Bottom Line: There’s growth to be had away from big audits

Marion Dakers

GRANT Thornton, like its mid-market rival BDO, has not pinned all its hopes on winning blue-chip audit work any time soon, despite the huge amount of noise generated by the Competition Commission’s plans to open up the market.

And with a double-digit rise in revenues, the company doesn’t need to worry at the moment. Advisory work, particularly with finance firms racing to comply with a raft of new regulation, has been a bigger driver of growth – echoing expansion among the so-called Big Four. At PwC, for example, 62 per cent of revenues come from non-audit clients, and this figure is rising every year.

The rewards for bagging a blue-chip audit client can be huge, but the firms that opt for a mid-market bean-counter are unlikely to be as complex as HSBC, which last year paid KPMG $13.2m for its statutory audit and a whopping $80.5m once audits, tax advice and other services were included. PwC is set to take over at HSBC after a competitive tender process over the summer, in a sign that a small number of firms are at least looking for a change.

Meanwhile, at the lower end of the FTSE 100, the likes of Aggreko pay around £180,000 for their audits. This puts them in the same ballpark as the biggest of GT’s current contracts.

Given that GT already works for around a third of the FTSE 100 in a non-audit capacity, it’s no wonder the firm is currently so sanguine about the glacial pace of change at the top end of the statutory audit market.