Marc Totaro, national manager of professional services at the major bank, said the survey, which captures a cross-section of the top 100 accounting and restructuring firms, highlights the array of strategies firms are implementing to add value to their clients and grow their own business.
“Diversification is a common tactic, with a sizeable percentage [of firms] intending to enter and grow in new service lines over the next 12 to 18 months,” Mr Totaro said.
The surveyed revealed management consulting services is the preferred area of expansion for many large and mid-sized accounting firms, as well as restructuring firms.
“The latter two groups also see increased opportunities in business advisory and property advisory services,” Mr Totaro said.
“Other firms plan on entering wealth management and financial planning.”
This diversification push, he said, means the chase for acquisitions will continue.
Firms are after strategic bolt-on assets to gain capability in niche areas like human resources, taxation law and water asset management advisory, while lifting productivity is another lever being pulled.
“The three largest areas of expense growth over the next six months remain staff training and development, investing in IT hardware and software, and a focus on marketing and business development,” Mr Totaro said.
“The productivity push and expansion into new service lines partly explain why firms, with the exception of the very largest, forecast increased operating margins in coming months.”
“Another survey finding is that firms are hiring more equity partners, junior to mid-level accountants, directors, managers and fixed share and salary partners. In contrast, the head count of secretarial, administrative and shared service staff is still falling, a trend we expect to continue.”
“The ratio of fee earners to non-fee earners is climbing.”