Grant Thornton: The disaster movie

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The country’s fifth-biggest accountancy firm is now eager to get back to normality after a turbulent few months that bear comparison with the Titanic in early 1912. 

However, there has to be a strong possibility that the country or at least those tempted by schadenfreude and with an interest in our profession would like to hear the unvarnished truth about what went wrong for a seemingly stable business with a track record of profitable growth.

Perhaps it's time for some enterprising film producers to commission a talent who is capable of writing the ultimate script, together with the director who can bring this instant IMAX classic to cinemas in record time.

Your humble servant would be willing to sacrifice the joys of professional life for a few months to take on this task and is already hard at work considering the options.

It might help to start with a quick résumé of some of the major events that will need to be depicted.

Four years ago, bucking the trend of centuries, a top firm of accountants finally appointed a female managing partner, CEO or whatever term you would like to use.

The accession of Sacha Romanovitch to the role was very commendable and a fantastic fillip for every woman in the profession, finally seeing a glass ceiling smashed to smithereens.

She promised a hopeful future for every partner in the firm, almost certainly having been voted in unanimously, since that is how these things tend to be done.

During 2018 the good ship GT found itself hitting iceberg after iceberg until its captain was forced to do a Captain Hook impression, walking the gangplank and diving headfirst into chilly oblivion.

Before her untimely departure, there was the high profile Patisserie Valerie audit disaster, which may well come back to haunt the firm in years to come, not to mention several other equivalent failures some of which have already emerged, while others could well be lying not too far beneath the surface.

Through most of this time, the partners and staff at the firm are able to comfort themselves with the knowledge that they were comfortably the fifth biggest firm in United Kingdom. However, that is likely to change unless the Competition and Markets Authority blocks the proposed merger of BDO and Moore Stephens.

This week, to cap what must indisputably be seen as an unfortunate period of woe, at a time when most of their rivals have been reporting a buoyant market and significantly boosted profits, GT is licking its wounds after a contraction, which apparently leaves its poor old partners receiving profit shares that have slipped to an average of under £375,000 each. Destitution beckons.

There’s no question that a John Grisham-type movie could be sold for millions, featuring questions of financial mismanagement, accusations of something close to proto-Marxism and the great Julius Caesar scene where a leader is stabbed in the back by some of her closest erstwhile allies.

Then we come to the casting. Without wishing to give away too many secrets, there is every prospect that Theresa May will be willing to take on the role of Romanovitch, given that she will have plenty of free time next year and is probably better able than anyone else in the country to understand the dilemmas faced by a leader who loses the confidence of her supporters.

At the moment, there is a difficulty in casting her successor, David Dunckley. While contractual obligations prevent a full-scale revelation, three leading contenders are all up for an even higher profile role in what will undoubtedly be next year’s blockbuster disaster movie: Brexit the Musical. In time, I am currently confident of being able to secure the services of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn.

More seriously, events at Grant Thornton this year should act as a warning to every practice, given that if the powers that be take their eyes off the ball, years of success can transform into disaster almost instantaneously.

For the good of the profession and those who need to make use of its services, one must hope that after all of the recent trials and tribulations the firm gets back on to an even keel very quickly, since healthy competition is needed to, if you’ll pardon the colloquial expression, keep all of the major players honest.

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By edhy
17th Dec 2018 08:07

Sure Accountants are not sans humor, perhaps other people are not able to understand Accountants' humor.

Well 4 big ships have been hitting icebergs but they are big enough to weather the storm until someone decides to use shredders.

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