A recent IR Global event highlighted the importance of growing firms developing a ‘long term’ relationship with the corporate service provider. Hosted by Paul Beare, the roundtable event brought together a number of IR Global network firms to talk through the benefits of delivering ‘full life care’ to clients, and how to successfully differentiate your firm in a crowded marketplace.
And it’s a marketplace that holds rewards for good corporate service firms that can deliver a full suite of services to clients, whatever stage they may be at. While lawyers and other specialists may excel in a narrow field of expertise, well connected and resourced corporate services firms can act as midwife (from formation and set up), through the primary years of growth to a trusted teacher, offering valuable advice borne of experience working with broad set of clients.
“As corporate service providers we all offer a wide range of services, from payroll and accounting to set up and management; so the client may be confused sometimes,” said Roland Rompelberg (Netherlands). “So we always try to emphasise that we will deliver what they need at any one time and we can grow with them.”
Damian Malone (Ireland) agreed. “We all share the same ambition – to help the clients and to grow.
“We all understand what our clients need, and we can all bring a set of skills to bear on the process.”
And it’s clear that the IR Global network of firms is ideally placed to work with clients on a whole range of services.
But what exactly can accounting firms bring to the process of incorporating and setting up legal entities that others can’t? After all, in many jurisdictions the instinct is to simply call the lawyers to handle that particular job. But in some places that is beginning to change.
“Certainly in Australia, most formations are now done by accountants,” said Ricardo Raso (Australia). “Fortunately we’re favoured partners for some law firms and we certainly some world-leading companies as clients. We can provide local direct services for lots of big businesses in Australia as well as peripheral accounting.”
Dunstan Magro (Malta) said he felt the scope of work depends on the culture of the client. “There’s no hard and fast rule. It usually depends on the outreach of the firm and how well they do that. There is a difference in the way accountants and lawyers are wired: there is a distinction between the two professions. Accountants would rather invest heavily in a client, while lawyers tend to see clients relationship as a one-off, transactional one.”
Accountants, the panel agreed, are more likely to provide services on an ongoing basis. “So we need to communicate with clients on what exactly the need but understanding that those needs will change over time,” said Magro. “And we are well placed to deliver on that.”
Indeed it’s fair to say that the quicker a client engages with the right adviser the better, given that accounting firms are experienced in company formation and setting up the basics: banking, payroll and so on.
There does still exist, however, the perception that the bigger the firm, the better the service. But Wissam Abousleiman (Lebanon) made a compelling point. “The way I see it is simple: I believe we are not just 10 people or 15 people in a particular individual firm; in fact we are 5,000 people across the IR Global network. It’s a large community of professionals that I trust and what we have is even more valuable than what a large audit firm can offer. They are efficient machines that process work; but for us this is more meaningful work.
“And that’s where we have the edge: the drive to do good work for clients, to act responsibly on their behalf, to deliver good advice over the long term.”