And some of the figures are staggering. Chantrey Vellacott has more than doubled its earnings from insolvency work while Kingston Smith and Hacker Young have both seen their corporate finance teams post 70%-plus rises in fees.
Corporate finance is the service line that, overall, has led the way, closely followed by business recovery.
On the face of it that combination might seem something of an economic anomaly. But accountants believe last year’s booming UK economy – as well as confidence in the rescue culture – has helped drive revenue rises.
Meanwhile business recovery experts say more companies are going to them ‘on time’, when they recognise they have a problem and their business can be saved.
PKF is among the mid-tier firms that has experienced growth in its corporate finance sector over the past year. It has seen fee income increase by Pounds 4.5m in its financial year ending 31 March 2001.
The company attributes the growth to a strengthening of its regional offices, high-profile appointments, and sector and market focus.
‘We are getting people out of industry as opposed to just getting people out of accounting,’ says Nick Whitaker, PKF’s national head of corporate finance. He points to the firm’s appointment of Henry Fairpo – previously finance director of technology company Jasmin – as a prime example.
PKF has been focusing more on technology and utilities, and it continues to have a strong presence in the hospitality, leisure and media sectors.
It has also been concentrating on the AIM market – where it has led several initial public offerings – and in central government.
In Whitehall it has advised the Department of Trade and Industry on regional venture capitalist funds.
Since December, the firm has seen an increase in mergers and acquisitions work and a decrease in IPOs due to the cool winds of economic slowdown from across the Atlantic.
‘The market is peaking and people are looking to see if they ought to sell,’ Whitaker says. ‘The last six months has seen an upturn in sales mandates, people wanting valuations of companies and intellectual property.’
Whitaker sees the future as ‘pretty buoyant’ particularly as the Big Five are focusing on large international deals and leaving work in the regions to the others. ‘There is potential for firms of our size to increase in the market the Big Five are moving out of,’ he argues.
Insolvency – or business recovery, to use the politically correct vernacular – is the other solid growth area for mid-tier firms.
It has been one of the biggest areas where BDO Stoy Hayward has experienced growth, earning the firm Pounds 21m, a year-on-year rise in excess of 20%.
Tony Supperstone, the firm’s head of business recovery, says this service line has shown strong growth in both Manchester and London. ‘We have become particularly strong for retail and dotcom insolvencies,’ he says. ‘As a team we’ve dealt with substantial administrations that have contributed to strong turnover in fee income.’
BDO blames company failures on poor management and a slowdown in the market. And these appear to be growing. In the last few months, the firm has seen growth in the insolvency sector as a whole.
If corporate finance and insolvency work can both grow simultaneously, perhaps accountants have nothing to fear economically – come rain or shine.
See the Accountancy Age Top 50 table
Last year’s Top 50 table
UK firms push £7bn mark
Consolidation is alive and well
Mixed success as Uncle Sam seeks to split Big Five
Huge growth in corporate finance and insolvency
New big fish gobbles up mid-tier rivals
Traditional services stay strong
The fastest growing firms
Top 50: Opinion
It’s all about perception, stupid
The arrogance of keeping Big Five results secret