on technology
  5. Client base
  6. International opportunities
  7. Values and culture – EY’s ‘purpose’ as they define it

In this post, I’ll check out these 7 differences between EY and the rest of the ‘Big 4’ (Pwc, Deloitte, and KPMG) in full.

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1. EY Serves More Firms In The S & P 500 That Any Other Of The ‘Big 4’

The S & P is the ‘Standard and Poor’ 500. It is the stock market index that tracks the performance of the 500 biggest companies on the United States stock exchange.

Pretty much all of the S & P 500 firms are serviced by the ‘Big 4’. However, the US branch of Ernst and Young does currently service slightly more firms in the S & P than any other of the ‘Big 4.’


It should be said, however, this is not the case around the world. For instance, in the UK, Deloitte actually serves more than EY.

However, their position in the United States demonstrates the strong position that EY holds in its client network.

2. EY Is A Global Leader In Digital Business

All of the ‘Big 4’ (PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG) offer many similar professional services. These include:

  • Auditing
  • Tax
  • Advisory services
  • Consulting

However, the one field where EY is really setting itself apart from the rest of the pack is in digital business.

I get really excited by this, being a digital entrepreneur, and so I’ve checked out the full reasons why Ernst and Young is viewed in this way…

EY was several years ago (in 2019 to be exact) named a ‘Global Leader in Digital Business.’

This was highlighted in an independent report by Forrester Research. (Source)

The report stated that ‘Vendors that can provide a research approach to strategy development, bound to tightly integrated digital design and execution capabilities, with the ability to reduce time-to-business-impact position themselves to successfully deliver true digital business transformation to their global customers.’ (Source)

In layman’s terms, EY is an excellent provider of digital business change!

This puts them in direct competition with other large digital business companies, such as:

3. Organizational Structure – EY Vs Other ‘Big 4’

Their organizational structure is another area in which EY does differentiate itself from the rest of the ‘pack’.

In a nutshell, they have a more integrated global structure than the other Big 4 firms.

The other Big 4 firms tend to use more of a federation structure. The different branches of their firms, spanning up to 150 countries, are often separate legal entities.

For example, PwC are closer to a federation structure. This is taken directly from their website (source) – ‘PwC is the brand under which the member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwCIL) operate and provide professional services. Together, these firms form the PwC network…PwC member firms do not and cannot currently operate as a corporate multinational. The PwC network is not a global partnership, a single firm, or a multinational corporation.

This is all a bit complex, but in a nutshell – with EY, the whole organization is more tightly knit and merged as one larger whole.

4. Focus on Technology

As I touched on above, a big differentiator in the marketplace these days is that EY place maximum emphasis on technology and digital innovation.

For example, EY has invested in emerging technologies. These include:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Blockchain
  • Incorporating emerging technologies into EY’s service offerings

5. Client Base – EY Vs Big 4

Another way that Ernst and Young like to show they are different is in their client base.

To be honest, this might be what EY likes to portray as just as much as the facts. But the reality is that they have a reputation for working more with entrepreneurial and fast-growing companies.

It should be noted, however, that the Big 4 all work with similar kinds of clients.

It could probably be broken down into the following 7 areas:

  1. Financial services – notably with banks and insurance companies
  2. Technology – a big one for EY!
  3. Consumer products – producers and distributors of consumer goods such as household products, and food
  4. Healthcare
  5. Energy
  6. Automotive
  7. Real estate

Also, EY has been expanding its services to cater to the needs of start-ups and prioritizes this more heavily than other members of the ‘Big 4’.

6. International Opportunities – Split Into 3 Areas

All of the ‘Big 4’ are big! And they have a global presence.

EYs global presence is particularly strong, and it operates in over 150 countries (Source). However, this is pretty similar to the other Big 4 firms.

Here’s a quick table that shows the number of countries in which each operates:

Name Of Big 4Number of Countries They Operate In
Ernst And Young150+

However, a difference with EY is that they are split into three global areas. The three are:

  • The Americas – including all North, South and Central America
  • Europe, Middle East, India And Africa
  • Asia Pacific

According to EY, ‘this structure is streamlined allowing us to make decisions quickly, execute our strategy and provide exceptional client service around the world.‘ (Source)

7. Values And Culture – EY’s ‘Purpose’ And What That Is

Let’s leave the biggest to last!

A big differentiator between EY and the other ‘Big 4’ is what EY calls its ‘purpose’.

Of course, all of the Big 4 share similar values, such as:

  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Professional development

However, EY also sets out its distinct values. According to them, they state that ‘At EY, we put our purpose — Building a better working world — at the heart of everything we do.‘ (Source)

There are 4 things that define the ‘EY Purpose’. Those are:

1. Ethical Leadership

EY states that this is crucial in building trust in their corporation. It also creates long-term value.

The ‘Big 4’ are all about sustained growth. They have been around for decades, Deloitte for the best part of two centuries.

EY are particularly trying to establish:

  • Transparency
  • Integrity in all activities

2. Inclusive Growth

EY aims for growth that is:

  • Sustainable
  • Inclusive
  • Benefiting all stakeholders

They also want to promote diversity and inclusion and drive social and environmental outcomes.

3. Innovation

I’ve gone over this a bit before, but EY believes that innovation is essential in driving forward progress for themselves, and those they work with.

They want to foster a culture of investment in emerging technologies, and discover new ways of working.

4. Developing Talent

EY believes that developing talent is essential to building a ‘better working world’.

They say they are fully supportive of their employees in learning and growing.


  • 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.