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May 31, 2009

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause branding a milestone

Virchow Krause’s adoption of the Baker Tilly brand this month is an important milestone for Baker Tilly International – the network will now have a strong brand presence in the US accounting market.

Previously, all Baker Tilly International member firms went to market using established regional brands. This is common in the US where most firms outside the top seven are regional players rather than national firms.

The decision to allow exclusive naming rights to Virchow Krause, the largest Baker Tilly International US member firm, will help raise the profile of the Baker Tilly brand in the US, according to Baker Tilly International chief executive and president Geoff Barnes.

“There have been occasions where we haven’t picked up a multinational client because we haven’t maximised our brand in America. That will change now,” Barnes said.

“I see members winning larger, and inevitably more international clients and that will benefit everyone.”

Virchow Krause reported fee income of $216 million in the year to 31 May 2008. The firm is also one of the fastest growing in the US, increasing its revenue from $28 million to $202 million in just ten years.

In February, Virchow Krause chief executive Tim Christen said global branding will provide middle market firms just behind the Big Four with an advantage over regional local firms that do not have a global brand. “This is an opportunity for Baker Tilly International as a network to firmly establish itself in that strata of firms,” he said.

The firm has been trading as Baker Tilly (a trading name of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause) since 1 June. It will invest a substantial amount of money over the next few years into marketing the new brand.

The branding shift is a departure from a previous strategy that saw the creation of an umbrella group – Baker Tilly North America.

“Baker Tilly North America was a vehicle created to raise awareness of the Baker Tilly brand in the North American marketplace,” Barnes explained.

“The reality is that to maximise the brand, one firm carrying the flag of the Baker Tilly name is more effective than an umbrella structure.”

Not all of the Baker Tilly International firms welcomed the branding re-think and three firms, Rehmann Group, Miller Cooper, and Katz, Sapper & Miller, recently left to join rival network Nexia International. Those firms competed head on with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause.

“Our strategy is to admit strong, top quality firms in those geographic locations where we are either not presently located or our existing member firms are not looking to expand into,” Barnes said.

“This strategy is one reason why the network has rejected applications from approximately 25 firms in the US in the past four years.”

Baker Tilly International’s coverage of the US (see below) is very strong in the eastern states. The network is looking for firms in the cities of Phoenix, Denver, San Diego, Louisiana and Boise.

Arvind Hickman

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