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Accountancy Firm of the Year
The UK’s biggest beancounters have come under intense fire this year, with prominent MPs calling for a break-up of the Big Four following a string of corporate scandals and collapses. While two such giants remain defiantly proud of their achievements, 2018’s field includes three smaller companies taking the challenge to their more established rivals.
French accountancy firm Mazars pulled off the major auditing coup of 2019 in May when it won a tender to act as Goldman Sachs’ European auditor. The US investment banking giant’s decision to look beyond the Big Four was a big moment for the industry as political pressure intensifies on auditing’s most established players. Mazars continues to argue for joint audits in the UK and beyond as the best means of shaking up the sector. In July, meanwhile, Mazars announced a new North America alliance, giving its clients access to 16,000 professionals from five accounting firms in the US and Canada. Other big deals appear to be in the pipeline, with South African retailer Steinhoff recently nominating Mazars as its new auditor following an accounting scandal.
The biggest audit sector merger of the year came in February when BDO and rival firm Moore Stephens became one, creating the largest accountancy firm in the UK outside the Big four. The deal created a firm with a UK workforce of around 5,000 people and revenues close to £600m. Throughout the rest of the year BDO has mopped up a series of competitive tenders to audit investment platform AJ Bell, housebuilder Galliford Try and retailer Halfords. The merged company has branches across the UK and has recently opened a second office in Liverpool.
The Big Four outfit won a series of audit tenders in 2019, including plum mandates for telecommunications giant Vodafone, energy firm SSE and luxury car maker Aston Martin. Global revenues jumped 4.7 per cent to nearly £30bn with double-digit growth in its transaction advisory services, while advisory business sales exceeded the $10bn mark. This year EY set itself the target of ensuring over 40 per cent of its equity partners were women and 20 per cent black, Asian or minority ethnic, as it looks to build on its impressive progress on workplace diversity.
Hundreds of partners at Deloitte are celebrating their biggest payday in a decade after average profit per equity partner jumped to £882,000 in the latest financial year. The Big Four firm recently revealed impressive numbers for its UK division, which includes Switzerland, with revenues jumping nearly £400m to £3.97bn. The firm said that 32 of the 78 partners promoted in the UK this year were women, meaning 21 per cent of all partners are now women – closing in on its target of 25 per cent by 2020. Deloitte has continued to win big tenders, securing the mandate to audit FTSE 100 building company CRH in the spring.
Challenger accountancy firms have caught the attention of private equity as politicians consider strong interventions to boost competition in the audit sector. One of the most coveted companies is Cogital, founded in 2016 by former Deloitte global chairman John Connolly. A proposed £1bn sale of a stake in the business, which has made a number of acquisitions of its own in recent years, fell through recently but alternatives remain on the cards with other buyout firms sniffing around and even an initial public offering being touted. Cogital uses artificial intelligence to stand out from its competitors and has revenues of around half a billion pounds.
- 2018: BDO
- 2017: Moore Stephens
- 2016: BDO
- 2015: EY
- 2014: PwC
- 2013: PwC
- 2012: Deloitte (Professional Services Firm of the Year)
- 2011: L.E.K. Consulting (Professional Services Firm of the Year)
- 2010: Deloitte (Professional Services Firm of the Year)
This category has run since 2013. From 2010 to 2012, the category was named “Professional Services Firm of the Year”.