PricewaterhouseCoopers has reaffirmed its commitment to doing business in the regions, after the takeover of KPMG’s Norwich office by Grant Thornton left PwC as the only Big Five representative in the East Anglian city. The move immediately sparked speculation that a rationalisation was on the way in which the remaining top firms gave up their regional bases and consolidated operations in urban centres. But PwC denied any suggestion of restructuring. Stuart Holmes, senior partner at the firm’s Norwich office, said: ‘We are fully committed to the region and to having a strong presence here in the market.’ News of the Grant Thornton takeover emerged during the middle of last week and was followed by suggestions from David McDonnell, Grant Thornton’s national managing partner that the change might start a trend. McDonnell said further Big Five flight from the regions would leave rich pickings for mid-tier firms looking to specialise in serving owner-managed businesses. KPMG insisted the take-over was not a defection and moved to scupper suggestions that the Norwich changeover was a sign of things to come. A spokesman said: ‘We’re not going to end up in just Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.’ He said giving up the Norwich office was an isolated measure and had come as part of a ‘periodic review’. KPMG gave up Norwich because its client list did not fit the national profile of the firm. The news prompted speculation that partners in regional branches of the Big Five might see their offices as vulnerable and ripe for offloading.
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