The path to partnership: have you got what it takes?

What does being a partner entail?

Becoming a partner is widely regarded as the height of a career in accountancy. With the average accountant making partner after 10-15 years of employment at a firm, it is a long journey but undoubtedly a rewarding one. As well as the financial reward, partnership brings with it heightened responsibility, leadership experience and the opportunity to influence the firm’s future direction. 

The role of partner at an accountancy firm involves a wide variety of work. Whether handling client relationships, generating new business for the firm or building a strong team beneath you, you have much more responsibility. You are a decision maker within the business, steering the overall direction of the firm, its staff and its culture.

What are the steps to becoming a partner?

The path varies from firm to firm; larger firms, such as the Big 4 tend to have more formally structured progression plans, whereas lower tier, boutique firms often offer a faster track. This is because there can be greater opportunity to establish yourself and build a successful business case if it’s a smaller environment.
At all firms, however, partners need to have the ACCA qualification and at least several years of experience within a professional services environment. Once a Chartered Accountant, your role becomes more advanced in terms of strategy; on average, most firms offer partnerships after five years of being chartered.

What do firms look for in a partner?

At any firm, it is vital that partners are confident and adept at fostering key client relationships. Working as an Associate and Senior accountant involves little client-facing exposure; instead, these roles depend heavily on academic strength and technical ability. To climb the ladder to a managerial position as an aspiring partner, you therefore also need to show off your soft skills. Good communication, people management and leadership skills are all important. By building relationships both internally and externally, you will establish your credibility as a leader and driver of the business.

In terms of leadership skills, you should be able to mentor staff and develop them professionally, whilst supervising and delegating confidently within the team. Equally, clients should view you as engaged, dynamic, responsive and, above all, trustworthy.  

Those who stand out within the firm are more likely to be considered for partnership. On top of proving managerial ability, excelling within a particular sector specialism helps make you invaluable to the firm.

Firms also value entrepreneurial spirit and inquisitiveness. Partners need to be self-starters; someone who gets things done and isn’t scared to go out on a limb. Similarly, being innovative and thinking outside the box enables you to ensure the firm stays relevant and on top of current trends.


Learn how Williams Munroe prepares and supports accountancy professionals ready to make the transition to partner here.