A couple of weeks ago, a large sign on the corner of Farringdon Road in London reading "PKF UK" was changed to bear the name BDO, marking the completion of one of the UK’s largest ever accounting firm mergers. As I pass the new BDO office every day on my way to work, I often see employees taking pictures of the new sign with their phones, and others looking at the sign in an attempt to comprehend what the change might mean for them.
Perhaps some are thinking, as are a lot of people in the industry, what will happen to the PKF global network.
Some progress was made towards an answer to this question just days after the completion of the merger, as PKF International finally broke a silence of over four months at the same time as appointing a new chairman and chief executive.
Just as we were starting to wonder whether PKF International might be swallowed up piecemeal by the other networks or that its members will one by one jump ship, new chairman Sajjad Akhtar, entered the picture and assured us in an exclusive interview that the network is on the way to filling all its major membership gaps.
One of the biggest tasks for the network will be addressing the lack of a UK member firm, which we can only speculate must be costing it dearly so long as the gap remains.
But the dissolution of the network seems unlikely. Akhtar believes the PKF brand is too strong to be swallowed up by another network – a scenario which, regardless of the legal and logistical challenges attached to such an endeavour, would have at least made for a fascinating change to the competitive status quo.
As IAB spoke to its editorial advisory board in recent months, Africa was often mentioned as the place to keep in an eye on in years to come – and so we have decided to conduct our first piece of major research into the continent. IAB reporter Carlos Martin Tornero and I spoke to over 10 firm leaders across Africa, learning of the opportunities as well as challenges facing firms of different sizes in very different markets.
On the whole, we do want to avoid generalisations – Africa comprises more than 50 sovereign states and several very distinct economic regions.
Nevertheless overall, the level of transparency and openness we encountered was universally high – a much more clement research environment than we usually find in Asia – and firm leaders were realistic, but optimistic regarding what the future holds.
Furthermore, it seems fair to say across all regions in Africa, as investor appetite grows and domestic businesses develop the need for good corporate governance and increased accountability, there are vast opportunities for firms.
It is also important to note what a significant role the profession has to play in giving back to Africa, both by offering opportunities to local talent and by advising countries on how to improve their economic standing, limit corruption and fight against poverty. Read the regional survey on pages 4 to 18.