Today, the auditing and consulting industries are growing steadily. Even the COVID-19 pandemic had a minor effect on the growth of these two industries. In particular, the auditing industry was estimated at $217.7 billion in the summer of 2020 (Business Wire, 2020). The market is expected to reach $287.2 billion in size by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4% (Business Wire, 2020). The global consulting services market is expected to reach up to $902.3 billion in 2020, with a CAGR of 1.89% (Market Research, 2020). If the COVID-19 outbreak is over in 2021, the consulting market is expected to recover with a CAGR of 8.1% to reach $1158.2 billion in 2023 (Market Research, 2020). Thus, the auditing and consulting industries are among the most stable markets in the world.
The majority of the auditing market is taken entirely by four companies: Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY), and KPMG. These companies are collectively known as 4 Big accounting firms. The companies took 99% of the auditor market, reaching more than $150 billion in revenues in 2020 (Deloitte, 2020; EY, 2020; KPMG, 2020; PwC, 2020). The same four companies took over 40% of the consulting market (Shore & Wright, 2018). The companies achieved dominance in the market through a series of mergers and acquisitions during the 1900s and the 2000s, lobbying of appropriate policies, and effective business strategies (Shore & Wright, 2018). However, it is unclear if there are any differences in the quality and types of services provided by the Big 4 accounting groups and smaller accounting companies. It may be assumed that the Big 4 companies provide more cost-efficient and higher quality auditing and consulting services in comparison with those provided by smaller firms. However, there is no comprehensive literature review that can provide holistic information about the matter.
The lack of an adequate literature review on the topic allows speculation about the real value of services provided by the Big 4 accounting firms. As a result of the emergence of large numbers of restatements during the early 2000s, entrepreneurs around the globe started to turn their attention to second-tier and third-tier accounting firms (Chang et al., 2010). The period between 2000 and 2009 demonstrated that the quality of provided auditing services decreased with an increase in the firm size (Meckfessel & Sellers, 2017). Thus, during this time, it was a comparatively popular decision to utilize the services of smaller companies instead of the Big 4 accounting companies (Chang et al., 2010). However, in the 2010s, the situation changed, and, today, it is considered that larger firms can provide services of higher quality due to the ability to share knowledge and experience gained from acquisitions of smaller consulting companies (Donelson et al., 2020). However, according to Shore and Wright (2018) are more likely to falsify the data about their clients due to the conflicts of interest between the auditing and consulting roles of the companies. Additionally, these companies have the resources to influence government agencies that control the quality of audits (Shore and Wright, 2018). Thus, it is unclear if the popularity of the Big 4 accounting firms emerged due to the differences in quality or the types of services.
The present paper aims at exploring the differences between the Big 4 accounting firms versus smaller firms in the industry in terms of auditing and consulting. To achieve the purpose, the paper will need to complete the following objectives:
- Discuss background information to understand the context of the problem.
- Select appropriate scholarly literature to identify the current state of knowledge about the selected issue.
- Identify the reoccurring themes in scholarly literature.
- Synthesize the knowledge to answer the research question.
- Conclude and discuss implications for future research.
The present paper utilizes a narrative literature review as the primary method for achieving the identified goal. The articles for the literature review were taken from academic and scholarly databases, including Science Direct, Wiley Online Library, Research Gate, and Google Scholar. The method was selected for its relative simplicity in comparison with systematic literature reviews. Additionally, even though narrative reviews are associated with more biases, they can provide a broad overview of a subject area, which is crucial for the purpose of the present paper. The results of the study revealed that there were no significant differences in the quality and types of services provided by the Big 4 and smaller accounting firms.
Background and Literature Review
4 Big Accounting Firms
The Big 4 accounting firms were founded in the 1800s as small accounting firms; however, they grew into leaders in the industry through a series of mergers and acquisitions (Shore & Wright, 2018). In 2019, these four companies had over $150 billion in revenues (Deloitte, 2020; EY, 2020; KPMG, 2020; PwC, 2020). In 2020, all the companies managed to grow despite the COVID-19 pandemic (Deloitte, 2020; EY, 2020; KPMG, 2020; PwC, 2020). These firms provide three standard services, including auditing, taxation, and consulting (Shore & Wright, 2018). The largest portion of their revenues comes from auditing and tax services; however, these companies also offer management consulting, technology consulting, financial advisory consulting, and risk and compliance consulting (Shore & Wright, 2018). The four companies control over 40% of the consulting market, and more than 99% of the auditor market (Shore & Wright, 2018). The mix of provided services, however, differs depending on the company.
