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September 24, 2009

Partner decline down to merger

Grant Thornton UK has cited a recent merger, the recession and natural attrition as the root causes of a 17 percent partner decline in the 2008/09 financial year. The firm revealed its partnership dropped from 286 to 237 partners.

Grant Thornton chief executive Scott Barnes told the International Accounting Bulletin there was “nothing unusual” about the contracting partnership. He said one of the reasons was the firm’s merger with Robson Rhodes in 2007.

“If you look at all the mergers that take place between the big accounting firms there is usually a rationalisation programme after a year or two, so part of it is to do with that,” Barnes explained.

The firm had about 20 partners retire in 2009, although quickly replaced them with 15 new additions. A couple of the partners that retired will remain at the firm as consultants while some have become directors, Barnes said.

Another cause Barnes cited was the recession, with some partners departing to go to other organisations and other partners being asked to leave. Barnes said the mid-tier firm is still on the lookout for new partners and in the past month admitted two more.

Grant Thornton said the drop is not a sign of troubled times and the firm is not looking to make any significant cuts over the next year.

“We have been through that process of looking at the business to make sure that we are in good shape for the future,” Barnes said. “We are very confident of the future and are forecasting quite a significant rise in our profitability this year. I think the economy will improve and even if times continue to be tough over the next 12 months we are still expecting our profits to rise”.

Last month, UK mid-tier rival BDO Stoy Hayward announced 10 percent of the partners from its UK business would leave the firm.

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