Different day, same old big four

From a distance, not very different. There would still have been only four
big firms with all the consequences that implies. The conflicts of interest
debate would still have emerged and we would still be arguing whether the
mid-tier firms could ever attain that elusive big firm status.

The major difference would have been to the Big Four firms themselves – or
rather three of them. Put Ernst & Young to one side for the moment.

PricewaterhouseCoopers would have lost its cherished place as the biggest
firm in the UK, a fact that would no doubt have necessitated major revision of
its marketing strategy.

It might well have prompted a much deeper piece of self reflection, too,
about the firm’s business goals and whether being the biggest was, in fact, an
end in itself. A defiant PwC searching for merger partners to regain its former
top-slot status would have been a spectacle to behold.

The biggest difference would be to KPMG. It would be the pre-eminent firm in
the UK and, given its current growth rate, would be even bigger by now. But
would that mean a mass desertion of clients from PwC?

It’s difficult to imagine that happening, but perhaps KPMG would have found
that its ability to attract clients ahead of PwC would have been enhanced,
heralding a gradual change in the ruling order. And Deloitte would be playing
catch up, just as it soon will be if it fails to remain ahead of KPMG.

Deloitte’s aim of being number one looks as distant now as it did before it
took on Andersen.

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