Monday 2 December 2019 12:01 am

Big Four client numbers fall but FTSE 100 stranglehold remains

The number of clients audited by the Big Four accountancy firms has fallen but they retain an iron grip on the FTSE 100, figures published today show.

Figures from Adviser Rankings for the quarter to 6 November showed the number of stock market clients audited by PwC (353), KPMG (312) and Deloitte (225) all fell while EY’s client numbers (242) remained flat.

However, the Big Four continued to audit all of the FTSE 100 between them and dominated the FTSE 250 with the only others firms represented BDO (six clients), Grant Thornton (three) MHA Macintyre Hudson (one) and RSM (one).

Read more: Audit watchdog could push for claw back of audit partners’ bonuses after poor quality work

The fall in absolute numbers of clients comes in the context of a capacity squeeze among audit firms, a more assertive audit regulator and a move from some firms to put up their prices and end audit relationships with more challenging or less lucrative clients.

Challenger firm Mazars, which added five clients for a total of 25, said the figures showed the need for reform of a market still dominated by the Big Four.

Its head of audit David Herbinet said: “There is a little bit of movement in the market, but it remains relatively marginal.

“When you look at the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250, the concentration is increasing, that is what audit reform is trying to address.”

Read more: Watchdog says accountancy firms failing to challenge management of firms they audit

Separately, JP Morgan Cazenove increased its lead as the number one stockbroker to the FTSE 100, adding one client to take it to a total of 31.

It was followed by Bank of American Merrill Lynch which remained flat on 25 clients, Morgan Stanley which added two clients to take it to 24, UBS which fell one client to 22 and Barclays which remained flat on 16 clients.

Numis Securities stayed top by total number of stock market clients (221), followed by JP Morgan Cazenove (182), Peel Hunt (139) Investec (120) and Finncap (112).