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2015 has been an interesting year for the mid-tier market in Brisbane, with all firms experiencing Partner movements, predominantly across the core service lines of Audit, Business Services and Tax.
In a competitive current climate for Audit, it has still seen the greatest number of Partner moves amongst the mid-tier firms. This was followed by Business Services and Tax, with two Corporate Finance moves between mid-tier firms. Traditionally it takes Audit Partners significantly longer to transition work across to a new firm as opposed to other traditional service lines of Business Services and Tax Partners. This is primarily due to tight Audit agreements, Audit tendering cycles and Partner restraints. While smaller firms are tending to move away from offering Audit services altogether and the recent trend of Big 4 firms to undercut on Audit charges to secure desired clients, the mid-tier firms are still clearly seeing value within Audit to be making such investment.
Unsurprisingly the majority of moves this year have been Partners coming from rival mid-tier firms as opposed to the Big 4. What is something of a surprise is the small number of promotions that have occurred this year, with only three. This suggests a lack of organic talent sitting below Partner level within firms as well as practices not performing at sufficiently high levels to be able to carve-out a parcel of fees to provide promoted Partners with a starting fee base.
While there has been recent consolidation as well as changing of networks within the mid-tier firms in Sydney (Moore Stephens moving into Pitcher Partners) and Melbourne (Moore Stephens joining Shine Wing), there has yet to be any movement within the Brisbane market with the exception of the arrival of Chinese firm Shine Wing arriving in Brisbane with the acquisition of Tax Partner Stuart Cioccarelli from Deloitte. Given a number of Brisbane firms have been hit hard by recent departures locally and weakening of their national networks, it seems inevitable that consolidation is on the cards for the Brisbane mid-tier market within the next 12-18 months.