A perfect fit

The pursuit of market-leading clients for risk management,
transaction support and tax services forms part of RSM
International’s strategy. Arvind Hickman explores
how the network’s latest addition, UK firm Bentley Jennison, falls
into line with RSM’s global ambitions.

RSM International describes new UK member firm Bentley Jennison
as the perfect piece to complete its global puzzle.

Founded in 1984, the firm possesses an eye-catching growth record
and is particularly strong in the provision of risk management,
transaction support services and tax. Now known as RSM Bentley
Jennison, the firm has 800 professional staff and reported fee
income of £63.7 million ($126.2 million) in 2006. It has doubled in
size every four years and claims to be one of the fastest growing
firms in the UK.

Although achieving impressive growth is one thing, what excites RSM
International chief executive Jean Stephens most about the new
relationship is the firm’s presence in the non-audit services
sector. Stephens tells IAB Bentley Jennison has a strong
reputation in risk management, tax and transaction support services
– making it an ideal match with the network’s strategic plan.

“When you have a win is when the firm’s vision and strategy matches
RSM International,” Stephens says. “As with most networks, we have
a strong audit practice [and] we have strong international tax, but
it’s the risk management and transaction support that really are
big growth areas for us.”

The choice debate raging in the UK and other parts of the world is
centred on whether a few players outside the Big Four can provide
audit services to the largest public companies. Stephens believes
the debate would be better served if it shifted some attention to
non-audit areas that a wider range of firms can provide.

“That’s where we can add most value for our clients, especially
when you get into the choice argument. We can serve those very,
very large companies and there is no size [limitations] in
transaction and risk support areas,” she explains. “It’s been a
focus over the last 18 months. It’s a combination. When we are
recruiting members, I’m looking deeply at that to see what they
have and making sure that we’re bringing on members that do have
that depth of capability. It’s about targeting [clients] together.
We’re taking an international team to clients and prospects to help
meet their needs.”

Adding to the argument, RSM Bentley Jennison national managing
partner Tony Stockdale says the firm already serves large UK
companies in markets normally dominated by the Big Four. “Our focus
with the FTSE 100, and indeed the FTSE 250, has been services other
than audit and I think the [choice] debate would be a better debate
in the profession if one considered how many firms can offer
services wider than just audit to larger companies,” Stockdale
says.

RSM’s focus on growing its non-audit services capability was one
aspect of the network’s strategy that appealed to Bentley Jennison.
Another reason to join was the need to be a part of a large
integrated network to better serve the international requirements
of clients.

“Bentley Jennison has been growing for many years now and in
parallel with that growth what has been happening is our client
base has been changing,” Stockdale says. “As a generality we’ve
been dealing with bigger businesses and more complex businesses,
and increasingly a lot of those businesses have operations or trade
overseas.”

Prior to RSM, the firm was a member of the much smaller accounting
and legal association IAG International.

Stockdale predicts membership to the world’s seventh largest
accountancy network will help his firm achieve a 35 percent growth
rate.

RSM Bentley Jennison is already in contact with fellow member firms
and representatives will travel to meet US counterparts in the
coming months. The aim of these meetings is to establish a working
relationship as well as to better integrate services and
processes.

As integration of the network gathers pace, another growing trend
in the profession – consolidation – is not quite in the firing
line. Stephens says RSM is always open to the idea of a merger but
finding the right partner in terms of quality and strategy is a
hard task.

She notes: “A lot of times I look at it and say it would be great
because of scale, but then you get one step below that and you have
quality issues… You have to have strategic fit and that strategic
fit is critical in terms of taking decision for the
network.”