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
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

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

“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.”