Grant Thornton UK could double its fee
income over the next five years, according to its new chief
executive. Scott Barnes, who has been global head of specialist
advisory services at Grant Thornton International since 2006, was
elected to succeed Michael Cleary late last month. He will
officially take over on 1 January 2009.


Scott Barnes, Grant Thornton
Scott Barnes, Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton has yet to release its 2008 financial results but
Barnes confirmed the firm would generate more than £400 million
($778 million) in revenue. Doubling this to £800 million would help
Grant Thornton close the gap on its larger rivals but the firm
would still earn well below Ernst & Young, the smallest of the
UK’s Big Four, which last year recorded £1.2 billion in fee

Barnes said the projected growth will come from developing
international business, especially in India and China, and using
the extra resources created through the firm’s merger with Robson

“[Growth will come from] developing, alongside our international
partners, a truly international business that’s able to deal with
the needs of all ranges of clients and getting benefit from the
additional capacity we have created through the [Robson Rhodes] merger,” he said.

Grant Thornton merged with Robson Rhodes in July 2007, creating
a £375 million entity and overtaking BDO Stoy Hayward as the UK’s
fifth-largest professional services group in terms of revenue.

Barnes said the firm’s strategy for growing the business will
remain focused on the upper mid-market using a sector led approach.
“My watch-words are ‘clarity’ and ‘simplicity’, and often less is
more in terms of making sure we do a few things well,” he said.

“We have got to be very clear about the markets we are playing
in. That includes our core market, the upper mid-market, and then
being clear about the niche markets we want to exploit – financial
services, the Alternative Investment Market, recovery and
reorganisation, forensic and going after audits in the FTSE 250 and

Barnes stressed that Grant Thornton’s market approach won’t be
“indiscriminate” but focused on trying to achieve leadership in
certain sectors. “It seems to me not credible for firms to say, ‘we
are going to attack the FTSE 100’. Our approach is to go after a
particular sector in the FTSE 100 or FTSE 250 and persuade
companies that we are the best in that sector,” he said.

Global focus

The strength of the firm’s international network will become
increasingly important in extending Grant Thornton’s domestic
business, according to Barnes. “We live in a borderless business
environment so wherever a local firm is based, whether it is the
US, UK, France or Germany, they have to have an eye on what is
happening globally. You can’t service your domestic clients and
certainly can’t service international clients unless you have a
very strong cohesive international network,” he said.

Despite the existing concerns about the health of the UK
economy, Barnes said the firm’s current goal to post £500 million
by 2010 was “absolutely achievable”. “I think the next 12 months
are going to be difficult. I think if we invest in the right areas
and we make sure that we are properly investing in those areas that
flourish during a downturn then we can do it,” he said.

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