Auren will integrate Colombian firm TH&R Consultores y Auditores within its international network, effective 13 October.
The network already has presence in the country through Antea, an international association of which it is a founding member.
The process of securing a member firm took Auren approximately four years. Finding the right partners which could meet the criteria required to be part of an international network was the hardest part.
Antea chairman and Auren president Antoni Gómez told the International Accounting Bulletin‘s sister publication The Accountant:"We talked to at least 15 firms that were potentially interested, but many back off when they know about the strict requirements and quality standards required to work within our international network," he said.
Auren, which is s part of the Forum of Firms, will have one office in Bogotá of around 80 employees, and a second in Barranquilla, employing five. In the absence of an official ranking, Gómez estimated Auren would be among the top 15 firms.
The Colombian market is very fragmented and, more evident than in other countries, there is the Big Four on the one hand and a large number of small local firms on the other.
At the National Institute of Public Accountants (Instituto Nacional de Contadores Públicos or INCP) technical director Ana Lucía López said that out of Colombia’s 198,000 accountants, at least 20,000 don’t practice.
No more than 10,000 work for the Big Four and mid-tier firms, she estimated, and the rest work either as independent professionals or for very small firms.
This reflected in Auren’s search for potential member firms in Colombia, many of which were much too oriented toward the domestic market.
Gómez explained: "Let alone the few partners who could work in English. When we asked if they have experience reporting under IFRS or US GAAP, the answer was ‘no’. Only those with more of an ambitious and forward-looking strategy appreciate the opportunity to go beyond the local market."
He also acknowledged that Colombia seems to be beating its neighbouring competitors, Peru and Argentina, as it has managed to dramatically built trust and confidence in the last years.
"There still remains much to be done, but this is the story of an underdog country facing drug-related violence, which all of a sudden the world found out about its extraordinary potential," Gómez said.