However, in a surprising move, the fast-growing AIM-listed company has chosen Deloitte to take over the role. This runs counter to the current pressure on listed companies to move away from the Big Four and break up their dominance of the audit market.
According to a company statement, Interquest decided to change auditors after eight years to comply with the Auditing Practices Board’s Ethical Standard on Auditing because InterQuest founder and executive chairman Gary Ashworth had recently married one of Grant Thornton’s tax partners.
“We invited Deloitte and a firm in the next bracket (fifth to eighth largest) to tender,” InterQuest finance director Michael Joyce told economia. “The fees were similar but the calibre of people at Deloitte appeared higher than at the other firm.
“They offered some ‘extras’ such as access to specialist partners and free consultations with industry specialist partners plus better alumni events.”
Last year InterQuest restructured and rebranded its businesses and established an international business from scratch in the London office. This followed the opening of its first overseas office, in Singapore, at the end of 2011. However, Joyce added that Deloitte’s international reach was not a particularly persuasive factor in the decision.
The dominance of the Big Four in the listed company audit market has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, both in the UK and in Europe. There are several ongoing investigations and proposals for change are due out later this year from the UK Competition Commission and the European Parliament.