“Even if we saw some slowdown at the end of 2018, to summarise, it has been a very strong year,” Peter Bodin, GTI’s CEO, said.
Bodin, who took over as CEO of the firm from Ed Nusbaum in January last year, told economia that the record figures resulted from “a deliberate strategy that we have worked on for quite some time”.
He thought that a huge factor, and one of the biggest investments for the firm, has been in people, leadership and culture – the firm bolstered its ranks by 3,085 people in 2018, a 6.3% increase, to take its total number of staff to 52,686.
The firm recorded overall growth of 9.4%, with over 20% coming from mergers and acquisitions, of which there were 24 deals from 10 separate firms.
The largest merger was in Japan, which added Yusei Audit Co and Yamada Partner Certified Public Tax Accountants to the network.
The firm also grew its presence in Africa where seven member firms increased their revenue by over 20% and it acquired the largest black-owned firm in South Africa, SizweNtsalubaGobodo. Meanwhile, member firm Grant Thornton Johannesburg left to join BDO to create South Africa’s largest mid-tier firm.
The firm saw higher than expected growth of 7.7% in Europe, despite uncertainty across the region from the ongoing disruption from Brexit negotiations.
The strong performance in Europe was despite a relatively disappointing 2018 for its UK business. GT UK’s profits were down 8% to £71.6m and revenue was also slightly reduced, from £500m to £491m, amid turmoil over the controversial departure of its CEO Sacha Romanovitch.
In October, a group claiming to represent 15 partners at the firm sent copies of Romanovitch’s performance review to newspapers, which claimed that she had “misdirected” the firm.
Bodin said, “I’ve worked with Sacha for a long time and she’s an outstanding leader. She has done a fantastic job for both the UK firm and globally. I have a huge respect for her leadership."
“Looking back, she and her team, and the partnership in the UK, have built a really good platform for the future.”
In November, the firm appointed Dave Dunckley as Romanovitch’s replacement who Bodin says is a “good choice to take on that platform.”
“I think they are on the right track now,” he added.
“A lot of the firms have worked to build strong presence in the market and that really plays out in Europe,” Bodin said.
“We have some strong leaders now that really take advantage of this in building and growing the business in Europe.”
Bodin pointed to GDP growth for Europe in the last year, and to optimism, which he senses has been quite high.
The figures were also boosted by mergers, including three in Germany – one of which Bodin thinks will also contribute to growth next year – along with increasing its capability in Berlin.
Bodin pointed to Grant Thornton Ireland, which with 24.4% growth over the last year, has gone from being a relatively small firm to one of the top 10 firms within the Grant Thornton International network.
“Despite growing uncertainty in many markets... from political upheaval and rising trade tensions, trading conditions have remained robust for clients around the world,” he said.
“Many have taken advantage of these favourable conditions to invest for the long term and prepare for the uncertain conditions that may lie ahead.
“We’re going to have a quite robust economy in 2019, but it’s going to be more challenging I think,” he added.