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Accountancy giants want M&A experts

19/06/14

The biggest audit and accountancy firms around the globe, including EY and PwC, are keen to bring in workers with M&A experience in order to rival banking institutions with established processes in this potentially lucrative line of business.

A host of experts recently told the Financial News that professional services companies are keen to snatch a slice of the action from investment banks, even if it means carrying out expensive lateral hiring plans.

EY, KPMG and PwC have all made notable appointments in London in recent weeks and more are expected over the course of 2014.

Dougald Middleton, EY’s head of lead advisory, said he was looking to double the number of partners in his company's advisory business in the next three to four years - there are 24 people currently involved in this sector within the organisation.

This chimes with comments from Bill Michael, head of financial services at KPMG, who said the trend of professional services firms moving into M&A is still in its "infancy". He expects hiring plans to accelerate rapidly.

Senior switches in the past month include Jamie Heath, a partner at Centerview who joined EY, Richard Gostling, the head of business services at Goldman Sachs now with KPMG and Jefferies’ real estate chief Simon Hampton, snapped up by PwC.

Kevin Burrows, head of financial services at PwC, said: “You can see the sorts of hires that we are making. We’re never going to be at the top end of deals, we’re always going to be there for small and medium deals – but there’s a feeling that we can go toe to toe with anybody in that space.”

Professional services firms have also made efforts to move into the legal sector of late as they attempt to diversify their portfolio.

For senior finance professionals, there are several reasons why a move to an audit organisation could be attractive.

Salaries are often cash-based rather than relying on stocks or shares, meaning basic remuneration can be higher. Furthermore, less emphasis is based on performance-related bonuses.

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