The combined firm will have annual revenue of more than £175 million ($348.5 million) and 1,500 employees. This includes 75 staff, seven partners and annual revenue of about €10 million ($16 million) from the Irish partner. OFC will change its name in autumn to Smith & Williamson Freaney.
Smith & Williamson managing director of tax and business services Jeremy Boadle said the combination is the firm’s first foray into an Irish firm. He also doesn’t expect operating across two different jurisdictions will represent too much of a challenge due to uniformity within the EU.
“What particularly attracted us to Oliver Freaney is that we knew them well. They have been part of the Nexia International network for longer then us,” he told the International Accounting Bulletin.
“They have a very complimentary client base and their clients were starting to require a deeper depth of corporate advisory, tax and finance services. From our perspective we have a number of Irish clients and I think the merger will help us extend our offerings to them.”
The Oliver Freaney combination is Smith & Williamson’s first major merger since it combined with fellow Nexia International UK member Solomon Hare in Bristol in 2005. However, Boadle said the firm has taken on a number of individual teams from other firms since then.
Mergers between member firms are encouraged by Nexia International, but as many Big Four firms become more integrated, Boadle said it is too early to see if this will become common practice in the mid-tier. “I suspect people are waiting to see how KPMG and Ernst & Young tackle the issues and what aspects arise out of combining these international firms into a single firm. I do think the litigation landscape will drive consolidation into single national practices,” he said.
While Smith & Williamson is keeping a close watch on opportunities to further build its client base internationally, it is not actively pursuing it. Boadle said: “Over the last 18 months, about 80 percent of our IPO work has originated from outside the UK, a substantial part of that coming from the BRIC economies. So I think the economic landscape will ensure that we maintain a strong focus on those economies and direct investment in those economies may be a result of that.”
Carolyn Canham and Arvind Hickman