Boom times come to an end for the Big Four

Without an IFRS or Sarbox on the horizon to drive fee incomes in the near
future, the boom times are over for the Big Four, PricewaterhouseCoopers
chairman and senior UK partner Kieran Poynter warned this week.

As the firm revealed 11% growth in fee income for the year ending 30 June and
broke the £2bn barrier for the first time since selling its consulting arm,
Poynter warned that double-digit growth for the firm was unlikely to continue.

‘There are no special factors for this year,’ he said. ‘Clients have got
through the initial period of applying Sarbox ­- the heavy lifting’s been done.
I think the economy will be broadly similar, with growth perhaps tailing off in

Poynter bullishly predicted that the firm’s competitors would not get close
to PwC’s £2bn fee revenue figure, with Deloitte closest on £1.6bn. ‘I don’t know
what the others will do, but I’m sure they won’t be catching up.’

The pessimism was echoed by leading Big Four figures. Deloitte senior partner
and CEO John Connolly warned last month of much tougher markets in the year
ahead. Over or not, the boom has brought PwC partners a bumper payout. Average
profit per partner grew to £716,000 from £611,000, while Poynter earned £2.5m ­-
a 20% leap on the previous year.

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