Two years ago Fiona Hotston Moore, a nutritionist turned accountant, embarked
on a testing and difficult overhaul of a struggling accounting firm that she
would one day come to lead.
On 11 April 2007 Hotston Moore’s journey came to an end, when as the managing
partner of Moores Rowland she formally announced that she, eight partners and 67
staff would be leaving their spectacular glass and steel office in the
Paddington Basin to join forces with Mazars. The deal is to create a £90m firm,
an organisation almost seven times the size of Moores Rowland.
More importantly for Hotston Moore, however is the fact that her firm and her
partners will be financially secure and have access to opportunities that would
never have been available in the past.
Two years back such a situation was unimaginable for Moores Rowland.
‘Twenty-four months ago we took the decision that we needed to refocus the
practice on our core services, so we have been through a tough time slimming
down non-profitable service lines,’ Hotston Moore says.
When Moores Rowland management took the decision to restructure, Hotston
Moore was yet to be appointed as managing partner, but she had been working
closely with her predecessor Matthew Wickers.
It was a time tough for decisions. Service lines that had been launched just
12 months earlier were scrapped; the firm was haemorrhaging partners, directors
and staff, leaving the remaining management to overhaul investment decisions.
Hotston Moore worked through the turmoil with unflinching competence, and by
the time she had been appointed managing partner in March 2006 Moores Rowland
was back on track.
Under her leadership, Moores Rowland refocused itself as a full service
accountancy practice with a particular focus on the listed market and
owner-managed businesses of a similar scale.
The firm claims to be highly profitable again on revenues of £12.2m, and the
partner pool now includes people of only the highest calibre.
Yet despite the restructuring success, there was still one more step to take,
one more task to complete before Hotston Moore could congratulate herself on a
job well done.
With the firm focusing on listed clients, size was becoming a problem. And
then the solution presented itself in the shape of Mazars.
‘We took the decision that we needed to be twice the size that we are now to
be sustainable and as we do a lot of listed work we wanted to build up the
infrastructure on the tax side. We felt that the best way to achieve those
objectives was to look at a merger or acquisition,’ she says.
Hotston Moore, who will take a place on the Mazars UK board, is already
excited about the potential the merger and working for a larger firm will offer.
‘It is early days and I am sure that over time opportunities will emerge.
Both firms are very international, all the partners are very internationally
focused, so there will be more opportunities within the merged firm than there
would have been previously.
‘We are very positive. Initially many clients will notice no difference other
than a name change, but over time they will benefit from the increased range of
services, specialisms and international reach that we will be able to provide,’
Hotston Moore says.
As the Moores Rowland journey ends for Hotston Moore, across the City, a
short walk from the oldest synagogue in the UK and Lloyd’s of London, at the
Bevis Marks offices of Mazars, another journey is just beginning.
Outside the mould
Mazars is often described as a mercurial accounting firm, a firm that never
quite fits the mould; a firm that is always doing things differently. Yet
despite its relatively small size, compared to others in its tier, (before the
Moores Rowland merger annual revenues were £69.4m) and enigmatic style Mazars
has always been able to punch above its weight.
Take the recent debate on competitiveness and choice in the UK audit market.
The Big Four and even their immediate challengers, Grant Thornton and BDO Stoy
Hayward, all cautioned against market intervention and the introduction of joint
Mazars lobbied for the exact opposite, insisting that joint audits were the
only way to increase competition and that market intervention was a must to
facilitate this. Along the way, in typical fashion, Mazars won the support of
the Hundred Group; a move that surprised many because of the firm’s maverick
But when Alistair Fraser, a Mazars partner and executive board member, went
into the Mazars head office on Bevis Marks on 11 April, he had other things on
Influencing debate is one thing; backing up talk with action is another.
Fraser was ready to stop talking and show the accounting world that Mazars was
ready to make a very real challenge in the market with a deal that would thrust
the firm onto the brink of breaking into the top 10 largest practices in the
Mazars has always set ambitious growth targets, and an acquisition was always
a possibility. When the chance to incorporate Moores Rowland into the firm
emerged, Mazars pounced. The deal may have marked the end of a rough period for
Moores Rowland, but for Mazars it signalled the beginning of a new era of
expansion and growth.
‘We are ambitious to grow, both in the UK and internationally. We have always
had ambitious growth targets, but we have always assumed that we would have to
supplement that with mergers and acquisitions,’ Fraser says.
Moores Rowland fit the bill perfectly. The two firms had always maintained a
close relationship, and like Mazars, Moores Rowland was focused on the listed
market. The firms were culturally aligned and both work at an international
level. The timing couldn’t have been better.
‘There are a number of things that made Moores Rowland very attractive. The
quality of the people was key to us, as was the quality of the client base. This
merger takes us significantly further in the listed company field.
‘The quality of the owner-managed businesses in the Moores Rowland client
base was also very attractive. The international network that the two teams
have, and the approach to quality and partner service made it a very natural fit
for us,’ Fraser explains.
The Moores Rowland deal, however, is but the beginning of a major shopping
spree for Mazars as it continues to search for deals and push its credentials as
a major force in UK accounting.
Fraser rules out an initial public offering, but says more mergers and
acquisitions are on the cards.
‘This is the particular merger at the moment. We will always be looking out
for potentially good firms that will fit into our ethos, our international
culture and have the same focus that we do,’ he says.
When the newly merged firm relocates to a brand new venue in the City this
autumn a different journey begins for both firms.
The urge to merge
The deal between Mazars and Moores Rowland to create a £90m firm is but the
latest in a string of mergers, acquisitions, tie-ups and alliances that have
taken place in the accounting sector over the last year.
Whether it be the Big Four giants, mid-tier or small firms everyone seems to
be eager to do a deal, but what is driving the recent round of mergers and
acquisitions all of a sudden?
At the highest level, mergers between KPMG Germany and KPMG UK, and Deloitte
Switzerland and Deloitte UK, have been sealed in order to respond to client
Large multinational clients need audit service around the world, and the
trend seems to be emerging that merged firms are better able to serve these
needs than firms operating in a network.
At the same time, European regulation has played no small part in encouraging
‘We are responding quickly to the directive’s fundamental aims of better
regulation of the audit and accountancy profession. KPMG Europe LLP will have a
strong European business voice to champion improved audit quality, liability r
eform and the highest standards of professionalism in the public interest,’ KPMG
senior partner John Griffith-Jones says.
RSM Robson Rhodes, meanwhile, completed a tie-up with US counterpart RSM
McGladrey in November last year.
Leading up to the deals, rumours had been circulating that Robson Rhodes was
struggling to generate growth and attract new talent, prompting many to label
the McGladrey merger as a rescue operation.
Robson Rhodes managing partner, David Maxwell, perhaps predictably, had a
different take on the reasons for the deal.
‘This transaction is a bold move designed to address the call for greater
choice and to meet the growing needs of the international mid-market,’ said
A new head of solutions, Aidan Brennan, has been appointed at KPMG UK
Hundreds of jobs are secure after Spectrum Contracting has been sold out of administration to Minstrell Recruitment by FRP Advisory
Cowgill Holloway and Warings Business Advisors have merged, with a range of growth plans in the North West put in place
The Practitioner discusses their timesheet militancy, and reaction to someone playing it fast and loose with the details...