Deloitte is the biggest company among the Big 4 accounting firms. In 2019, its revenues were over $46 billion. The company is named after William Welch Deloitte, who was known as the auditor of the Great Western Railroad in 1849 (Shore & Wright, 2018). Currently, the company employs more than 330,000 employees around the globe (Deloitte, 2020). It is one of the most attractive places to start a career as an auditor or a consultant. Apart from top-class auditing services, the company provides consulting in three main areas: human capital, strategy and operations, and technology (Deloitte, 2020). The company’s vision is to deliver excellence in all services provided by the member firms worldwide, based on integrity, outstanding value to markets and clients, commitment to each other, and strength from cultural diversity (Deloitte, 2020).
PwC is the second-largest consulting firm with over $42 billion in global revenues in 2019 (PwC, 2020). The company has more than 284,000 employees that value the organization for a clear career path and the ability to develop inside the company (PwC, 2020). Unlike Deloitte, the company focuses on the advisory market by providing a wide variety of consulting services, including asset management, communications, energy and mining, healthcare services, hospitality and leisure, private equity, public sector, and technology (PwC, 2020). Even though the company’s primary source of revenues remains auditing services, the recently improved consulting services currently contribute up to 32% of the company’s income. The mission of the company is to contribute to the sustained growth of the economy through high-quality audits and teamwork (PwC, 2020). Ultimately, the company aims at financial prosperity through exceeding the expectations of customers (PwC, 2020).
EY is a London-based accounting company that operates around the globe. In 2019, the company generated more than $36 billion in revenues and provided jobs from more than 270,000 employees (EY, 2020). The company was created in 1989 when two large accounting firms merged to form a steady alliance (Shore & Wright, 2018). Even though the company separated its auditing and consulting branches in the early 2000s, the company partnered with Parthenon to provide consulting services once again (Shore & Wright, 2018). Today, the company offers top-class consulting services in 16 countries. The mission of the company is to create a better working world by building trust and confidence in the economies around the world (EY, 2020).
KPMG is the smallest company among the Big 4 accounting firms. Its revenues were almost $30 billion in 2019, and it employed over 219,00o people worldwide (KPMG, 2020). The company existed as an alliance of four large accounting firms since 1986 (Shore & Wright, 2018). Unlike the other three largest accounting firms, KPMG managed to maintain the majority ownership in its original consulting decision. The firm focuses primarily on management consulting, risk consulting, and deal advisory (KPMG, 2020). The company’s vision is to turn knowledge and understanding of information into value for clients and people (KPMG, 2020).
The primary advantage of the Big 4 accounting firms is that they created a new form of business entity. These four companies understand the needs of their clients and desire to become a one-stop shop that provides locally informed accounting decisions (Shore & Wright, 2018). To achieve that, the companies act as coordinators of a global network of affiliates that operate under a single brand guided by a common code of conduct (Shore & Wright, 2018). Thus, instead of providing accounting services directly, the Big 4 accounting firms provide services using local firms under a flag of a big corporation. However, the central office controls the quality and the prices of the services to ensure compliance with common standards. Thus, despite the companies’ global nature, they can provide locally informed services of high quality at a competitive price.
Performance of 4 Big Accounting Firms
In the early 2000s, after a series of audits conducted by Big 5 accounting companies helped to hide fraudulent financial activities and the demise of Arthur Andersen, global governments started to impose new regulations on accounting firms. In particular, the companies were made to separate their consulting and auditing practices to avoid conflicts of interest (Shore & Wright, 2018). The case of fraudulent activities led to the massive migration of public clients to second-tier and third-tier accounting firms (Chang et al., 2010). This led to an increased interest of investors in smaller accounting firms, which created significant competition for the Big 4 accounting firms (Chang et al., 2010). As a result, after the revival of the Big 4 consulting practices, first-tier accounting companies started to pay more attention to the quality and price of their services. Additionally, they started to pay more attention to controlling for fraudulent activities (Shore & Wright, 2018). Thus, the quality of the provided consulting services was expected to improve.
