Mid-tier firms offer better experience

So says this recent story on Accountancy Age, quoting a Cantos interview with the ACCA’s head of development, Tony Osude:

“If you went to one of the mid-tier firms, one of the beauties about being there is you might not be paid as much necessarily, but you have much more hands on experience. You can expect to actually meet your clients in the flesh and have much more dealings with your clients and also, importantly, if you want to stay in practice and recognition is important to you, there’s a greater chance of being recognised and career tracked.”

I have worked only at my current mid-size firm, so I can’t give a first hand comparison of the difference between it and a Big Four firm.

I know that at my firm, I was given greater responsibility on files fairly quickly after starting, and when I started there I was as green as you can get. I thought a discontinued operation was an error message in Windows.

In a non Big Four firm, you’ll generally have more opportunity to effect change within the organization, and there’s a better chance the firm will be on the cutting edge technologically speaking. I have a feeling the first firm to truly go paperless, if that ever does happen, will be a small one.

In a non Big Four, you’ll have more direct client contact because the engagements are smaller – the team is smaller, the risks are lower, and the client is less complex. With fewer staff on the audit, the lower level employees will necessarily have to take on more responsibility, leading to more client face time. Because the work is less complex, lower level employees can work with the client and have the necessary expertise to do so.

There are great opportunities within small firms and students should know all the options when they are considering where to apply. It can mean the difference between a rewarding few years leading up to getting their designation versus doing nothing but low-level rote work.


BDO Seidman using SugarCRM to manage office network

Kind of old news (it’s from January last year) but BDO Seidman has implemented commercial open source software to manage their nationwide network of member firms. Open source software is software whose underlying source code is openly available and is usually licensed under the GNU GPL.

What I like about open source is that the software is generally more stable and lightweight than closed-source software. This is due to the open nature of the code, which allows anyone to submit bug fixes or more efficient code.

Firefox, for example, is much more stable and reliable than Internet Explorer, and allows the user much greater control of the browsing experience. So it comes as no surprise that BDO Seidman chose SugarCRM for its adaptability to their specific needs.

[BDO] had never dealt with SugarCRM before, but she said that the lead project manager for the migration project was familiar with open source software. Helping matters was the fact that BDO Seidman’s IT team was very open to the SugarCRM application and regularly volunteered time and effort to work closely with the vendor’s own team when it came time to integrate the product into the environment.

This is where open source can be used more effectively within organizations with specific needs. Getting people from both the customer and supplier to work together to make sure the software fits the organization like a glove.

I wonder whether they would have considered open source if the lead project manager wasn’t already familiar with it. There is still a lot of FUD out there when it comes to open source, so it will take someone like the project manager did at BDO to take the reins and get everyone on board.

As well, BDO looked at other options before deciding to use open source. They even considered going with Microsoft CRM (now Dynamics CRM), but in the end chose something a little sweeter.


BDO Dunwoody merges with Goodman Rosen

Hot on the heels of their announcement that the merger discussions with Grant Thornton were called off, BDO Dunwoody’s insolvency practice BDO Dunwoody Ltd. has joined forces in Nova Scotia with Goodman Rosen Inc.

Expanding one of Canada’s most comprehensive financial recovery practices, BDO Dunwoody Limited, Trustee in Bankruptcy and Goodman Rosen Inc., Trustee in Bankruptcy have agreed to merge their professional practices effective July 1, 2007. In Halifax and Sydney, the merged firm will operate as BDO Dunwoody Goodman Rosen Inc.

HandshakeGoodman Rosen Inc. is a boutique firm specializing in financial recovery services in Halifax and Sydney. The merger heralds a bold move by BDO to grow their full-service practice organically throughout Atlantic Canada.

In an ironic twist, Goodman Rosen currently offer (according to their website) appointments in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia at Grant Thornton’s offices.

What do you think? Is this a better growth option for BDO in Canada versus the attention-grabbing Grant Thornton merger talks announced earlier?


BDO and Grant Thornton decide against merger

It was only a few weeks ago I was blogging about the the potential merger in Canada of BDO Dunwoody and Grant Thornton. They announced that they were in talks and conducting the necessary due diligence procedures to see if a merger would be good for the two firms and their clients.

They announced today that the merger talks are off.

BDO Dunwoody LLP and Grant Thornton LLP announce today that their respective Boards have agreed to discontinue merger discussions. No specific reason led to the decision to cease discussions; however, both firms recognized that despite the potential of the union, a merger of this nature also presented significant challenges.

HandshakeFirst and foremost I’d say the fact they belong to their respective international networks and one of the two firms would’ve had to dissolve in Canada and the merged firm continue as the remaining firm. That’s a lot of brand value up in smoke for either one of them. I’m not sure the merger’s potential benefits would’ve been great enough to overcome even that sole stumbling block.

So Grant Thornton merges with RSM Robson Rhodes in the UK, and the Grant Thornton merger with BDO in Canada is kaput. Who’s next?


Grant Thornton UK merges with RSM Robson Rhodes

Although they’re possibly (likely?) completely unrelated, the recent announcement in the UK that Grant Thornton would merge with RSM Robson Rhodes comes hot on the heels of the announcement in Canada that BDO Dunwoody and Grant Thornton here would enter into discussions on the possibility of merging.

The partners of Grant Thornton UK LLP and RSM Robson Rhodes LLP have today announced their agreement to merge the two firms to create one of the strongest accounting and business advisory groups in the UK.

The UK merger is a done deal according to each party, whereas in Canada BDO and GT are only engaging in talks to see if they’d like to buddy up. Still, one can’t help but think the trend of mergers could continue in other countries, possibly even the US. And if BDO and GT do not merge in Canada, is RSM Richter next on the call list for either?

Some commentary in the UK has been towards the perceived reaction to the merger by BDO Stoy Hayward, whose managing partner Jeremy Newman blogs regularly. Damian Wild of AccountancyAge practices his creative writing skills:

It will, however, have caused a few BDO Stoy Hayward partners to choke on their cornflakes on reading the news in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times. Certainly it is a blow to [Newman’s] ambitions as it puts increased distance between [Grant Thornton and BDO].

Newman himself has a different, more nuanced, take on the merger:

Whilst clearly there are some advantages to being larger we are confident that we already have sufficient scale and expertise to handle the audit of all except the largest UK companies. Ultimately it’s the quality of your people and the resultant quality of audits and client service that matter. This is why we have invested heavily in recent years to ensure we have high quality, motivated people and will continue to do so.

Doesn’t sound to me like he’s choking on much at all. Nor should he be – it isn’t size that’s going to break the Big 4. Newman is on the right track with his blog and his campaign to bring Finance Directors around to the idea that a non-Big 4 firm can handle the challenge of a large public company audit.

It’s all about attracting and retained quality people with the skills and talent to conduct quality audits for companies large, medium, and small, and Newman recognizes this.