Raymond Doherty 15 Oct 2018 03:41pm

Sacha Romanovitch to stand down as Grant Thornton CEO

In a surprise announcement, Grant Thornton today revealed that CEO Sacha Romanovitch is to step down this year

Caption: Romanovitch has led the firm since 2015

Romanovitch, who in 2015 became the first woman to lead a UK top six accountancy firm, said that the decision was made following discussions with the Grant Thornton board.

Earlier this month a group claiming to represent the views of 15 partners at Grant Thornton sent copies of Romanovitch’s performance review to newspapers, which claimed that she had “misdirected” the firm.

In response, Romanovitch told the Times, “It felt horrible” but that her job was not “to be popular”.

Grant Thornton is also currently embroiled in the accounting scandal surrounding Patisserie Valerie. The firm audits the embattled café chain, which had its FD arrested last week and revealed the existence of “secret overdrafts.”

Upon being appointed the firm’s leader, Romanovitch made the bold decision to change Grant Thornton into a shared enterprise. It was a significant move away from the traditional partner-owned structure. In theory it meant that all of the firm’s 4,500 employees will have a say and a stake in how it is run.

In a statement today announcing her plans to step down by the end of the year, Romanovitch said, “As we enter the next phase of our plans […] we have agreed that the time is right for a new CEO to take the firm forward.

“It has been a privilege and an honour to lead this firm. I am proud of what we have achieved in the market, with our people and with our clients, breaking the mould in so many ways. We have attracted so many talented people and great clients to our firm due to our purpose and what we stand for,” she added.

Romanovitch joined Grant Thornton in 1994 before moving to the London office in 1996 where she gained significant experience working with larger listed companies both on audit and public reporting. Following a sabbatical during 1998 she returned to London in 1999 and was appointed partner in 2001. Shortly afterwards she became office managing partner of the London audit and tax practice.

An advocate for increased social mobility within both the profession and wider business, Romanovitch is chair of the Patron Group for Access Accountancy, the profession-wide initiative to increase diversity.

In its most recent financial results, Grant Thornton reported post-tax profits for 2017 up 10.3% to £75m and average distributable profit per partner up nearly 7% to £407,000.

However, overall revenue is down by 6.4% from £534m to £500m as the UK’s fifth largest firm has reshaped its client portfolio. It says it had replaced 20% of profits by exiting certain streams of business and investing in others that meet its business strategy’s objectives of shaping a vibrant economy.

Ed Warner, chair of the Partnership Oversight Board at Grant Thornton UK, said, “In Sacha’s four years leading Grant Thornton her focus has enabled the firm to establish a distinctive position in the market. […] Crucially, Sacha has established a platform which will drive sustainable and profitable growth.”

“Following discussions with Sacha, the Board has agreed that a new CEO is the logical next step to create long term sustainable profits for the firm. We are grateful for the innovative and inspiring work Sacha has done and will work with her to support the newly elected CEO and ensure a smooth transition.”

In June 2017 Romanovitch received a huge endorsement from Grant Thornton employees who voted her in as one of the highest rated CEOs in the UK, with an approval rating of 88%.