Accenture, two years on…

It was Dr Gamba who acted as arbitrator in the bitter divorce between Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting back in 2000. His gift to the consulting arm, though not many saw it that way at the time, was to rule it relinquished the Andersen name.

An unforeseen consequence is that in so doing he ensured that there would be no danger of confusing the consulting business with the accountants when Enron exploded last winter.

Given the demise of the accountancy firm isn’t the great Andersen split now irrelevant ?

Well no. For while none of the Big Four will be looking to repeat Andersen’s experiences in terms of document retention, don’t be surprised if they look to replicate the firm’s stance on offering consulting services.

The split of Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting was prompted largely by Arthur’s decision to build a consulting arm of its own which Andersen Consulting – a separate business unit – saw as a direct competitor. The consultants accused the accountants of waging ‘an aggressive sales and marketing campaign … that blurred the distinctions between the two firms’ consulting practices’.

Obviously that wasn’t a good move in terms of internal politics. But it was a great fee earner to complement Andersen’s core offerings – tax and, ahem, audit.

This is a position which those within the Big Four will be familiar with.

And it won’t change despite recent separations.

Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers may have sold their consultancy arms. Deloitte may have separated and rebranded its consulting arm. And KPMG may have opted for a flotation in the US.

But if anything, Andersen demonstrates that we shouldn’t expect the firms that the consultants have left behind to give up on consultancy just yet.

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