Speaking to Accountants Daily, UHY Haines Norton chair, Michael Coughtrey said the market is getting tougher for mid-tier accounting networks to attract new members.
“The trend of recent times seem to be that firms are leaving networks and going back to being independent practices and it has definitely been hard particularly when you are looking to expand your network through an association rather than through something like an acquisition,” said Mr Coughtrey.
“We lost a couple of members back in 2015 due to merging with a bigger network in both instances so I guess the attraction for them was that it was a bigger network but that's not always the case, there are some firms going back to being their own practices and leaving networks.”
Yesterday, UHY Haines Nortons and fellow mid-tier network Sothertons announced a partnership that will see the two networks share access to resources and branding.
Mr Coughtrey believes that while the market is tough, networks will continue to hold sway over independent practices because of its larger pool of resources.
“From our perspective, the biggest attraction is the power of the brand, but also the benefits in the shared knowledge and specialist interest groups,” said Mr Coughtrey.
“For example, we have specialist interest groups in tax, audit, valuations, litigation support, that just allows each firm to contribute members to that and have their own conferences, share ideas, share precedence and discuss issues. Having that sort of group and knowledge on tap is hard for a firm that's out on their own.
“That close group where you can talk to your peers and understand what's happening in the profession and share thoughts and ideas openly and honestly — that's the benefit of being in a network as opposed to going to some other discussion group with someone who is not particularly aligned to you,” he added.
“To me, networks will always be relevant. We live in a global economy and a national presence and international help when it is needed is what's necessary, I believe, in today's profession to deal with the needs of your clients.”