The adoption of the unified brand, which global chief executive Jean Stephens described as “this big moment in our history”, will allow the network to better communicate to the market its strengths and ability to serve clients in a co-ordinated way.
RSM has more than 100 member firms around the world.
“The world is becoming smaller and our clients need our services internationally on an ever increasing basis,” Stephens said. “Having an organisation that is fully aligned in terms of the way we look after our clients yet has different names did not suit our purpose.
“For our clients, it will signify that they are working with a service partner which is very global, very connected and a strong international organisation offering the same experience, policies and procedures whether they are working in Birmingham, Brussels or Botswana.”
RSM has been working towards overall international branding for around eight years but it has been a slow process.
The new RSM logo, which is blue green and grey, has been adapted from the logo used by US member McGladrey & Co. The grey apparently signifies “a relationship based on a solid, reliable foundation”, the green “a positive ideas-driven, responsive approach” and the blue “forward movement and the attainment of future goals”.
The firms says that the logo, together with the strapline, “the power of being understood”, “reinforces the global network’s dedication to helping clients feel understood and empowered to move forward with confidence”.
Laurence Long, Baker Tilly’s managing partner, said the firm will stay true to its roots and “ continue to maintain the core essence and legacy of the Baker Tilly brand”.
Baker Tilly bought RSM Tenon, the former UK member firm of the RSM International network, in 2013, creating a combined firm of around 3,500 partners and staff and a combined annual fee income of over £300m.
RSM International is the world’s 7th largest network of audit, tax and advisory firms and the 6th largest global provider of tax services. The network has fully independent member firms and correspondents in 112 countries. The member firms have a combined total of 37,443 staff including 3,279 partners in 732 offices.
Q&A with RSM CEO Jean Stephens
How long has the process taken?
It’s been a while. The RSM name was adopted by the network in 1993 and of course at that time it was the network name and then I’d say eight to ten years ago we started in earnest with persuading firms to add RSM to their local names. That’s where we stood for a while. Then of course as you know in the US McGladrey had some structural changes that they went through and they’ve been moving forward with building the McGladrey brand and then last year Baker Tilly joined us so I would say in the last two years we’ve been addressing it. Clearly the need was there from a market opportunity and over the last two years we have taken significant brand research and market research with an independent agency who really studied our brand, studied the McGladrey brand, studied other brands and our competitive brands, and through that process then myself and the other leaders in the organisation really looked at that and were able to come together and say the right decision for us moving forward will be RSM. This has been a step by step process and I think from the press release you can see that the tag line which MCGladrey has used over a number of years and that now with all member firms coalescing around that is in line with our global strategy and the strategic direction in which we are taking the organisation. Everything is aligning together very nicely so I am indeed very pleased.
How hard has it been to get everybody to give up their names?
These things are big decisions and of course it takes time. I think it’s a recognition of the fact that the world is becoming smaller and international companies are clients which need referring on an ever increasing basis. What can be served by an organisation that is fully aligned in terms of the way we serve our clients but yet has different names? It didn’t serve our purpose. So I think everyone then came together and recognised that. And of course they were fired up by the business opportunities. We can better communicate to the market our strengths and that’s what it’s all about. And everyone coalesced round that and said yes, we can clearly better communicate our strengths and our abilities to serve these clients in a coordinated way if we are seen by the market to be unified.
Is this a long term project to take on the Big Four, because they are the only truly integrated global businesses at the moment?
Well, I would say that the big four are structured exactly like us. They are independent entities. I think they are further along in brand development and so I think they are seen by the market as that. But in fact they are the same as they are separate legal entities everywhere in the world. We will continue to get closer and closer. We are already very, very close and that will continue and it will be with regard to how we go to market, how we serve clients, the experience they have when they work with us so that if they are working Birmingham, Brussels or Botswana, our procedures, policies are the same. And that then adds value to those clients. So in terms of our client base, we want to work on what is sometimes called the middle market space, those larger companies, growth-oriented internationally active companies, and we’ll continue to grow and progress. That’s on top of, of course, the strong national base that all our member firms have, that will continue.
Do you think clients will be put off by the name change?
No. First of all, I don’t really think that it’s as big a deal to clients. I think it will signify to them that their client servers, their partners that they work with, are globally connected. And as they are going more and more international (and if they are not international now and they are growing and dynamic, then they are thinking about it), this is a positive. In terms of our client base already, it will be a sign they are very global, very connected, we knew they were part of a strong international organisation, now we see that and they’ve reconfirmed that and that would be great.
So RSM International will no longer exist?
RSM International Ltd is the company that administers the network so that will continue. Our structure isn’t changing. We are a limited company and our members around the world will continue to be part of that. Our go to market name will everywhere be RSM.
Are you staying in the UK?
Yes. No plans to change. We are still here and I’m still CEO. I love it and this is a big moment in our history so I’m just enjoying it and looking forward to the next stage of our growth.
How is the business going at the moment?
It’s going very well. We’re in conference season right now and I’m meeting all our member firms. I’ve just got back from Buenos Aires where we were holding our South American conference. Everyone was very positive, very dynamic. Some sectors are growing more vibrantly than others but everyone is very positive. We have a very clear direction on how we are building and where we are building and the expectations on our firms. They are all very active and in the process and very excited about it. I think our direction is clear. The focus is on growth, on quality and how we provide the highest level of service to our clients and on taking what we can add to in a more proactive way to the market. And that includes our brand. And I look at it that this move in our brand supports us in our ability to execute against our strategy and our strategic direction. So that’s the exciting part of it, that we are going to be able to move faster with regard to what our global objectives are in reaching out to the markets.
So it’s all about the brand – there is nothing else changing?
No, but this is a big deal. It is of course happening on October 26th although we are announcing that we are doing it and of course we will be going live October 26th which is RSM World Day and all of our members around the world will do that and then you will see a new face to RSM. It’s big deal. It’s immense for our strategy, it’s immense for where we are going, it’s immense for RSM as a network and I think from there we will just go to the next stage of development.
What’s your vision for where you will be in five years’ time?
We have a very clear plan of where we will be in five years. We will be significantly larger, we’ll be significantly more active internationally with regard to our client base. RSM will be a name that is known by the clients and prospects, to companies and the market, if you will. And in ever increasing places. By that time, they will know who we are and what value we provide and we will be the provider of choice to those type of companies.
Do you think you have been held back by not having a high enough profile?
I certainly think that having the different brands has inhibited us. I think we are well known already, I think we are well known for quality, I think we are known as a serious organisation. In some markets we are very well known as RSM but I think collectively there’s room for improvement and I think this will take us there.