REGARDLESS OF whether Clive Stevens, managing partner of Reeves, is a fan of The Clash, it is likely that there is much his firm can equate with the group’s hit 1979 album London Calling.
The title, if perhaps not the content, is representative of how the 100-year-old firm with offices across the south east has added clout to its proposition to international clients and its chances of winning business away from the Big Four.
Back in June 2010, Reeves merged with City-based financial consulting group FW FW Stephens. The merger, which created a firm with a combined fee income of £20m, 43 partners and 330 staff, catapulted Reeves up Accountancy Age’s Top 50+50 rankings from 40th in 2010 to 27th in 2011.
Eighteen months on from the merger, which saw its London Bridge office join with FW Stephens’ offices in Moorgate to create a combined staff in London of over 100 with £6m in fees, Stevens says the deal is working out for both firms.
“We did a lot of new work from larger firms that were shedding work and partners. That has slowed down,” Stevens says. “Our experience in the last 12 months has been very different to the past 24. We have benefited from the merger straight away.”
Having critical mass in London has opened up a gateway to winning more international business.
“Obviously that critical mass has grown. We already had strong international connections through Kreston International but being in London has made us more respected in terms of international business,” Stevens says. “FW Stephens was strong in non-dom tax while were strong in international commercial business.”
However, a greater international pull is perhaps a secondary benefit when compared to the firm’s stated aim of becoming a true regional financial consulting group. As part of that process, Reeves is starting to recruit partners to provide new service lines.
In March, Reeves recruited corporate finance veteran John Cowie to build up its corporate finance services across its Canterbury, Chatham, London and Gatwick offices.
“What I can see us doing in the south east is bolting on some services we don’t have. Corporate finance is an area we want to grow,” says Stevens.
“A year before we did the same with insolvency. We have added Andrew Tate and Filippa Connor to the restructuring and insolvency team and that has been going very well.”
According to Stevens, the next stage of Reeves’ expansion will be along building up its experience in industry specialisms. The firm provides technical services to various sectors. This is where Stevens sees the next battleground for accounting firms.
“Like other firms we will be building our industry expertise,” he says.
While fee income generated from the London office has only grown by around £0.5m since the merger, Stevens says the business has been able to hike partner incomes and make various overhead savings.
The merger has also helped Reeves’ succession planning, but should not be taken to mean that the older partners will be leaving en masse.
“An issue for a firm like ours is succession planning. That critical mass will enable partners to retire,” he says. “We have seen other practices that have been taken over make those changes on day one. That can be a disaster in terms of client relationships.”
Offices: London, Gatwick, Chatham, Canterbury
Fee income: £20.1m (y/e 2011)
Top 50+50 ranking: 27
Source: Accountancy Age Top 50+50 Survey, Reeves
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