PracticeConsultingConsultancy – Firms’ ardent denials seem shortlived

Consultancy - Firms' ardent denials seem shortlived

The latest Accountancy Age Top 50 survey produced a few blanks regarding fee income from consultancy services, especially among the UK's biggest accountancy firms.

‘How can they not declare consultancy fee income?’ said one personality in the consulting industry. ‘Surely some of the business advisory offerings must come under that bracket?’

But it appears they can. Especially in the eyes of the firms themselves, who, other than Deloitte, are happy to confirm that they do not offer ‘big-ticket IT consulting services’.

It’s a hugely contentious issue that will come to a head sooner rather than later.

Deloitte has the biggest consulting practice in terms of fee income. The firm is still heavily involved in large-scale IT projects, including partnerships with the likes of BT, Siebel, Oracle and HP. Long may it continue, Deloitte says.

And the firm has a point. Why should it retreat from this market? There are very few lobbyists kicking up a fuss about the work the firm does.

But it begs the question of whether another Big Four firm could re-establish a consulting arm. One or more of them must be tempted, especially when their fee income performance over the last 12 months hasn’t exactly set the world alight.

And, more importantly, is there a gap to fill? Most certainly, yes.

They must also be thinking whether a return to consultancy would rock the US and UK regulatory boats.

Perhaps if one other firm got more involved in ‘big-ticket’ IT consulting, regulators would accept the situation.

As long as the major firms struggle to maintain growth, the likelihood is they will step back into consulting waters.

But this is a risky business. Deloitte on its own among the Big Four is not upsetting the regulators and, despite calls for openness, would be better off with the status quo.

And there are many mid-tier accountancy firms that have made big gains in offering consulting services, which won’t appreciate the big guys coming back on the scene.

  • Kevin Reed edits the consultancy page.

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