Currently, there are different opinions about the quality of accounting services provided by the Big 4 accounting firms in comparison with smaller firms. For instance, a study conducted by Meckfessel and Sellers (2017) concluded that the size of the company was negatively correlated with the quality of the provided services. The researchers examined a set of longitudinal data about US-based firms that received accounting services in one of the four first-tier accounting companies (Meckfessel & Sellers, 2017). They measured the quality of accounting services as the number of restatements and the reporting lag and analyzed the data against the firm sizes (Meckfessel & Sellers, 2017). The results of the study demonstrated that the larger an accounting firm, the more likely the client would experience lags in reporting and restatements. However, it should be mentioned that even though the study is comparatively recent, it is based on a sample of data taken between 2000 and 2009. Thus, the results may be outdated.
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the 4 Big accounting firms acquired numerous consulting companies to revive their consulting practice. As a result, the public became concerned that the quality of audit quality would deteriorate. Several studies aimed at examining the hypothesis that numerous acquisitions lead to deterioration of audit quality. For instance, a study by Lisic et al. (2014) created a regression model to assess the revenues from consulting of the Big 4 accounting firms and various measures of audit quality. Lisic et al. (2014) identified reporting errors, client financial statement misstatements, client discretionary accruals, and the probability that clients meet or just beat analyst earnings forecasts as the independent variables. The analysis revealed that the amount of revenue acquired from consulting services was not associated with decreased quality of audits (Lisic et al., 2014). Instead, the researchers claimed that in some cases, increased revenues from consulting resulted in improved quality of audits (Lisic et al., 2014). However, investors still perceived the deterioration in the quality of auditing when companies engaged in consulting (Lisic et al., 2014). Thus, the study concluded that the idea that the provision of consulting services impaired the quality of audits was created by the press.
The findings of Lisic et al. (2014) were confirmed by a recent study conducted by Donelson et al. (2020). The research aimed at testing the hypothesis that experience in consulting led to improved quality of audits due to the ability to transfer the expertise from one field to another (Donelson et al., 2020). The researchers conducted 17 semi-structured interviews with highly experienced audit practitioners to understand if the quality of audits increased after the acquisition of consulting firms (Donelson et al., 2020). The researchers concluded that the acquisition of consulting firms was positively associated with the quality of audit due to knowledge transfer and shifting the culture towards commercialism (Donelson et al., 2020). The effect of the acquisition of consulting firms was moderated by how close the acquired services were to auditing (Donelson et al., 2020). Thus, at least two studies confirm that the quality of audits increased after Big 4 consulting companies reengaged in consulting.
A study by Kowaleski et al. (2018) also assessed the quality of audits depending on the fact of the provision of consulting services. The scholars revealed that there was no significant difference in audit quality depending on the fact of provision of consulting services (Kowaleski et al., 2018). However, the provision of consulting services was associated with greater variation in audit quality (Kowaleski et al., 2018). In summary, there is no certainty about the influence of the provision of consulting services on the quality of audits, and further research may be required.
However, it should be acknowledged that data about the quality of audits might be biased. The central problem is that all the researchers measured the quality of audits as the number of restatements and accounting errors. Error and restatements occur when either inside or outside stakeholders decide to reassess the accounting reports. In particular, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the central stakeholder that initializes the reassessment of companies. However, the Big 4 accounting firms are often close to policymaking as they engage in aggressive lobbying of favorable legislation. The government seems to be afraid to turn the Big 4 into an even greater oligopoly of Big 3, which would ruin the competition in the industry (Shore & Wright, 2018). Since the companies have a great influence on government structures and their employees often act as consultants for SEC, they may feel reluctant to ignore the problems with audits even if they arise (Shore & Wright, 2018).
