A drop in Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) related business in the United
States has led to mid-tier firms in some markets once again
competing with the Big Four when making proposals for new jobs.
Leading Edge Alliance chairman emeritus Gary Shamis told
IAB that the Big Four “retrenching” back into the middle
market caught his firm, SS&G Financial Services, by surprise
about six months ago.

“The Big Four created additional capacity to do some of this
additional SOX work and most of the SOX work that was created is
dissipating right now. So these big national firms are realising
that they are over-staffed,” Shamis said.

This is creating a challenge due to the better name recognition of
the Big Four. “We’re not losing work, once we get the clients, we
usually keep the clients, what’s been happening is we’re losing
some opportunities to [the Big Four],” he said.

Several other mid-tier leaders who spoke with IAB for this
year’s US survey (turn to pages 10-15) agreed the Big Four
either are, or will be, competing once again in the
mid-market.

Praxity chairman Bill Fingland said it will happen eventually, but
not everywhere at once. “In the towns where the smaller [Big Four] offices are, I think that is absolutely happening. But when you
look at [for example] Houston, Texas, Big Four firms are still
overstretched,” he said.

Praxity has been encouraging its member firms to focus on client
service. The alliance is telling its firms that if they serve the
clients they attracted from the Big Four during the past five years
better than they were being served they will not be at risk. “If
you aren’t able to serve them well then you are at risk because the
Big Four will come back and they’ll promise them everything and
many times they will deliver,” Fingland warned.

Baker Tilly North America chairman Robert Ciaruffoli added: “When
[the Big Four] moved out of the marketplace, some of them moved
gracefully out, some of them moved not-so-gracefully and those will
have a much more difficult time getting back into the
marketplace.”

Carolyn Canham