By Anna J. Park
The country's big four accounting firms ― Deloitte Anjin, EY Korea, Samil PwC and Samjong KPMG ― are competing to hire rookie accountants as demand for accounting services surged following the revision of Korea's external audit law. Other financial businesses such as brokerages, asset management companies, private equity funds and investment banks are also trying to lure accountants by fattening their paychecks.
The four major accounting firms said their total number of new hires for this year is expected to exceed 1,300, which would be the highest number ever.
Samjong KPMG plans to recruit nearly 400 new accountants this year, continuing the firm's past record of recruiting the largest number of new accountants for seven consecutive years. Samil PwC also plans to open about 385 to 390 positions for new accountants, which is nearly the same size as last year. The number of the new hires rose by nearly 50 percent back in 2020 due to soaring demand for accounting services by large corporate clients.
The case is similar for Deloitte Anjin and EY Korea, as the two firms each plan to hire about 250 new accountants this year. Deloitte's new hires will be up 25 percent from last year.
"The increase in this year's recruiting plan is attributed to both the expansion and growth of the firm's businesses. We also plan to provide a more balanced workload for each accountant, aiming to secure their improved work-life balance," an official at the accounting firm explained.
EY Korea's plan to recruit 250 new hires is also about a 13 percent increase from last year. The firm explained that the forecast figure only reflects the new hiring plan for auditing positions, calculated in a conservative manner, adding that further new hires might be possible depending on the market situation.
Market insiders say a combination of various factors in Korea attributed to the soaring demand for accountants. They agree that the implementation of the revised Act on External Audit of Stock Companies in late 2018 has been one of the key game changers that has hugely increased corporate demand for accounting services, as the law requires local companies to have a strengthened internal accounting control system. Accounting industry insiders say the adoption of the law increased the audit hours necessitated by local corporations by more than 30 percent.
Demand for qualified accountants is also growing in the financial sector, because private equity firms, asset management companies and venture capital businesses are trying to follow global accounting standards. Accountants' mathematical competencies of calculating corporate values and analyzing accounting books are being sought after by a wider range of financial firms than ever before as the domestic capital market increases in size and becomes more sophisticated. The active M&A market as well as ESG-principled management trend also increased demand for accounting services.
Accountants are seeing fatter paychecks as a result, with major accounting firms promising around a 10 percent pay raise on top of introducing interim performance-related bonuses. Accountants with five years' experience are known to be paid more than 100 million won annually on average.
Reflecting the booming market, the number of people applying for certified public accountant (CPA) licenses has been increasing annually to reach the highest level seen in 20 years. In the first round of the annual CPA examination in February, the number of applicants rose 14.5 percent year-on-year to 15,413.