Summary and Literature Gap
The recent performance of the Big 4 accounting firms is questionable. On the one hand, all four companies managed to grow even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The growth of the companies is associated with rising revenues from consulting services. Several studies demonstrate that provision of consulting services had a positive influence on the quality of audit services (Donelson et al., 2020; Lisic et al., 2014). However, some researchers confirmed that the provision of consulting services only influenced the variation in the audit quality (Kowaleski et al., 2018). On the other hand, research confirms that the size of a company is negatively associated with the quality of accounting services (Meckfessel & Sellers, 2017). The literature review on the topic revealed that numerous studies focus on the performance of 4 Big accounting firms; however, little knowledge is available about the differences between the consulting and auditing services provided by the Big four accounting firms and smaller firms. Thus, it is crucial to systematize the knowledge about the differences in the quality and types of services provided by the Big 4 accounting firms in comparison with smaller companies. The present paper aims at closing the identified gap in the literature using appropriate methods.
The preliminary literature review provided background information about the subject area and identified the knowledge gap. The problem the present paper is aiming to solve is the lack of systematic knowledge about the differences in services provided by the 4 Big accounting firms and services provided by smaller accounting firms. In particular, it is unclear if there are objective reasons that Big 4 accounting firms are preferable for companies looking for auditing and consulting services. Thus, the research question is:
RQ: Are there significant differences in the quality and type of services provided by the Big 4 and smaller accounting firms that can explain their market share?
Since the purpose of the present paper is to provide an overview of differences in the quality and types of services provided by the Big 4 accounting firms and their smaller competitors, the most appropriate method is a literature review. There are two general types of literature reviews, including systematic reviews (SRs) and narrative reviews (NRs). SRs are usually used to answer narrow questions using either qualitative or quantitative methods (Green, 2006). They utilize strict guidelines and select studies fairly homogeneous in terms of research questions and methodologies (Green, 2006). While this approach leads to reliable results, it is inappropriate for the present paper, as literature on the selected topic is rather scarce to adhere to the strict selection protocol.
NRs are utilized when a broad overview of the selected topic is needed. The approach does not have a strict protocol for selecting the studies and their no rigorous requirements for the narration and paper organization. Thus, NRs are useful pieces of writing that help to synthesize information on a particular subject in the shortest possible time with some possibility of methodological errors. Therefore, the most appropriate method for addressing the identified problem is to conduct a narrative literature review.
Academic and scholarly databases were used to find and select appropriate articles to answer the research question. The paper utilized online databases, including Science Direct, Wiley Online Library, Research Gate, and Google Scholar. The databases were searched using the following keywords: “big 4 accounting,” “small accounting firms,” “medium-sized accounting firms,” “differences in accounting services,” and “consulting and audit.” The present paper used studies that were published in 2010 or after to ensure the relevancy of findings. The search results went through three levels of filtration. First, the names of the articles were checked for relevancy to the research question. Second, the abstracts of the articles were read to understand if the articles could help to answer the research question. Finally, the rest of the articles were read entirely to estimate their value for the present study. As a result, the sample size was 11 peer-reviewed articles that utilized both qualitative and quantitative methods. The results of the articles were summarized in a table format to facilitate the process of analysis.
Summary of Findings
The present research synthesizes knowledge from 11 scholarly articles that describe the services of Big 4 accounting and smaller accounting firms. The primary focuses of the studies were the quality of services and the workplace culture that affected the services of accounting firms. The summary of findings is provided in Table 1 below.
