Top 40 International Networks, Associations and Alliances: The road ahead

Top 40 International Networks, Associations and Alliances: The road ahead

What lies ahead for the international accountancy networks and associations? Accountancy Age asked for their views on opportunities, threats and where growth will come from.

Top 40 International Networks, Associations and Alliances: The road ahead

What lies ahead for the international networks and associations? Accountancy Age talked to some of those who made the rankings to ask for views on opportunities, threats and where growth will come from.


Antoni Gomez, CEO: “As companies are more global and the world more complex, size and coverage matter, so probably we can expect more firms moving from one network or association to another. But maybe we also will see some network mergers, especially along those that have a focus on a particular region that can be complementary with others.

“I think it is more difficult to consider global mergers at the network level among those with large international coverage, as there will be significant clashes in several important cities. On the contrary I see very likely firms moving from one network or association to another, as in most cases at the country level international affiliation is not very much recognised or important, so firms can move easily to look for some better alternative for their position in the country.”


Keith Farlinger, CEO: “There are many drivers we see shaping the global market in which BDO operates, including technology and talent. The dynamic tendencies of these drivers will continue to change our marketplace, thereby compelling BDO to continue to grow and change to adapt to those drivers as well as bring new and different skills into our firms. So, we do believe that acquisitions and mergers will remain prevalent over the next several years.

“Our firms are taking the next step and are growing their advisory services. In a rapidly changing business environment, it is clear that our clients can no longer have all the expertise in-house and will need to seek advice in their digitalisation and innovation transformation journeys.  BDO is continuously investing to be proactive efficiency enablers and accelerate the digital transformation of our clients, as befits our leadership position in the very innovative mid-market of our profession. Our mergers reflect this.”

BKR International

Howard Rosen, CEO: “As for threats or challenges to the industry, I think everybody knows that continued automation and security are top of mind. Many firms are already moving to robotic process automation (RPA) to handle repetitive tasks so that CPAs can focus on analysis and client guidance. Many have also invested in upgraded security and cyber monitoring to avoid malware and expensive downtime. We anticipate proactive and sustainable approaches to these challenges.”


Shariq Contractor, chairman: “To remain competitive, professional firms need to retain and attract employees trained in the latest technology. Technology is drastically changing the way professional firms deliver services and sometimes, these changes are unpredictable. For example, some professional firms use data analytics, AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to remain relevant and deliver high-quality services.

“Keeping up with the latest technology could require investments from member firms and associations, to create a more collective approach. This collective approach could be one way to reduce the cost burden on individual firms.

“From a legal perspective, we believe companies within an international network have an increased risk of being held accountable for the acts of another member firm.

“Finally, there’s a threat of not maintaining a consistent level of quality by member firms in international networks. This is important when referrals are made as clients expect the same levels of service and quality from referral members as they do from the members making the referral. To combat this threat, network/associations must be diligent in recruiting quality firms as well as monitoring current members on an ongoing basis.”

PKF International

James Hickey, CEO: “China and the US will continue to be exciting markets for us to develop in. Our service range will become more expansive too. We see huge opportunities in non-audit assurance, as stakeholders become increasingly nuanced and sophisticated in terms of what it is that they want assurance on. The traditional audit report on historic, out-of-date financial information might remain to some extent.

“However, we will also see an increasing demand for assurance over non-financial information. For example, assurance over an entity’s culture and ethics, its sustainability and its employment practices. Developments in technology and communications will help support our network in the execution and delivery of these new types of assurance.”


Stephen Heathcote, PrimeGlobal: “We definitely see growth in China and India. These are dynamic economies which will continue to make an impact on the world. More businesses will see opportunities and our firms will be ready to help them.

“In the longer term, Africa is also important. Its impact on the world will grow, driven by a young population and digital advancement. We continue to grow our membership across the region.

“We also see growth in new lines of business around data analytics and cyber security. We will continue to connect firms to make sure they are best placed to move into these emerging areas.”

Russell Bedford International

Stephen Hamlet, CEO: “Ongoing threats to international networks will always come from not keeping up with the rapidly changing environment. Not having the right people to adapt and embrace the technological changes, and not keeping hold of those people.

“Attracting and retaining top talent is essential for any firm to survive; and the ability to look at different methods with senior partners being willing to step outside their comfort zone and appreciate the profession, as they used to know it, is changing.

“Finally, the accountancy profession needs to keep promoting its value, so its firms are not replaced by, or at least not needing to compete directly with, technological companies purporting to provide the same services. The solid and trusted reputation of the international accountant, as the ‘number one trusted adviser’, adding value and assisting the entrepreneur on their journey, needs to be continually supported, despite recent scrutiny and a somewhat reduced confidence.”

TAG Alliances

Richard Attisha, CEO: “Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the accounting profession, the battle for talent. The topic of recruiting, developing, and retaining talent has long been discussed at our international conferences, regional meetings, and managing partner summits. According to our members, the battle for talent in the accounting profession is being fought internationally and among firms of all sizes. We have realized that you cannot discuss talent without talking about technology and the disruption it is causing in the accounting profession.

“The new CPA will need to have the skills necessary to mine data needed to provide strategic business advice to clients and be able to communicate this advice effectively.”

To view the Top 20 International Networks 2019 and Top 20 International Alliances and Associations 2019 click here.


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