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McGladrey/RSM International chiefs: ‘Global’ perception drove name change

TWO of the most well-known accounting brands in the US and UK will disappear later this year when they, along with more than 100 other firms of RSM International, rebrand to RSM, but expect to win more international work as a result of the change, their managing partners have said.

All RSM International member firms will remain independent legal entities but will uniformly carry the RSM brand name under plans unveiled last week that will strengthen their position as advisers to the middle-market.

The change, effective 26 October, means that established brands McGladrey in the US, and Baker Tilly in the UK will sacrifice some of their domestic clout in favour of greater international gains from unifying under one common brand.

McGladrey is America’s fifth-largest accounting firm with annual fee income of $1.47bn (£949m), according to Accounting Today, making it the largest firm in the network and almost twice the size of the UK’s fifth-largest firm. Nevertheless, it was “pretty clear” that “McGladrey was a name that would be challenging from a global perspective” its CEO Joe Adams tells Accountancy Age.

Name ‘fondness’

Adams admits to being “fond” of the McGladrey name, having spent his career at the firm, and accepts there will be a period where domestic prospects and clients need get acclimated to the fact that McGladrey is now RSM but thinks any negative, domestic impact will be minimal.

“What’s important to the client is who is serving them and how are they are being served and that’s not going to change,” Adams says.

The firm is also helped by the history of its domestic brand. McGladrey was formerly known as McGladrey & Pullen and used to be affiliated with a firm known as RSM McGladrey that was owned by H&R Block, which Adams acquired from H&R Block in 2011 for $610m.

“The advantage we have is we operated tax and consulting as RSM McGladrey so a lot of our clients know us as RSM,” Adams says.

Held back

Laurence Longe, Baker Tilly’s managing partner, echoes that the UK firm will “stay true” to its roots and continue to maintain its “core essence” and will benefit from a recognised, unified global brand strategy.

“It will reinforce our focus on becoming the leading adviser to the middle market by ensuring that our clients receive consistent global services, irrespective of international borders,” Longe explains.

Other major networks have already incorporated a single name across their firms, including the Big Four, BDO in 2009 and Grant Thornton in 2008. By having failed to do so, firms operating within RSM International, the world’s largest-largest accounting network, were being held back by the perception they were less connected than their peers.

“We weren’t helping ourselves by not presenting one face and showing the market how connected we are,” explains Jean Stephens, CEO of RSM International. “It’s not a change that we are now going to get connected. We have been and continue to be on an increasing basis, but we weren’t helping ourselves.”

It is a view shared by Adams. “We have to explain it sometimes when we try to do business with prospective clients that we are really structured the same way as the Big Four, but then they ask ‘why aren’t your names the same?’ he says.

The move has been “many years in the making” and follows years of internal discussions and two separate studies into brand recognition across the network and member firms individually in 18 countries.

Through that the network decided to adopt the unified name, a new logo and “The power of being understood” brand positioning that has been used by McGladrey for years.

“We were able to coalesce around ‘the power of being understood’. That resonates with all of our members and the research that it is our strong suit in terms of how members interact with clients and we can leverage that,” Stephens explains. “It was a proper coming together of all the assets we had in the organisation to take us in a clearer direction.”

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