PracticeAccounting FirmsAwards 2003: Large Firm

Awards 2003: Large Firm

Along with their clients, accountancy firms have worked through difficult economic trading conditions in the past two years. This year's winner, Grant Thornton, believes that its flexibility and client focus has helped it to ride the storm.

Early indications for the financial year ending 30 June 2003 show a growth in fee income of 8%, with big gains in corporate finance (86%) and insolvency (12%). Forensic accounting and risk management divisions have also grown.

The firm has worked hard to innovate and has introduced a number of specialist services – asset management, technology risk management, PFI and transfer pricing among them.

It makes sure that it does not stint on rolling out new technology internally, communicating news to staff via a live news intranet and video briefings.

That goes hand in hand with a new brand statement for the firm. Dubbed ‘individual perspective’ the brand reflects what the firm sees as its strengths and values – in particular, an emphasis on putting across an individual perspective, maintaining human relationships and delivering a robust and independent viewpoint.

The rebranding is the result of more than two years of research into clients’ perceptions of both the firm and of wider business realities.

Ten years ago, Grant Thornton thought of itself as the ‘leading adviser to owner-managed businesses’.

These days, it believes that very few companies think of themselves as owner-managed and that Grant Thornton’s services are in any case applicable to a wider constituency.

The mid-tier firm believes it is positioned to win work from larger private companies and small quoted companies alike. It sees the ‘decline of the Big Four’ as an unprecedented opportunity.

Grant Thornton has also been working hard to position itself as a thought leader through research and lobbying activities.

The firm makes regular submissions to both the International Accounting Standards Board and the UK’s Accounting Standards Board. It also makes representations to government departments and to the European Union. The firm sees these activities as a way of raising the profile of issues that affect its clients.

The UK firm conducts regular surveys among business owners, and its international business survey highlights the concerns of more than 600 companies.

Grant Thornton also publishes a quarterly survey with the CBI on business optimism, and its researchers have carried out surveys on family businesses, charities and the technology sector.

One of the more surprising initiatives in this area is a forum for lawyers.

The legal focus groups, facilitated and chaired by Grant Thornton, bring together lawyers, managing partners and chief executives in an environment where they can brainstorm on professional issues. The informal environment encourages normally reticent and competitive professionals to swap ideas on sensitive issues.

The judges commended the firm’s depth and client focus as well as for its target-driven culture. ‘We need a Grant Thornton knocking at the door of the Big Four,’ said one.

OTHER SHORTLISTED CANDIDATES:

  • Horwath Clark Whitehill
  • Johnston Carmichael
  • Smith & Williamson

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