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IAB World Survey: Deloitte holds on to top spot for second year running

Deloitte has retained its position as the largest accounting network in the world for a second year running, the first time it has been able to do so according to International Accounting Bulletin's 2015 World Survey.

According to the survey, the top 52 international accounting networks and associations earned a total of $181.7bn in fees in 2014, a 6% increase on 2013 figures.

Deloitte has for the first time maintained its leading position as the largest global accounting network by beating close rival PwC to the title by as little as $248m.

Deloitte reported $34.2bn in fees in 2014. PwC is yet to see the impact of the acquisition of global consultancy Booz&Co. on its financials, which was finalised in the last few months of the network's 2014 financial year, with 2015 promising to be another competitive year between the close rivals.

While the gap between the Big Two firms (Deloitte and PwC) has been getting smaller over the past decade, the gap between the leading two and third ranked EY has been increasing. According to IAB historic data the gap has increased from $1.9bn in 2004 to $6.5bn in 2014. EY reported fee income of $27.3bn and fourth ranked KPMG $24.8bn in 2014.

In addition, the gap between the four largest players and their nearest middle market competitor, BDO International, increased by $7bn in the past decade from $10.6bn in 2004 to $17.8bn in 2014.

The largest four firms hold 66% of the overall market share.

The next six top networks registered combined income of $26bn, up 8% on average. The largest mid-tier network, BDO grew 9% to a record $7bn in 2014, putting it at some distance from its competitors in the mid-tier.

In terms of service line performance, last year saw the continued commoditisation of audit, countered by ever-increasing investment and growth in advisory among the Big Four firms in particular.

This increase was also due to a series of high-profile transactions in the market, among them PwC's acquisition of consultancy Booz&Co (now Strategy&), EY acquisition of The Parthenon Group and many more.

In June 2014 the EU audit reform was adopted, with implementation deadline set for June 2016.

However, due to the complex nature of the final document member states are faced with 83 options, 32 in the regulation and 51 in the directive, governing measures including maximum audit firm tender lengths and non-audit service restrictions. The multiplicity of options has already resulted in member states debating very different sets of measures, with firm leaders speaking to the IAB increasingly concerned about the many variations likely to be inforce by 2016.

As 2015 picks up pace, a primary concern for firms worldwide remain the geopolitical threats and economic uncertainty characterising some of the globe's most important markets. As the relationship between Russia and the West shows no signing of healing, following a year marked by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, what was once a key market for many global players is now rendered less attractive by a combination of uncertainty, the economic effects of sanctions and political risk.

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