The South African arm of BDO has poached more than 400 advisors and accountants from rival Grant Thornton, in a move that reflects the growing competition in the mid-tier professional services industry in their bid to compete with the Big Four. The move adds offices in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and boosts BDO’s presence in South Africa to more than 1,000 professionals.
The South African branch of BDO, which has four regional offices* and is the sixth biggest professional services firm in the country, has announced that it intends to take over Grant Thornton’s offices in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The move, which formally goes into effect on 1 March 2018, will see 413 professional staff, including 35 partners and directors, join the firm’s presence in South Africa.
Through the acquisition, BDO hopes to improve its ability to serve the wider mid-market, with a wide variety of accounting and consulting services and areas of expertise. “BDO South Africa will now be in a far stronger position to take advantage of opportunities in the market and to provide a significant alternative to the competition,” said Mark Stewart, CEO of BDO South Africa.
The ramp up will in addition allow BDO to leverage its scale to further professionalise its operations and client offerings, an area which has come under public scrutiny following the headlines of KPMG’s involvement in the Gupta family scandal. The Big Four firm has been dumped by several clients since the outbreak of the news, and faces an investigation from the South African Revenue System. To restore confidence in the advisory, KPMG have sent home the entire leadership team and put in place a new one, as well as provided the local South African arm with support from KPMG International.
“The demand for in-depth expertise is increasing, with technical and industry advice in high demand. Critical to this merger is our ability to scale up and to leverage the opportunities created by the changes in the auditing profession, including the introduction of mandatory audit firm rotation,” said Stewart.
Strengthening BDO’s culture
He added that he foresees little issues with the cultural integration of the new team – commonly a sensitive point during accounting and consulting integrations – stating that he believes the joining of forces will strongly complement and strengthen the firm’s culture. “Many of the people now joining us are former BDO partners and staff and as such bring with them their BDO history and values.”
Remarking on the MA success in South Africa, Wayne Berson, Chairman of the Global Board of BDO International, said “We are delighted to welcome the professional staff formerly with Grant Thornton’s Cape and Port Elizabeth offices to BDO. These new resources, combined with our existing presence, will further enhance the skills and abilities of BDO South Africa and enable the firm to take advantage of growth opportunities.”
The move from BDO reflects the growing competition between accounting and consulting firms. Smaller and midsized firms have entered a consolidation spree to beef up their muscle to compete with their larger counterparts, while the larger firms typically engage in carve-outs or member network transfers. The trend is visible in all corners of the globe, in India, for instance, Deloitte poached a team of 320 consultants from KPMG last year, while in Denmark, KPMG lost its entire member firm (1,500 employees) to EY a few years back.
According to analysis by Consultancy.co.za, South Africa’s wider consultancy and business advisory market is valued at around R70 billion, while the South African accounting, auditing, bookkeeping and tax advisory sector is estimated to be worth nearly R30 billion.
* BDO’s offices in South Africa are based in Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.