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In one of the most difficult categories to judge, the UK’s four largest accountancy firms had their work cut out in persuading the judges of why they deserved to win the coveted Big Four Firm of the Year award.

In the end, the judges voted for KPMG as this year’s Big Four winner. The firm had to fight off stiff competition, in particular, from PricewaterhouseCoopers, holder of the title, to gain the much sought after accolade.

KPMG impressed the judges with its three-pronged approach as a good citizen, and a profitable and sustainable business. The firm has added value and helped clients achieve a competitive advantage, while improving its performance, gaining new clients and developing its own structure to improve client focus, effectiveness and innovation.

The accountancy industry has faced one of the biggest shake-ups in decades, as new far-reaching legislation in the UK and abroad changed the way accountants conduct their business. But despite a tough environment, the end result proved to be a real turning point for KPMG’s business.

KPMG managed to juggle its changing business model effectively, while winning new clients and retaining major ones. It has now achieved a 1:1 ratio of non-audit to audit services, recruited 37 partners and directors from rivals, and worked with the London School of Business to create a £3m development programme for its top talent.

It also finalised its divestment of consulting and legal operations – the first Big Four firm to do so – in order to focus on its core business of audit, tax and advisory. KPMG won major clients such as BHP Billiton, Friends Provident, Roche, ITV and mmO2, while retaining clients such as BAE Systems, Chrysalis Group and Johnson Matthey.

Owen Clarke, head of Barclays Private Equity’s financial services sector, said of the firm, which, among other key services, carries out due diligence and advisory support for the company: ‘KPMG demonstrates formidable depth of expertise and understanding of the dynamics and issues across many areas of the financial services sector.’

Other factors in the firm’s favour included its strong balance sheet, which, as KPMG pointed out, had no off-balance sheet items.

However, what made KPMG stand out from the crowd was its dedication and commitment to corporate social responsibility. With its consistent wins in environmental and social responsibility awards, the firm comes out top for its CSR agenda.

More than 2,000 employees at KPMG volunteered 14,500 hours to community and environmental projects. The firm also gave £2m to the KPMG Foundation, which funds educational and social projects for the disadvantaged.

KPMG also saved more than £200,000 per year on paper, water and electricity costs, as well as recycling mobile phones, printer cartridges and water bottles. Indeed, Mike Rake, chairman of KPMG International and senior partner of KPMG UK, has been named as the next chairman of Business in the Community.

Its philosophy of living and working according to shared principles appears to be paying dividends and ensuring the firm thrives in an increasingly competitive business world.

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