Partners’ average distributable profit fell to £700,000 (down 3.7% from £727,000 in 2014) but this was due in large part to the firm’s heavy investment across the organisation in enhanced technology, the refurbishment of most of its offices, the opening of a new office in Canary Wharf, recruitment of more than 4,500 people and a record number of 95 new equity partners (30% of whom were women and 11% Black and Minority Ethnic (BME).
All four service lines experienced strong growth in 2015. Assurance was up by 6.4% to £585m, as a result of successful tendering for audits. Wins included The Co-operative Bank, BBC, London Stock Exchange, Sainsbury’s and Sage.
The firm says it expects the growth to continue as it begins work on other new audits, including RBS, Royal Dutch Shell, RELX Group and Associated British Foods.
Assurance services experienced strong demand, particularly in financial accounting and forensic services which both grew by over 20%. EY reports that fierce competition in the market is driving significant innovation – clients want new data analytic solutions and additional assurance on areas, including the measurement of corporate integrity.
On the advisory front, lively growth in infrastructure, local public services, telecommunications, media, technology and life sciences helped push up business growth by 4.5% to £584m.
Transaction advisory services rose by 12.1% to £324m, while tax was up by 10% to £517m.
Financial services, which is EY’s largest industry sector, grew for the seventh consecutive year and is set to double in size over the coming months as a result of the RBS audit. Private equity, the middle market and regional businesses also all had another strong year.
EY UK chairman Steve Varley said that the firm had built “great momentum in the market”. “[We] believe that by maintaining this momentum we will continue to retain and attract the best talent to serve our clients. Our global strength continues to give us significant competitive advantage when combined with our deep local connections across the 21 offices in the UK.
“I am feeling very positive about the health of the UK economy. Improved market conditions have provided us with a great platform to further accelerate our investment in the business. We are seeing an increased demand from our clients for our services to help them drive growth and trade in both the UK and internationally.”
Varley also revealed that last year the UK firm invested over £30m on training in the UK and delivered over 800,000 learning hours to give its staff the skills they need to deliver in the changing marketplace.
“We are also looking at new ways to widen access to our profession by transforming our recruitment selection process for graduates, undergraduates and school leavers by removing academic qualifications as an exclusion filter from the 2016 initial application process,” he said.
“We want individuals from all backgrounds to have the opportunity to succeed at EY and believe in levelling the playing field.”
He paid tribute to the contribution made by EY’s staff over the year. “The business performance achieved this year is a result of the continued investment in the right talent to help our clients succeed – from our school leavers and graduates through to our experienced hires and partners.”
The UK practice contributed more than 11% of the firm’s worldwide revenues. Earlier this month EY reported annual global revenues of $28.7bn (£19bn) for 2015, an 11.6% increase over the previous financial year in local currency.