Alliott Group is an association of more than 170 independent accounting and law firms.
Do you foresee competition emerging between the two groups as the Big 4 expand in the U.K. and PwC opens a firm in Washington, D.C.?
From what I can see, the Big 4 are more focused on selectively picking off areas of law that complement their existing services. Areas that are vulnerable include inter alia and immigration, which sit tidily with expat tax work, and employment law, which ties in nicely with HR consulting, compliance, commercial contracts and due diligence. It’s not difficult to imagine the Big 4 starting to offer a one-stop shop service. Competition is healthy, and for clients it makes sense – they can deal with a single vendor, realize greater efficiencies and be more confident that ‘the left-hand knows what the right hand is doing.’ Alliott Group has been a multidisciplinary alliance since 2004, so we are firm believers in the benefits clients can enjoy as a result of independent firms of accountants and lawyers working together closely – they are natural partners and able to meet the total needs of the client.
You’ve been involved in Alliott Group for over 20 years. How has the organization evolved?
Alliott Group has been through much change in 20 years – we are now in over 60 countries and have 25 member firms in North America alone. There is now a very solid membership core. There have been the inevitable growing pains that any expanding business goes through, but the end result is that we have become a commercially focused organization that is aligned with the needs of growing professional firms and their clients. Just as important is our success in retaining and developing an underlying group culture that emphasizes the importance to business of strong interpersonal relationships between professional people at all levels of the firm.
What are your plans for expanding geographically?
I always watch with interest as some international associations of independent firms bring in new member firms nearly every month. You have to wonder how rigorous the due diligence process is behind some of these appointments. Organic, sustainable growth is of greater interest to us. While one of our objectives is to have an accounting and law firm member presence in every U.S. state and in every major market worldwide, there has to be a strong business case for expansion. Specific regions we are targeting for further growth include North and South America and Africa. However, firms have to understand from the start what it means to be an Alliott Group member firm. We will continue to hand-pick member firms based on the needs of our member firms’ clients.
Are emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI and data analytics an opportunity or a threat for the accounting profession?
The efficiencies generated by new technologies present threats to specific service lines provided by accounting (and law) firms – however, they will disrupt all industries. Most of these technologies, however, are not quite there yet. Technologies based on predictive analytics are impressive, but we are still some years away from computers being smarter than specialist (human) accountants! New technologies are going to be at the centre of accountancy and law services in the future. Accountants need to embrace these changes and collaborate with technology businesses so that they can connect with tomorrow’s business leaders and the next generation of digital native accountants. Firms need to work out now how they fit into tomorrow’s client world, what their competitive differentiator is, and dare I say it, how they will add value rather than provide traditional services that look set to be commoditized.
How do you see Alliott Group changing 20 years from now?
We are in an unprecedented era of change – the ground is shifting under our feet on so many levels, with technology changing business models, people and the way professional services are procured. We feel that our vision, strong leadership and strategic plan means that we are well equipped to thrive in a market sector with a clear need for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Alliances such as ours will continue to provide an alternative, attractive model for sourcing high-calibre advisory services. In our view, too many associations are living on past glories and failing to learn from what is happening in the wider business world. Alliott Group and our members need to be bold in their thinking and to embrace wider opportunities to collaborate. We plan to disrupt rather than be disrupted.
Article by Inside Public Accounting, the competitive advantage for accounting firm leaders since 1987. First published on 7 March 2018 - http://blog.insidepublicaccounting.com/2018/03/ipa-spotlight-on-colin-farmer-alliott-group/