THERE CAN BE no doubt that Ernst & Young has big plans for China. By 2010, the Big Four accountancy firm intends to raise its Hong Kong and mainland headcount from 6,000 to about 10,000, simply to keep up with anticipated business demand. That will mean at least 1,000 openings a year, including roles for support staff in core business services and for experienced professionals at partnership level. 'We have more than enough jobs available for quality candidates,' said Gigi Chow, the firm's director of recruitment in Hong Kong. She said three specific factors helped attract good applicants. First was a global exchange programme, which gave 50 or 60 people the opportunity to gain international exposure in Canada, the United States, Australia or Britain every year. These assignments last between 12 months and two years, and those who go overseas also receive subsidies for housing and other expenses. Next, there is a system of job rotations to ensure junior staff learn faster and are given tasks that are challenging and interesting. A recent graduate might start in the audit group but, in due course, move on to tax or corporate finance through a series of internal transfers. 'This empowers staff,' Ms Chow said. 'It gives them more experience and lets them find an area they feel is the best fit.' Thirdly, the worldwide firm is committing US$200 million to support expansion in China and provide the necessary learning and development programmes. The objective, Ms Chow said, was to add value at every level to provide better service for clients and thus build the business. She said that risk services and technology audit were viewed as 'hot' areas in the profession. 'A lot of people working in computer firms in the commercial sector understand numbers and, therefore, they are just the sort we are trying to attract to our technology audit group,' she said. Ms Chow said all the Big Four firms offered comparable packages for new staff and that recruits should expect to work long hours during the first three years.