In contrast to large law firms where partners tend to come from privileged backgrounds, partners from the big four accountancy firms – Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG – have usually followed the classic social mobility path into the profession.
Crawford Spence, of Warwick Business School, and Chris Carter, of the University of Edinburgh, interviewed 32 partners, aspiring partners, retired partners and those who had failed to make partner in the big four firms.
Just three attended an elite university and one of those left at senior manager level complaining that he never fitted into the culture.
“We found partners to be the embodiment of commercialism,” said Professor Spence. “Those that rose to partner were those who were notable for generating revenue and deepening relationships with clients.”
Conversely, the survey found that the children of accounting partners were privately educated and attended or were planning to attend elite universities.