Most global accounting organisations posted double-digit growth
in 2008 despite the economic downturn, according to the
International Accounting Bulletin’s recently-released
Networks and associations posted strong average growth of 16 and
15 percent respectively. The survey suggested this is a sign the
profession has been resilient to the economic downturn in the 2008
financial year, although the full effect of a downturn will not
really be displayed on firm balance sheets until 2009 year-end
results start trickling through.
The combined fee income of
networks was $130 billion, while the total revenue of associations
reached $22.6 billion.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) remained the largest network in
terms of revenue, although close rival Deloitte made ground in
2008. PwC grew member revenues 14 percent to $28.2 billion in the
year ended 30 June 2008. Deloitte reported network revenues of
$27.4 billion, an increase of 19 percent in the year ended 31 May
2008. The revenue gap between the two networks stood at $785
million. The previous year it was $2.1 billion.
PwC International chief executive Samuel DiPiazza said the
network will continue to fight to remain the market leader although
both firms stressed they are more motivated by quality than
Ernst & Young was the third largest network in terms of
combined revenues, reporting growth of 16 percent to $24.5 billion.
The largest mid-tier network was BDO International, which grew
combined revenues 9 percent to $5.15 billion in the year ended 30
September 2008. Rival Grant Thornton achieved 14 percent growth to
$4 billion during the same financial year.
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SMS Latinoamérica, a small mid-tier network that primarily
operates in the Americas region, reported the highest revenue
growth of 36 percent. Nexia International, which merged with SC
International a year ago, also reported strong growth at 30
percent. Praxity was the highest earning association with combined
member revenues of $3.23 billion.
Parker Randall International was the fastest growing
association, more than tripling its revenues to $129 million after
merging with the International Accountants Consortium. There was
also rapid growth from BKR International (49 percent), IGAF
Worldwide and Leading Edge Alliance (both 29 percent).
The survey reported that networks and associations are
escalating investments in vibrant, emerging economies, particularly
the BRIC countries. Asia-Pacific was the standout region for most
organisations. While Chinese growth was responsible for much of
this, firms in Australia, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia have also
had strong showings.
Firms were shifting their focus away from corporate finance and
towards business recovery, restructuring and insolvency services.
As a result, some were being forced to shed staff in the consulting
areas that have been hardest hit by the credit crisis.
Audit demand was cooling off somewhat and there was even talk of
downward pressure on Big Four fees, providing the mid-tier with a
new set of challenges.
The Big Four were restructuring in order to present a more
cohesive regional workforce to the market, while the mid-tier were
implementing their own cohesion strategies.