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Fee income soars as mid-tier firms shine Back  
Fee income amongst the top Irish accountancy firms has increased by almost 20 per cent, according to this year’s annual FINANCE accountancy survey, with mid-tier firms posting an even higher growth rate of almost 30 per cent due to merger activity, which saw Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon become this year’s ‘fastest mover’. While skills shortages remain a massive problem for the profession, an additional 2,260 people are expected to be recruited over the coming year, and the industry is hopeful that the introduction of the Green Card system earlier this year will help.
Fee income amongst Ireland’s Top 20 accountancy firms has soared in this year’s FINANCE Accountancy Survey, up by 19.6 per cent, from €976.3 million in last year’s poll to almost €1.2 billion in this year’s survey. The average growth in fee income of the Big 4 this year stood at almost 18 per cent, with KPMG posting the strongest growth rate of 27.4 per cent amongst the top four firms.

In addition to continuing favourable economic circumstances, driving growth at Ireland’s top accountancy firms, although the increasing regulatory burden - which has been behind much of the growth - was cited by managing partners as a cause for concern going forward.

Merger activity
Last year was a busy one for merger and acquisition activity in the profession, and this year’s survey shows a declining pool of top companies. In order to compete with the Big 4, mid-tier firms are becoming more aggressive in their expansion plans, and over the past year the major news story was Grant Thornton’s acquisition of RSM Robson Rhodes. As a result, the new entity, Grant Thornton, has held onto its position of sixth in the rankings, but has begun to eat into BDO Simpson Xavier’s market share in this year’s survey.

Another ‘doubling-up’ of resources took place at PKF Ryan Glennon which merged with Baker Tilly O’Hare during the year. The deal sees the new firm, Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon, jump into 11th place, up from 17th and 21st in last year’s survey.

Fastest movers
As a result of the aforementioned merger activity, Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon is this year’s ‘fastest mover’, doubling its fee income to E12 million. Just behind is Grant Thornton, which also saw its fee income soar due to an acquisition. It enjoyed fee income growth of 66.6 per cent during the year, causing the firm to reach a new high of E50 million. KPMG makes up the top three, with growth of 27 per cent - all organic - to bring its fee income figure up to E270 million.

Recruitment continues to boom
Employment in the Top 20 firms looks set to hit 10,000 over the coming year, as firms look to recruit an additional 2,260 people over the coming year, indicating an annual employment growth rate of almost 30 per cent for 2007/2008.

However this year, employment grew by just 11.6 per cent – despite claims in last year’s survey that it would also grow by 30 per cent. With skills shortages still a major issue for the profession, finding the right people to fill the open positions remains the number one problem.

One solution on the horizon however may be the introduction this year of a Green Card scheme, which entitles skilled foreign nationals to a work permit. In this year’s managing partner forum (see page 6) the initiative was widely welcomed.

The top firms have already been recruiting from afar under the old employment system, and this year’s survey reveals the extent for the first time. Ten per cent of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ staff come from abroad, 11 per cent of the staff at Mazars and BDO consist of internationals, while a whopping 32 per cent of Brenson Lawler’s 63 staff members are foreign nationals. The most popular origins for these workers include Poland, China and the USA.

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