As the FIFA World Cup craze sweeps the globe most of us engage in conversation with friends, partners and colleagues about the games, tactics, team strengths, strategies, defensive tactics, and debate about whether players were really offside etc…

Just like winning football teams, successful businesses owe a lot to teamwork, respecting and working around the rules, following strategy, and having the ‘guts’ to make decisive moves towards that winning target/goal. And in the current market, having the courage and confidence to invest during uncertain times, to undergo a merger or acquisition, to rebrand, or to do whatever feels like it will set an organisation apart from the competition, is key.

This is not a time to fall asleep on the job, as from both the Big Four and mid-tier the competition is tough and everyone is looking for that X Factor that sets them apart. In football that might be your team’s star striker or midfielder, but for accounting networks it’s more and more about unique expertise coupled with excellent client service.

For EY, the past year has been about building a brand and the trust of its clients and stakeholders, mainly employees. While many jokes have been made about it losing its ampersand, and becoming the Big Four firm with the shortest name, its tagline seems to have been well accepted, and the values built around the brand well received.

Another important factor is the rules. Most changes to business or sports rules are rarely welcomed; however the match must go on. And the same will happen in the accountancy market as the EU audit reform changes sweep through. The reform is likely to affect the way large firms conduct their audit and advisory business, however the investment into advisory has been ongoing by firms.

With PwC’s acquisition of Booz & Company being the largest such deal in recent months and the consequent creation of the somewhat oddly branded Strategy& (no, we haven’t made a typo) the rest of the Big Four have continued making smaller deals. For example KPMG has gone on some sort of a shopping spree lately ranging from social media companies to an analytics solutions business. And it’s not just the Big Four – the top 10 mid-tier networks arena is becoming increasingly competitive and only the fittest will survive.

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While PKF International seems to be working towards building back its international network after the many goals other networks have tucked into the back of its net, questions remain open about Baker Tilly International’s next move now its UK firm is to join RSM. And with RSM, now bolstered by a strong UK firm, the question is open about its branding of the new member or network itself. The drama and surprise moves are probably far from over in the accountancy market as well as the World Cup and there may be some unlikely-at-first-glance champions to emerge.

Fair play
In this month’s edition you can read the insightful Germany survey (page 15 to 20) and how the case of tax-evading football club chief and World Cup winner Uli Hoeness led to the government initiated programme encouraging people to admit to their questionable tax affairs.

Earlier this year Hoeness was convicted of evading €27m in tax and given a red card in the form of a three-and-a-half year strech in prison. The case was followed by thousands taking up the government’s offer to come clean about their tax affairs in return from immunity from prosecution. While this is far from a cheap exercise for evaders, for many it’s far more appealing than years spent staring at the walls of a prison cell.

Perhaps such actions taken by the German tax authorities could be considered elsewhere. However, without having made an example of Hoeness the question whether so many would have come forward remains to be answered.

Ana Gyorkos