Table 1. Summary of Findings
|Study||Sample||Context||Dependent Variables||Key results|
|Ai et al. (2020)||45,979 client-year observations from 24 countries||Small international accounting firms||Quality of services||There are no significant differences in the quality of services provided by smaller accounting firms in comparison with the Big 4 accounting firms.|
|Bills et al. (2018)||37 partners from 18 smaller accounting firms||Companies around the globe||Quality of services||The quality of services of smaller accounting firms benefits greatly from participation in accounting associations and networks due to the sharing of expertise, best practices, and training.|
|Carter and Spence (2014)||32 partners of Big 4 accounting firms||Big 4 accounting firms||Workplace culture||The culture of commercialism is essential for progression and professional development in Big 4 accounting firms. This can cause conflicts of interest and tensions in the future.|
|Chang et al. (2010)||1,121 firms||Companies around the globe||Stock price after switches from Big 4 accounting firms to smaller companies||Stock market price increases after switching from Big 4 accounting firms to smaller accounting firms.|
|Donelson et al. (2020)||18,277 firms||Companies around the globe||Audit quality||Provision of consulting services improves audit quality.|
|Kowaleski et al. (2018)||60 observations||Companies around the globe||Audit quality||There are no significant differences in audit quality depending on the provision of consulting services; however, the provision of consulting services affects variation in the quality of audits.|
|Lander et al. (2013)||11 mid-tier accounting firms||Companies around the globe||Workplace culture||Smaller firms prefer to follow the trustee-professional logic even though they are pushed to use commercial-professional logic.|
|Lisic et al. (2014)||32,368 observations||Companies around the globe||Audit quality||The provision of consulting services positively affects audit quality. However, investors believe that provision of consulting services affects the quality of audits.|
|Meckfessel et al. (2017)||Big 4 accounting firms||Audit quality||The firm size is negatively correlated with the quality of audits.|
|Shore and Wright (2018)||N/A||Big 4 accounting firms||N/A||The Big 4 accounting firms can provide locally informed services; the specializations of employees are narrow; the workplace culture is hectic; the companies can influence governmental policies; the partners of the firms are expected to be good at politicking, performing, and game-playing.|
|Spence and Carter (2014)||31 partners of Big 4 accounting companies||Big 4 accounting firms||Workplace culture||Employees need to trade the technical-professional logic for commercial-professional logic to progress in their careers.|
Synthesis of Knowledge
The review of the literature revealed that the topic of differences between the Big 4 accounting firms and smaller firms in terms of provision of services is poorly studied. Database searches revealed only one study during the past ten years that compared the Big 4 accounting firms to smaller accounting firms. Instead, the reviewed papers focused either on the Big 4 accounting firms or on smaller accounting companies. Therefore, the present study contributes to the current body of knowledge by synthesizing the knowledge from several research papers to compare the services of accounting firms of different sizes.
All of the revised papers focused on either the quality of accounting services and their determinants or the workplace culture of the firms. Every study that touched upon the workplace culture also discussed the implications of findings for the quality of services. Thus, every study included in the present NR focused on the determinants of the quality of services of the Big 4 and smaller accounting firms. In particular, the articles included in the present review analyzed the influence of firms’ sizes, the fact of the provision of consulting services, and workplace culture on the perceived and actual quality of services. Additionally, the literature review found revealed that the Big 4 and smaller accounting firms provide similar types of accounting services. However, smaller accounting companies may not provide consulting services together with auditing services.
Quality of Services
The findings concerning the quality of services of different types of accounting firms were inconclusive. Some researchers argued that the provision of consulting services was associated with improved quality of audit and visa-versa (Donelson et al., 2020; Lisic et al., 2014). The effect is achieved through the transition of expertise between two areas of accounting. This may mean that smaller firms are often at a disadvantage, as they provide either consulting or auditing services. Other researchers argued that the provision of consulting services did not improve the quality of provided services; instead, the variation in quality increased (Kowaleski et al., 2018). The issue is that the Big 4 accounting firms utilize a unique business model that coordinates smaller local companies under the flag of a big corporation (Shore & Wright, 2018). Even though the central offices control the quality of local services, it may still differ depending on the time the firm operated under one of the Big 4 accounting firms (Shore & Wright, 2018). This may imply that it is safer for the clients to utilize the services of smaller firms if that the quality of their services is generally good.
When speaking about the quality of services provided by smaller accounting firms, the researchers acknowledge some disadvantages in comparison with the Big 4 firms. In particular, smaller firms may experience problems with hiring qualified staff, as they appear less prestigious for potential employees (Ai et al., 2020). Additionally, smaller accounting firms may experience a lack of expertise and training (Bills et al., 2018). However, participation in accounting associations and networks (AANs) can help to overcome the problem of the lack of expertise (Ai et al., 2020; Bills et al., 2018). Ai et al. (2020) found no significant differences between the quality of service provided by smaller firms that participate in AANs and the Big 4 accounting firms, even though the majority of clients believe otherwise. In summary, there is sufficient evidence to declare that the quality of accounting services differs considerably.
