Accounting ‘boutiques’ are snapping up an increasing amount of technical
accounts consulting and governance work, taking market share from the big firms.
Boutiques like SMART and
which specialise in providing governance advice, technical accounting help and
other consultancy work, but not specifically auditing clients have taken a
huge chunk of the market since Enron, a new survey shows.
Figures from Greenwich Strategy show that, while the market has grown to
$30bn (£14.5bn) between 2001 and 2006, the Big Four have barely increased their
share, while niche players have grown theirs to 27%.
The Big Four and the IT giants had 85% market share in 2001, and 61% in 2006.
The rest is accounted for primarily by the boutiques.
The report suggested that the Big Four’s share of the market was falling due
to conflict of interest pressures created by Sarbanes-Oxley, and the divestment
of their consulting arms.
‘As the UK experiences an increasingly regulated environment, we can expect
companies to look increasingly for an alternative to the Big Four for their
business advisory services,’ said Chris Tattersall, managing partner for SMART
‘Most major companies are governed by Sarbox, and they don’t want non-audit
work going to their auditor or even [other Big Four firms],’ Tattersall added.
The Big Four have looked over their shoulders at governance specialists for
some time now, with the new figures provide more concrete evidence of the
Alan Buckle, chief executive of advisory for KPMG Europe, dismissed the
concerns. Ironically echoing the criticisms of Big Four consultants by Accenture
and others, Buckle said the boutiques were not major competitors and ‘not of the
scale’ of the Big Four.
‘There’s always a space for boutiques, but they rarely pitch against us,’
said Buckle. ‘Our global advisory business took revenues of $4.3bn in 2006,
these businesses are 10% of that size.’
The Big Four may feel they can take on the challenge now they are dedicating
more resources to consultancy. Accountancy Age’s league table of consultancy
firms showed the Big Four had all returned to the top ten.
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