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Sydney Mid-tier Market Update 2015

2015 HAS SEEN a considerable change within the mid-tier market in Sydney with high profile changes in senior leadership, networks and strategic direction. Of the largest mid-tier firms, Grant Thornton saw Insolvency & Restructuring Partner Greg Keith replace Robert Quant as the firms CEO. Rival BDO saw Chris Brant, who was the CEO of both the Sydney and Melbourne practices stood down in June. Audit Partner Grant Saxon has taken on Managing Partner responsibilities for the Sydney office with the firm seeing the CEO position as an unnecessary further level of management.

Findex’s acquisition of Crowe Horwath at the end of 2014 has taken shape during the year as leaders of the Findex group have started to exert influence over the firm. This has seen a major restructure of Crowe Horwath’s senior management team across all of the major offices in the country. In the biggest change to the mid-tier landscape this year, Moore Stephens (being the larger of the two entities) effectively completed a reverse takeover of Pitcher Partners. Rob Southwell will be the firm’s Managing Partner with a combined Partnership group of 27 Partners.

From a Big 4 Private perspective, Deloitte has had leadership change of their Business Advisory Services practices in both Sydney and Parramatta. Gaile Pearce and David Black, both Audit Partners, are leading these practices respectively.

The geographic expansion into Western Sydney has also been a continuing trend across a number of firms, predominantly the Big 4 firms Private practices. KPMG returned to Western Sydney with a Private Enterprise focused practice lead by David Pring. Deloitte have increased their offering in their Parramatta office with the addition of specialist Tax Partners, across the areas of Indirect Tax, R&D Tax and Transfer Pricing. PwC also promoted a Private Clients Partner, Keenan Muir in the Norwest practice. A number of the mid-tier firms are also considering geographic expansion into Western Sydney as a growth strategy, particularly with the increasing momentum behind the proposed second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.

Tax, Business Services and Audit accounted for 70 percent of the Partner moves. Unsurprisingly the majority of moves this year were from rival mid-tier firms, with only one Partner moving from the Big 4 (Madeleine Mattera, Audit at Grant Thornton). While there has been a high number of Partner moves in Sydney, all indications point to there being further Partner moves before the end of the calendar year.

Promotion and recognition of female Partners is something that has been a major focus of the Big 4 firms for the last 18 months. The percentage of female Partners within the Big 4 firms nationally ranges between 17% (EY) and 23% (Deloitte). In comparison there has been very little discussion around promotion of female Partners within the mid-tier firms, highlighted by female Partners within these firms only equating for 12%.

In a positive sign for the Sydney mid-tier market, there were nine promotions this year across the mid-tier firms. This highlights a strong level of talent within the next generation, as well as their firms recognising that if they don’t offer Partnership they will be poached by rival firms. The trend of promoting organic talent is also a reflection of ageing Partnerships within the mid-tier firms and the need to implement succession planning initiatives.

Carlyle Kingswood Global is a world leading executive search consultancy serving the legal, accounting and advisory professions. Our consultants are trusted advisors to professional services firms and corporations who are seeking to strategically hire and acquire key Partners, in-house legal and finance teams and merger targets. Our international network includes offices in Australia, Hong Kong/PRC, Singapore, UK and USA.

2015 Partner Moves