As the results of the recent UK referendum on European Union membership has provoked a shock on the market place and created a high level of uncertainty for businesses, UK accounting firms have responded quickly to the challenge by setting up dedicated points of contact for their clients.
While most Big Four firms set up a dedicated team to tackle issues arising from "Brexit", KPMG UK took it a step further by appointing a head of Brexit to the firm’s executive leadership team.
Karen Briggs on the firm’s senior partner will hold the newly created role.
Simon Collins, KPMG UK chairman, explained: "Friday 24th June represents a pivotal moment in UK business history; Brexit will dominate the business agenda for some time. We have pulled together experts from across the firm to provide the help and guidance our clients need and have appointed one of our most senior partners to our executive committee to lead the charge."
Clients need expert support on mitigating the risks and taking advantage of the opportunities that arise from a Brexit, Briggs said. "To ensure we can deliver both the Brexit-related services our clients are demanding, on top of business as usual, I plan to build a dedicated team."
She said that KPMG UK has already advised its clients to consider the next two weeks, two months and two years to assess the path ahead.
"Looking at our 2:2:2 model, many of our clients have been seeking advice on their immediate risks. However, we are now seeing clients look further ahead to what opportunities might lie ahead in the next two years – whether these are bolstering trading relationships with China or out-manoeuvring competitors," Briggs analysed. "We are also engaging international clients and are observing, interestingly, predatory intentions from other European nations considering what competitive advantage a Brexit might mean for them."
But it’s not all about risk versus opportunity, she continued. "For some businesses, a potential Brexit is stalling activity. The M&A and IPO market would be a good example of this. We are the largest M&A adviser by volume and we have seen half a dozen deals we are working on put on hold in the wake of the vote outcome. Whether this is a short-term wobble or has more lasting ramifications remains to be seen at this stage."
Similarly EY has set a task force made of 60 partners to help their clients respond to the challenge of a possible Brexit and is currently working with the global network to put in place the right solutions to help international clients with the issue.
PwC has also set up a Brexit group integrated across the firm and led by chairman of the company and senior partner Kevin Ellis to coordinate a response to supporting clients.
The group has three areas of focus:
- Supporting clients with what the referendum result may mean for their business plans.
- Developing insight into what impact it may have on industries, regions and people.
- Gearing up to resource areas where there is client demand.
"We are already seeing increased appetite for strategy advice as well as for support around treasury management, immigration advice and pensions," Ellis said.
Outside of the Big Four, firms have also set up a point of contact for their clients. For example, Crowe Clark Whitehill have set up a Brexit hub on their website that offers guidance and thought leadership to their clients.
London office managing partner and international liaison partner for Crowe Clark Whitehill said: "We have already sought contributions from a number of people across our business together with input from our colleagues in leading member firms across Europe to reflect our initial thoughts and we intend to build up further articles, commentary and views on the subject over the next few months?."
On the other hand Shelley Stock Hutter, UK member firm of Abacus Worldwide, have not set up any particular teams focusing on Brexit. Denver Chase partner Bobby Lane explained: "We have not specifically appointed a head of Brexit as we believe it is the responsibility of all of our partners and senior team to be aware of the developments as they happen. That way we are well positioned to advise our clients as the inevitable changes happen."