Top 50 survey: up and coming

It now takes almost £11m in turnover to cross the threshold into the
Accountancy Age Top 50, which means there are now many substantial
businesses taking £10m, or more, in fees outside the highest earners.

In our +50 survey, firms ranked 51 to 100,
French Duncan ­
with eight offices in Scotland ­ booked a 40% uplift to £9.52m, while
Thomas Westcott
­ based in south west England ­ saw earnings rise almost 20% to £9.1m.

This year’s number 51,
Hillier Hopkins,
has four offices in Aylesbury, Hemel Hempstead, Watford and London.

The firm has fees of £10.82m with growth year-on-year of more than 17% ­ a
performance that is decent in anyone’s book.

In many senses though, it doesn’t appear to have been a great year at this
level of practice.

A quick scan through the available figures for the +50 reveals that only 15
of the firms reached double figure percentage growth, while 32 of the firms
booked growth rates that were below 10%.

Cut it a different way though. Almost half the +50 (21 firms), booked even
lower growth rates below 5%, a statistic that is perhaps more worrying ­
especially when you bear in mind that, of those, a significant proportion (nine
firms) reported flat or negative growth. That equals almost one fifth of the
firms included in the +50 survey.

Close observers say they have seen cut backs on managements and more
involvement of partners in front line work. In other areas there has been
wholesale restructuring to provide more ‘joined-up’ services in a bid to sell
more coherently.

Phil Shohet, director of KATO Consultancy, said: ‘Until Q1 of this year, many
smaller firms hadn’t felt the recession, as transaction-based work for SMEs was
still being completed. That’s now disappeared.

‘Like in the 1990s, smaller firms are getting rid of a tier of management, so
partners are doing work that should be a manager’s task. Marketing budgets are
also being reduced and training budgets cut. The firms with double digit growth
will struggle next year.’

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