There is also some evidence that the quality services provided by smaller firms are higher in comparison with those provided by the Big 4 accounting firms. Chang et al. (2010) stated that transitioning from the services provided by the Big 4 accounting firms to smaller firms was associated with significant increases in stock market prices. Moreover, Meckfessel et al. (2017) stated that firm size was negatively correlated with the quality of provided services. Thus, the findings concerning the quality of services provided by accounting firms of all sizes are inconsistent.
The review of the literature found significant differences in workplace culture between smaller and the Big 4 accounting firms. The Big 4 firms have hectic workplace culture, where everyone is forced to develop their skills (Shore & Wright, 2018). Large companies hire the best graduates, which are carefully trained through expertise and knowledge sharing (Shore & Wright, 2018). While this may be viewed as a positive trend, there are some concerns about the matter. In particular, the Big 4 accounting firms force their employees to utilize commercial-professional logic, as the primary objective of the companies is to make money (Carter & Spence, 2014). Even though technical professional logic co-exists with commercial-professional logic, the latter is preferred and cultivated (Spence & Carter, 2014). This causes significant problems with adherence to the companies’ missions and public roles as “the stewards of third-party resources and as an important ‘check and balances’” (Spence & Carter, 2014, p. 960). The technical-professional logic is preferable for the accounting companies to fulfill their social roles; however, employees that utilize this logic rarely become partners (Carter & Spence, 2014).
The workplace culture of small- and medium-sized accounting firms is greatly influenced by the Big 4 companies. In particular, smaller companies are often forced to commercialize their services to stay competitive with the Big 4 accounting firms (Lander et al., 2013). However, smaller firms often prefer trustee-professional logic to ensure loyalty (Lander et al., 2013). Since the number of clients of smaller accounting firms is limited, they prefer to build personal relationships with their clients and often work on individual terms (Lander et al., 2013). However, customers, especially those that have worked with the Big 4, often expect the representatives of smaller firms to be good at politicking (Lander et al., 2013). Thus, some of the smaller companies are forced to adopt this logic to stay competitive.
The utilization of both trustee-professional logic and commercial-professional logic can be harmful to the quality of provided services. Both approaches do not put the public interest at the center of the business model. This implies that even though the workplace cultures of firms of different sizes may differ, it is unlikely to make a difference in the quality of provided services.
While there are significant differences in corporate cultures, business models, and problems, there is no empirical evidence that smaller accounting firms provide services of lower quality. This implies that the common belief that the Big 4 accounting firms provide a higher quality of services is flawed. The Big 4 accounting companies gained their popularity using effective marketing strategies, efficient workplace culture, strategic mergers and acquisitions, and influence on the governmental structures. The quality of services provided by the Big 4 accounting firms varied significantly throughout history. Currently, the number of restatements and accounting errors is low in comparison with the 2000s; however, this effect may have been achieved through influencing government structures, such as SEC.
The findings of the present paper suggest that companies should be reluctant to pick smaller accounting firms as alternatives to the Big 4. However, it is recommended to select smaller companies, which are members of AANs. This will ensure that the employees of the firm have access to information about best practices and expertise. If a company needs both consulting and auditing services, it should consider utilizing the services of two different companies to avoid conflicts of interest. Additionally, the companies may choose to prioritize smaller firms if they want to receive individualized service based on trust.
The present research was motivated by an interest in understanding how the Big 4 accounting firms managed to acquire and hold the position of leaders in the provision of accounting services. While it was clear that successful mergers and acquisitions were the central determinants of the firms’ success, it was unclear if there was a significant gap in quality and type of services provided by the Big 4 and smaller accounting firms. It was decided to conduct an NR to describe the current body of knowledge concerning the subject.
The narrative literature review revealed that the difference between the Big 4 and small accounting firms is an under-researched subject. During the past ten years, only one scholarly article was dedicated to exploring the differences in the quality of services between small accounting service providers and the Big 4. Synthesis of research findings on the topic revealed that there is no significant evidence to conclude that the Big 4 accounting firms outperform their smaller competitors in terms of type and quality of provided services. Even though accounting firms differ in terms of corporate governance, culture, and relationships with customers, on average, the quality of provided services is similar.
