Grant Thornton International has chosen Ed Nusbaum, the leader
of its US firm, as its next global chief executive. Nusbaum will
assume the role in January 2010 when David McDonnell retires after
eight years in the position.

He will lead the sixth largest accountancy
network with combined revenue of about $4 billion and a workforce
of about 30,000 people, according to International Accounting

Although the handover is several months away,
Nusbaum told this publication that his role will focus on four key
areas: to ensure member firms are growing and the international
body facilitates growth; to facilitate, co-ordinate and provide
tools at an international level in an effort to improve member firm
service; to retain, develop and lure the best talent; and, to
provide member firms with tools in order to improve operational

The biggest short-term challenge facing the
network, according to Nusbaum, is the economic downturn, which has
increased competition and lowered fees.

“Competitiveness will remain [a key issue] over the next few years,” Nusbaum predicted. “This is not about
three months or six months or even a nine months downturn. I think
there is a shift in the competitiveness and increasing efforts to
be more efficient and effective in our operations. Grant Thornton
has to be a leader in those efforts.”

Nusbaum also notes the downturn has generated
new opportunities in restructuring, business recovery and
reorganisation work.

He has been chief executive of the US member
firm since 2001. Under his leadership the firm tripled in size,
with annual revenues growing from $400 million to $1.2 billion

Before becoming the US chief executive,
Nusbaum served as the firm’s national managing partner of
professional services, managing partner of the Philadelphia office
and national director of assurance services based in New York.

He was appointed to the Security and Exchange
Commission’s Advisory Committee on Improvement to Financial
Reporting, a group that issued recommendations last August on how
the financial reporting system could be made more useful for

Nusbaum has been a vocal commentator on
several contentious issues in the US, such as the need for
stock-option expensing; prohibiting auditors from also performing
internal controls work; the need for principles-based accounting;
and revising lease accounting rules.

More recently, he threw his support behind key
performance indicators as the next step in financial reporting

In the US, it is notoriously rare for an
accounting firm leader to be outspoken. It is Nusbaum’s belief that
the public is “better off” if firm leaders take on more thought
leadership positions.

“One of the things the Center for Audit
Quality can do is speak as many firms unison, which is perhaps
stronger than any single firm on its own,” he said.

“But having said that, I believe all of the
firms should also individually speak out their minds on whatever
the issues are facing the profession, facing the business
community, facing regulation.”

David McDonnell has led Grant Thornton from a
network with combined revenue of $1.8 billion in 2001 to more than
double that today.


Vital statistics

Combined revenue

$4bn (year to 30 Sept 2008)


14 percent (fiscal year 2007-08)







Total workforce


Source: International Accounting