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March 30, 2009

Australian mid-tier firm appoints inaugural chief operating officer

Grant Thornton Australia has appointed its inaugural chief operating officer to lead operational activities at the recently formed national firm.

William Masson will be responsible for day-to-day operations while chief executive Robert Quant will lead strategy. The role was formed at the beginning of this year to alleviate some of the workload from Quant, who had been largely responsible for both areas.

Quant told the International Accounting Bulletin that the recent formation of a national firm from a federation of five state firms meant the time was right to introduce the new role.

“It’s a very large job to bring an organisation like ours together,” he said. “We decided we clearly need to separate the role of day-to-day operations, building infrastructure and running the back office from the more strategic policy issues. The board and I will focus on the vision and look at the strategic ways we’ll grow as an organisation and the direction we want to take the business. It’s William’s job to execute the agreed strategy. We work together closely in driving alignment in terms of our operations and our culture.”

Grant Thornton said Masson has a track record in professional services firms and business. Quant said the firm was seeking a candidate with this level of experience, in particular working under a consolidation model. He said the firm interviewed 100 candidates for the position.

Masson qualified as a chartered accountant at Coopers & Lybrand in his native South Africa. He also worked as an accountant in New York before moving to Sydney to take on a number of executive roles.

His former positions included general manager for law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth and IT services company Comtech Communications. Recently, Masson was the chief executive of IT services start-up Sententia and the chief financial officer of listed information and communications technology firm Longreach Group.

One of Masson’s most important tasks will be to continue the integration process, which began in July 2008. Quant said integrating state firms into a single financial entity had run relatively smoothly although there were challenges in aligning communication and cultural differences.

“We’re only just now going through our first four years planning and budgeting process and we expect that will help improve and align our operations much more,” he added.

Quant noted that becoming a national firm had already helped Grant Thornton win work from larger organisations.

“There are people we thought were listening to us before but weren’t taking us seriously,” he said. “If you look at the national organisations such as the banks, legal firms, even government itself, these organisations do not want the hassle of working out who they are engaging with and whether quality is going to be the same from office to office.”

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