Considering the primary conclusion of the present paper, the answer to the research question is that there are no significant differences in the quality and type of services provided by the Big 4 and smaller accounting firms that can explain their market share. This implies that the market share of the Big 4 accounting firms is attributed not to the improved quality of provided service but to effective managerial decisions, including mergers and acquisitions, lobbying of laws, and development of commercialized culture.
There are some limitations to the findings that should be acknowledged. First, the present paper did not utilize all the scholarly databases to find and select appropriate literature. Additionally, the search for literature was conducted by one person, which implies that the sample does not include important research on the topic. Thus, the sampling procedure may be biased, which can affect the research results. Second, narrative literature reviews are an imperfect method associated with biases. The present narrative review includes expert opinions along with quantitative research to support the conclusion. However, little consideration was given to the quality of the provided evidence. Finally, the conclusions were made based on a relatively small number of articles, which may lead to biased decisions.
Future research should focus on addressing the limitations of the present paper and address the identified knowledge gaps. First, empirical evidence is needed to confirm the findings of the present NR. This evidence should be acquired using rigorous quantitative methods. Second, future literature reviews should include all the major scholarly databases to ensure an adequate sample size. Finally, future research may decide to include client satisfaction levels as one of the determinants of the quality of provided services and assess if the level of satisfaction differs depending on the size of the accounting firm.
Ai, X., Cunningham, L. M., Li, X., & Myers, L. A. (2020). How can small international accounting firms improve audit quality? The role of accounting associations and networks. The Role of Accounting Associations and Networks (2020).
Bills, K. L., Hayne, C., & Stein, S. E. (2018). A field study on small accounting firm membership in associations and networks: Implications for audit quality. The Accounting Review, 93(5), 73-96.
Business Wire. (2020). Global auditing services industry (2020 to 2027): Market trends and drivers.
Carter, C., & Spence, C. (2014). Being a successful professional: An exploration of who makes partner in the Big 4. Contemporary Accounting Research, 31(4), 949–981.
Chang, H., Cheng, C. A., & Reichelt, K. J. (2010). Market reaction to auditor switching from Big 4 to third-tier small accounting firms. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, 29(2), 83-114.
Deloitte. (2020). Annual report 2019/2020.
Donelson, D. C., Ege, M., Imdieke, A. J., & Maksymov, E. (2020). The revival of large consulting practices at the Big 4 and audit quality. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 101157.
Ernst & Young. (2020). Annual review 2019/2020.
Green, B. N., Johnson, C. D., & Adams, A. (2006). Writing narrative literature reviews for peer-reviewed journals: secrets of the trade. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 5(3), 101–117.
Kowaleski, Z. T., Mayhew, B. W., & Tegeler, A. C. (2018). The impact of consulting services on audit quality: An experimental approach. Journal of Accounting Research, 56(2), 673-711.
KPMG. (2020). 2019 KPMG global review. Web.
Market Research. (2020). Management consulting services global market briefing 2020: Covid 19 impact and recovery.
Meckfessel, M. D., & Sellers, D. (2017). The impact of Big 4 consulting on audit reporting lag and restatements. Managerial Auditing Journal, 32(1), 19-49.
Lander, M. W., Koene, B. A. S., & Linssen, S. N. (2013). Committed to professionalism: Organizational responses of mid-tier accounting firms to conflicting institutional logics. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 38(2), 130–148.
Lisic, L. L., Myers, L. A., Pawlewicz, R., & Seidel, T. A. (2014). Does big 4 consulting impair audit quality. Working paper, George Mason University, University of Arkansas, and Utah State University.
PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2020). Annual report 2019. Web.
Shore, C., & Wright, S. (2018). How the Big 4 got big: Audit culture and the metamorphosis of international accountancy firms. Critique of Anthropology, 38(3), 303–324.
Spence, C., & Carter, C. (2014). An exploration of the professional habitus in the Big 4 accounting firms. Work, Employment and Society, 28(6), 946-962.