The Big 4 in Bangladesh: caught between the global and the local

Ataur Belal, Crawford Spence, Chris Carter, Jingqi Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the work practices of Big 4 firms in Bangladesh with the aim of exploring the extent to which global professional service firms (GPSFs) can be thought of as being genuinely “global”. Design/methodology/approach: Interviews were undertaken with the vast majority of Big 4 partners in Bangladesh. These interviews explored a number of themes related to the professional service work context in Bangladesh and the relationship between local and global firms. Findings: The central finding of this paper is that although the Big 4 have a long-established presence in Bangladesh, local societal factors heavily influence the realities of work for accountants there. In most cases the Big 4 firms establish correspondent firms (instead of full member firms) in Bangladesh and tend to offer restricted service lines. Additionally, the paper identifies professional, commercial and cultural barriers to greater Big 4 involvement in the local market. Conceptually, the chief contribution of this paper is to explore how the effects of globalizing capitalism and standardised “best practices” in global professional service work are mediated through the societal effects of Bangladeshi society, resulting in the Big 4 having only a tentative presence in the Bangladeshi market. Research limitations/implications: The findings cast doubt on the extent to which self-styled GPSFs are truly “global” in nature. Future work examining the Big 4, or accounting more generally, in the context of globalization, would do well to pay greater attention to the experience of professionals in emerging markets. Originality/value: Whilst there has been much work looking at accounting and accountants in the context of globalization, this work has tended to privilege “core” western empirical settings. Very little is known about professional service firms in “peripheral” emerging markets. Furthermore, this study extends the application of the system, society and dominance framework by mapping the interactions and dynamics of these three sources of influence in the setting of PSFs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-163
Number of pages19
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bangladesh
  • Big 4
  • Emerging markets
  • Global professional service firms (GPSF)
  • Globalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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