BusinessCompany NewsIt’s not always best to conform

It’s not always best to conform

An integrated international structure can be successful for firms

Our profession is used to dealing with standards, and as a result, it is used
to conforming. But there is one area where my own firm stands alone among
accountancy firms with international reach – and I’m proud that it does.

Mazars is an integrated firm. Unlike our competitors, we’re neither a network
nor an association. We chose this path because, in our view, it’s the best way
to service our clients and provide a model enabling sustainable growth and
development.

When we were conceiving the current Mazars structure in the mid-1990s – the
integrated international model was a compelling one – not only for our clients,
but also for us. It creates a real sense of community and fosters close
collaboration between the partners, without compromising their professional
independence.

The detractors argue that the model for international networks is set, and
can’t be improved. I disagree. It is difficult to believe associations of
independent nationals can deliver a truly seamless international service.

So what does being an integrated international firm mean in practice?

It means one international partnership that crosses international boundaries.
It means partners voting as one collective organisation. It means appointing
partners by vote at a general assembly. It means all partners electing a group
executive board that provides for clear decision-making across the organisation.
And it means sharing profits internationally, so there’s no in-fighting over
fees.

Also, our commitment to transparency has resulted in Mazars being the first
accounting firm to publish full accounts for its international business,
voluntarily prepared under IFRS and audited by joint auditors.

Of course, we’re all operating in a litigious environment, and that has had
an impact on the structure of our competitors. For us, it means being extremely
cautious about which practices and partners we bring on board.

There is an argument that the homogeneity leaves the organisation more
exposed to legal action if something went wrong, but I believe we’re actually
less exposed than others. This is because we have more influence and control
over our entities and the underlying quality of partners, service and standards.
We feel the best protection lies in careful partner and client selection,
rigorous procedures and robust quality control, backed by our international
technical standards committee.

There are times when conformity is necessary. But there are other times when
it pays to go it alone – and set new standards in the process.

David Evans is senior partner at Mazars UK

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