The pressures of the financial crisis have
provided a “great weeding out” of weak accounting firms, according
to Stephen Mayer, managing partner of US top 50 firm Burr Pilger
Mayer.

“For good quality firms [the difficulties are] is temporary,” Mayer said. “It is a great weeding out because there
are a lot of people who are still in the accounting profession who
aren’t that good at what they do. This is a way of weeding them out
and I think the ones that remain will probably be stronger.”

 

Lazy profession

Mayer said the accounting profession at large
needs to work out creative ways to add value without raising
fees.

“I think that we are a profession on hold,” he
said. “Not our firm particularly because we are pretty innovative,
but I think the profession on the whole is lazy, is too
conservative, is set in their ways, is non-entrepreneurial – all
those things.”

Burr Pilger Mayer, a firm based in San
Francisco, California, has grown about 20 percent a year for the
past 20 years, Mayer added. During the past year the firm grew
about 18 percent, of which about 10-11 percent was through a
merger.

The firm’s growth came despite “incredible”
fee pressure, which Mayer said has been the biggest
challenge of his professional career.

“When the pressure is that incredible, people
start doing crazy things,” he says. “They lower their fees too
much, they bid work below cost and it hurts the whole profession
because if it takes 100 hours to do something, you can’t stay in
business if you are only getting paid for 50 hours and you start
cutting corners.

“I think what people are going to find is that
the quality and the problems from the last couple of years, which
will surface in the next couple of years, are probably going to be
pretty incredible.”