The top 30 accountancy firms for 2018 revealed

Canary Wharf
By The CA magazine

11 December 2018

Research by The CA magazine has revealed the top 30 UK and Scottish accountancy firms in 2018.

Against a backdrop of heightened levels of change and uncertainty across the accounting sector, it’s clear that those firms that fail to prepare early or adapt are at risk of being left behind. Warnings over advanced technologies, skill shortages and greater complexity in business resonate widely, as the concept of the 'fourth industrial revolution' becomes something of a mantra across the sector.

The Big Four accountancy firms continue to dominate the UK and global markets, despite moves to create more competition. There has been no real shift in market share, no new entrants and no desire for audit committees to look beyond.

Top 30 UK Accountancy Firms ranked by revenue

Continuing last year's commitment to technology solutions, PwC has retained the top spot in the UK rankings. The firm has invested in cloud-based technologies such as Google for Work, Salesforce and Workday in the last year alone.

Similarly, EY has developed a Capital Allowances Automatic Review Tool (CAART), which uses machine learning to establish correct tax codes and, supposedly, can do 15 hours’ work in three seconds. In August, the firm committed to investing $1bn globally in new technology solutions and innovations over the next two financial years.

Earlier this year, Grant Thornton announced that it would not be bidding for FTSE 350 audits in the future and cited the difficulty of taking on the Big Four’s dominance in this area, just eight months after winning the audit of FTSE 250 pub chain JD Wetherspoon from 34-year-incumbent PwC.

The other mid-tier contender, BDO, will not be withdrawing from the market, even though Mitie, the audit client it won from Deloitte last year, is no longer in the FTSE 250. BDO has retained its position as the number one auditor for AIM clients boasting 144, while KPMG has 139 and Grant Thornton 120.

Grant Thornton UK30/06/17499.9
Smith & Williamson30/04/18267
Moore Stephens UK31/12/17197.7
Saffery Champness31/03/1886.87
Haines Watts Group31/03/1884
Crowe UK31/03/1880.98
MHA MacIntyre Hudson31/03/1859.55
Wilkins Kennedy30/04/1853.9
FRP Advisory30/04/1852.9
Begbies Traynor30/04/1852.4
UHY Hacker Young30/04/1852.1
Kingston Smith30/04/1851.7
TaxAssist Accountants31/12/1739.61
HW Fisher & Co.30/04/1831.7
Price Bailey31/03/1827
Armstrong Watson31/03/1824.45
Bishop Fleming27/05/1823.62
Duncan & Toplis31/03/1823.58

Top 30 Accountancy Firms (Scotland) ranked by fee earners

In Scotland, KPMG has held securely to the top spot earned last year and become the first of the Big Four to push staff numbers into four figures. There has been no change to the ranking elsewhere in the top five with Johnston Carmichael again joining EY, PwC and Deloitte at the top of the chart.

Campbell Dallas, RSM, Anderson Anderson & Brown, Scott-Moncrieff and French Duncan also feature in the Scottish top 10 by fee earners.

Johnston Carmichael5652465045.5
Campbell Dallas3026328119
Anderson Anderson & Brown1720625321.8
French Duncan LLP1517819312
Grant Thornton6151181n/d
Chiene & Tait101221358.08
Wylie & Bisset111121376.9
Henderson Loggie1510613110.64
Saffery Champness1184828.88
Milne Craig880887
Martin Aitken & Co.963805.5
Thomson Cooper962645
Whitelaw Wells858573.4
William Duncan956645.1
Alexander Sloan84742n/d
Hall Morrice534443.4
Hardie Caldwell 43428n/d

Change on the horizon?

New technology is already having a huge impact as data analytics, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence (AI) change both what and how firms audit and increasingly force them to justify the value they add to what is fast becoming a commoditised process.

The skills implications of this technological shift for the profession are not to be underestimated. From concerns about what this means for accountancy careers, to the pressing need to recruit experienced individuals with relevant data analytics skills, the war for talent is a reality as firms try to second-guess the skills make-up of the workforce of the future

However the fallout from the Carillion debacle has reignited attempts to reform the audit market for the UK’s largest plcs, against a backdrop of multi-million pound fines for audit failures. In June, PwC was issued with a record £6.5m fine for the conduct of its audit of BHS and KPMG was fined £3.2m for its audit of scandal-hit insurance software company Quindell.

In October, the Competition and Markets Authority announced that it would be investigating the sector and the Kingman Review of the Financial Reporting Council’s role has also added audit market reform to its remit.

Predictions for 2019

Find out more

This research was undertaken by The CA magazine. Read the full report in the November 2018 In Practice supplement of The CA magazine.


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