Interview: Littlejohn’s Paul Hopper discusses PKF International

THIS MORNING PKF International (PKFI) announced that top 40 firm Littlejohn would be joining its network.

Discussing the deal with Accountancy Age, Littlejohn managing partner Paul Hopper was effusive about what it would mean for the Canary Wharf-based firm, but initially spoke warmly of the time spent as a member of international association PrimeGlobal.

“We’ve been part of it since the ‘70s and achieved many good things, made lots of friends. So there’s a tinge of sadness,” he says.

But Hopper is frank about the benefits of joining PKFI’s network. It’s a “commitment to quality standard”, which also provides much more integrated member firms than associations or alliances. There is also a “perception” that PKF firms are stronger, he adds.

Common branding will also be critical to Littlejohn – even though its own name is well-regarded within niche markets such as insurance. The firm rebrands to PKF Littlejohn later in the year. With the increasingly international nature of business, clients can be confused dealing with local firms that have their different name and branding.

While Littlejohn officially joins PKFI on 1 July, Hopper finds the interest from its firms in its new member “very encouraging”.

The deal was struck after two months of negotiations, says Hopper. But with Littlejohn the decision was made relatively quickly and informally.

“We have an executive board so we tend not to vote,” says Hopper.

Hopper led the talks after getting the go-ahead from the firm’s executive board. Partners were asked whether they were in favour of the move, and “everyone said get on with it”.

PKF International CEO John Sim

Just weeks before PKF International (PKFI) announced it had recruited Littlejohn to its community, the network had promoted John Sim, its managing partner in Thailand, to chief executive.

Sim has quite a history in the Asia Pacific region. As well as managing partner in Thailand he was regional director. Before that he spent ten years as regional executive partner for KPMG in Asia Pacific with responsibility for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea and regional consulting. He also spent some time working in the US with the Big Four firm.

However, he is using that expertise to bolster the PKF International network following the exit of its UK creator firm PKF, which merged with BDO earlier this year.

Officially PKF cut its ties with PKFI on 1 July with Littlejohn joining on the same day.

Although PKF Littlejohn was thought of a coup for the network, Sim revealed earlier to Accountancy Age that it was likely PKFI would sign up “more than one firm” to replace PKF.

“Our intention is to continue to build a significant presence in the UK,” Sim said.
He hopes to draw on his Asia Pacific expertise claiming the network is in the process of finalising a firm in Vietnam. “They have come from one of the bigger networks that they weren’t happy with,” he said.

Sim also has his sights set on one big firm in China and is hopeful that PKFI will pick that up soon. Although he doesn’t shy away from the fact that the loss of PKF to BDO was substantial, he leaves the conversation with a hint of mischief in his voice that he has identified the firms he wants to persuade to recruit and that it is his “job is to persuade those firms to join”.


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