PracticeAccounting FirmsThe day the glamour died

The day the glamour died

Forget the astonishing revelations surrounding Andersen and Enron; the moment when the face of accountancy changed forever came last Wednesday.

In an announcement from the firm’s New York office, Deloittes announced what it had said it would always resist: the spinning off of its consulting arm. In doing so it, effectively, became the fifth member of the Big Five to go down the sell-off path.

Deloittes joins PricewaterhouseCoopers in hastily erecting a ‘for sale’ sign outside its consulting HQ. Ernst & Young, of course, has already found a buyer in Cap Gemini while KPMG is set to sell its European consulting business to KPMG Consulting Inc, completing its global retrenchment. Andersen’s split from its consulting arm, now Accenture, may have come about for different reasons but few outside the industry will appreciate the minutiae of the deal.

There’s no getting away from the fact that Deloittes’ decision signals the end of the one-stop shop global business advisor. It is far, far more than a symbolic gesture – it has profound implications for firms of all sizes the world over.

It throws up countless questions to which only a handful of expensive (external) consultants will claim to have answers. Will we see a renaissance of the mid-tier, perhaps picking up a FTSE-100 audit or two? Indeed, will the Big Five want to stay in the audit business at all when the service lines they have been forced to hive off are growing at a faster pace?

And how will the firms convince the brightest graduates to enter a profession where a glamorous potential career path is now all but closed off?

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