Top 50+50: Big Four hold steady, shake-up outside Top 20

Top 50+50: Big Four hold steady, shake-up outside Top 20

The Top 50+50 2017 ranking shows remarkable stability within the Top 20 firms. Which firms are the biggest movers of the past year?

This past year, we’ve been witness to Brexit negotiations, a snap election, ongoing political tensions and the ever-present disruptive nature of technology, all of which have thrown up challenges and opened up opportunities for the accountancy industry.

But how have UK accountancy firms fared in the midst of uncertainty? The Accountancy Age Top 50+50 Accountancy Firms 2017 shows remarkable stability within the Top 20, with just two firms trading places within the group.

Across the rankings, firms have demonstrated significant growth with regard to total fee income, with 95 firms registering positive figures, indicating that there has been no slowdown in UK firms’ ability to thrive in the current environment.

So, who are the biggest movers of the past year?

Big Four

Maintaining their 2016 position, PwC tops the rankings with £3.43bn fee income. Posting a sizeable 11% increase on the firm’s 2016 income, PwC has recently released its strategic priorities for the year ahead. The plan puts innovation at the centre of PwC’s activities, with the firm poised to leverage technology to support clients’ growth and competitiveness.

Behind PwC with £3.04bn fee income, Deloitte tops the Big Four in terms of growth – registering an 13.6% increase of on 2016 figures. While partner numbers have fallen from 981 to 956, the firm was recently ranked in first position in the Q3 all-market auditor rankings for the highest number of FTSE 250 audit clients.

EY takes third in the Top 50+50 rankings, recording fee income of £2.15bn of 7%. Last month, the firm announced combined global revenues of US$31.4bn for the financial year ending 30 June 2017, highlighting strong growth in transaction advisory services, advisory services and tax and assurance.

Rounding out the Big Four, KPMG has seen an increase of 5.6% in fee income compared to 2016, up to £2.07bn. While the firm has recently seen its apprenticeship intake jump to 181 for 2017, contributing to “diversity of thought” across the business, it has also been at the centre of an HBOS audit investigation by the Financial Reporting Council, which was closed last month with KPMG cleared of any misconduct.

Top 20

The notable switch in the Top 20 comes at positions 18 and 19, as Kingston Smith and Wilkins Kennedy trade places – the latter edging ahead in the rankings. While both firms recorded an increase in fee income this year, Wilkins Kennedy has pulled ahead with a 17.5% increase, leaving Kingston Smith dropping to 19 with a 4.83% rise. The gap remains close with only £2m separating the two firms.

Other firms that have seen a big increase on fee income this year include PKF UKI with a 19% rise. MHA MacIntyre Hudson has also closed the gap on UHY Hacker Young with a strong year resulting in a 10.9% increase.

Top 50

Rising 12 places and entering the Top 50 this year is BKL, the London and Cambridge-based firm. BKL jumped from 61 to 56 in the 2016 rankings, and has again managed to leap up the table with a 16.73% rise in fee income compared to last year.

Other risers in the Top 50 include Bishop Fleming and Duncan & Toplis, both of whom have overtaken Frank Hirth to claim positions 30 and 31 respectively. Frank Hirth meanwhile has dropped two places to 32 this year, with a fall in fee income of -0.02%.

Mercer & Hole, at position 44 in 2016, has climbed eight places to 36 during a strong year in which the firm increased its fee income by 23.46%. The firm has recruited four new partners since last year’s rankings, with partner numbers now standing at 20.

Ensors and Smith Cooper are other firms on the up within the Top 50. Placed at 53 and 54 respectively in 2016, both firms have made the move up the table together with equal fee income of £13.1m. The two have been separated by fees per partner, with Ensors taking position 46 and Smith Cooper right behind at 47.

Top 100

Magma Chartered Accountants have soared into the Top 100 this year with a fee income increase of 88.26%. At position 83, the firm is tied on fee income with Westleton Drake and Whitley Stimpson.

Elsewhere, Rouse Partners, Creaseys, Grunberg & Co and Howard Worth have all tumbled several places down the table, despite all having increased their fee income this year – including a 16.20% increase for Grunberg & Co.

There’s been a wider shake-up in the Top 51-100 firms this year, with only one firm holding on to its 2016 position – Lamont Pridmore holding steady at 99.

Diversity, 2018 outlook, and more!

Later this week: find out what the Top 100 firms are doing to improve diversity and inclusion, and discover how positive firms are feeling about 2018 – all in our ongoing Top 50+50 analysis.

Also, stay tuned for the release of further rankings over the coming week, in which we’ll be revealing which firms top the charts in terms of practice area, region and innovation.

Join the discussion with #Top50plus50 and by following us on Twitter or joining our LinkedIn group.

View the 2017 Top 50+50 Accountancy Firms.

View the 2016 Top 50+50 Accountancy Firms. 

The Top 50+50 is compiled based on data submitted by UK accountancy firms. Only firms that submitted data are included in the rankings.

This article has been updated to reflect the inclusion of Mitchell Charlesworth at 61. 

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