Accountancy Age Awards 2001 – Let the battle begin.

The fight is on to see which is the most successful medium sized firm of the year.

And ‘fight’ seems to be the most appropriate word to use.

Mid-tier firms are going through an intense period of change, with a number of pressures focusing the minds of their senior management teams.

The recent spat between Grant Thornton and BDO Stoy Hayward over who has the largest fee income reinforces how competitive the sector is.

The war of words between the two firms erupted after BDO announced their fee income had broken through the £200m barrier, the first non-Big Five firm to do so. Grant Thornton meanwhile is expected to turn in a very acceptable £190m result, while still maintaining it is the largest mid-tier firm.

Much of the row centres on how the firms are run, with one accusing the other of being ‘merely’ an associate firm.

Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the argument, the row serves to show the importance of how a firm is run, but shows an over-reliance on bald fee income figures as a measure of success.

The year has seen a high level of activity in the sector, with the collapse of merger talks between Grant Thornton and HLB Kidsons again demonstrating its fragile nature. This time last year the talk was all about consolidation – GT and HLB were getting together, Baker Tilly and Fraser Russell had successfully made it down the aisle, and Tenon, the listed consolidator, was beginning to flex its muscles.

This presented a huge challenge for the firms, and how they responded will figure large in the judges’ mind when considering the ‘Medium Firm of the Year in the Accountancy Age Awards 2001.

Judges will look for evidence on how the firms added significant value to their clients, in particular by providing unique services that set them apart from their competitors.

They will also be looking at the firms’ own structures and how they have been developed in the past 12 months – again, seeing how changes improved client focus and allowed for innovation. Open to firms with 16 or more partners, the award will be presented to the winning firm at London’s Natural History Museum on 7 November.

Last year, HLB Kidsons walked off with the award.

The mid-tier sector has been playing an increasingly important role advising SMEs on the raft of legislation that has been introduced recently.

How they position themselves as the natural adviser in this sector will be key to their future success. The firms know they cannot compete on a level playing field with the large firms, but they also know there are great opportunities for them among the bedrock of small companies in the UK.

The number of surveys produced by the firms over the last year on the burden of red tape clearly shows they are taking the challenge seriously.

But the question is how seriously are their clients taking them as the advisers of choice for their sector? Excellence in client service could well prove the winning formula.

For details on how to enter, awards sponsorship or to book a table, please visit our website at, call 020 7316 9762 or email

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