Economy is hurting the Top 50

Our Top 50 survey of 2009 is out and makes for slightly alarming news. Of the biggest 50 firms, 39 have seen their growth rates shrink or go into negative territory. That got to hurt. (Read all about it here at Top 50.)
Some are really going through the mill. PKF posts -1% growth. Haines Watts is in negative territory too, as is Horwath Clark Whitehill, Menzies, Armstrong Watson, Cooper Parry, Hazlewoods and Target.
Others have escaped going into minus numbers but are flat. Have a look at Baker Tilly and Scott-Moncrieff up in Scotland. Others have just managed to bag a little growth. Mazars bags just a single percentage point of uplift, Littlejohn 1.9%, Shipleys and Lovewell Blake 0.7%.
But the Big Four are fascinating to watch. None have provided 2009 year end numbers and three of the firms have seen growth rates slow. What will they report this year? Deloitte’s result usually come in June or July and Ernst & Young should follow shortly after. KPMG reported numbers for year end September of last year of just 0.7%. that was at the time of Lehman’s collapse. The world for global corporates, their main clients, has been a different place since then.
PwC bucks the trend on 2008 figures going from 6% growth the year before to 7%. Will they continue that when they report towards the end of the year, or will they see a reversal as struggle with the worst phase of the recession?
There are success stories however. BDO Stoy Hayward saw their growth improve, as did Tenon and RSM Bentley Jennison. Some of that is through acquisition and some it through clever investment in business recovery/insolvency services. Green shoots won’t necessarily be the greatest news for them and they will need to ensure they are well placed to capitalise on a turnaround in the economy. The ancient Chinese curse goes: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Well, Uk practice looks as if its doing just that.

Related reading