Top 50+50: Partner numbers fall

PARTNER NUMBERS have fallen across the UK’s top accounting firms, Accountancy Age’s Top 50+50 2015 survey, supported by Wolters Kluwer, has found.

Across the Top 50 firms, the total number of partners fell nearly 1.4% to 5,700, from 5,780 in our 2014 survey. It continues a trend, albeit a minor one, with partner numbers at 5,785 in 2013. Partner numbers stood at 4,625 in 2005, showing longer term growth despite the fallout from the financial crisis.

The vast majority of firms said they expected to increase professional staff numbers (those excluding partners) in the coming 12 months, but were less enthusiastic about increasing support function staff.

Heather Townsend, author and business coach for executives and partners, said partner numbers had become depressed because firms were likely to be working on improving their profit margins, and the market for talent has become increasingly tough following previous restructuring.

“The Big Four and mid-tier firms cut trainees and throttled back their staff development, with a lack of people moving upward and careers moving forward,” said Townsend.

She said that many firms believe “being bigger means being more resilient,” adding: “The Big Four have been buying consultancy firms to strengthen their services but there’s now less need for geographical presence. Firms should instead be focusing on what they’re good at.”

When questioned on support staff numbers, 39 of the Top 50 firms responded, with 14 (nearly 40%) expecting a rise, and 25 (64%) expecting the number to remain the same. Townsend said: “Firms can gain support staff from anywhere and there is not a lack of talent so the demand is not as prominent.”


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