During results season this year, big four firms signalled an ongoing focus on generating organic growth, after a history of growth through acquisition. In particular, PwC and Deloitte flagged a shift in their growth strategies.
Strategic alliances director, APAC at Thomson Reuters, Hydar Al Ammar — a corporate tax manager at KPMG for eight years — believes big four firms are beginning to break out of their ultra-protective approach to dealing with external firms to implement new technology and drive costs down.
“What the firms are starting to see is there’s an opportunity to generate revenue by changing processes. There is no longer the perception of technology being a competitor to the traditional service lines of these firms,” he said.
For example, Deloitte and Thomson Reuters recently partnered to automate the big four firm’s financial reporting and compliance for Australian corporations. Thomson Reuters managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Ben Scull, said Deloitte was keen to take the co-branded, partnership approach in the messages to the market.
For Mr Scull, moves like this represent a deeper shift in the way big four firms are chasing revenue and client gains in Australia.
“Historically, if you have a look at most of the results for the big four, a lot of their results have been driven by acquisitions. Whereas now, they’re being asked to grow organically. How do you grow the revenue per partner? They’ve got the engagement — they need to add to it,” Mr Scull said.
Fears about data security, particularly in relation to the cloud, still persist though.
“In that sense, they are very conservative, and have a lot of questions about cloud security. That includes questions from their clients, especially once you start dealing with the banks,” said Mr Al Ammar.