Top 50+50: Firms grow fees despite navel-gazing

LAST YEAR Accountancy Age spoke of a profession that was looking to take advantage of increased businesses sentiment, more liquidity and better economic conditions.

The latest Accountancy Age Top50+50 Survey, supported by Wolters Kluwer, shows that firms have continued to grow fees, as expected. However, they are still restructuring their own businesses, let alone that of their clients.

While the Top 50 firms pushed their fee income towards £12bn (£11.9bn) from £11.4bn, the number of partners within these firms has fallen, down 1.4%. This fall in partner numbers is replicated throughout the UK’s biggest 100 firms.

“Clearly practices are still working hard to structure themselves in a sustainable fashion for what is a rapidly changing world,” said Accountancy Age editor Kevin Reed.

“They are searching to find ways to bring through the partners of the future – many of whom have little interested in taking an equity stake, while setting themselves up to use technology to deal with clients and the taxman in a more digital, and mobile fashion.”

The Big Four firms posted £9.1bn in fee income, up from £8.7bn in 2014 – but with fewer partners: 3,071 compared to 3,099. The main protagonist was Deloitte, whose partner numbers fell to 967 from 1,008, with fees up 1.4%.

Technology enabled growth

Increasing use of technology has supported growth among the UK’s leading accountancy firms, while reducing costs and improving efficiency, said Wolters Kluwer.

Sally Wilson, head of CCH Publishing at Wolters Kluwer, said that in addition to using software, firms are looking to use improved research technology to improve efficiency and the service they offer to their clients. “Firms want to find the fastest and most effective path to answers. As accountants become increasingly mobile we’re seeing greater demand for eBooks that can be accessed seamlessly across devices,” she said.


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