Gravita acquires Carter Backer Winter and Davis Grantby
Challenger firm Gravita has scaled the accountancy league table and broken into the top 30 after welcoming established firms Carter Backer Winter and Davis Grant into the fold.
Backed by private equity investor Tenzing, Gravita has now welcomed Carter Backer Winter (CBW) and Davis Grant into the fold as it takes on the highly competitive consolidator market sweeping through the profession, with whispers of more deals in the coming months.
Caroline Plumb, the CEO of Gravita, told AccountingWEB that both firms are a good fit for the consolidator because they have a track record of having high-quality clients, they have a strong reputation for employer experience, and share similar clients in financial services, property and technology.
“Both firms share the view that investing in people is paramount to long-term success, and we’re thrilled that Gravita will offer a new platform to take team training, development and overall employee experience to the next level,” said Plumb.
The acquisition of CBW and Davis Grant increases the firm’s headcount by 65% to 390-plus and further grows the firm’s desired clients at the established end of the small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) market.
Cohesion and coherence
While the firms are coming under the Gravita umbrella, and will eventually be rebranded, Plumb sees the relationship more as a partnership than a merger or an acquisition. “It is genuinely about trying to build a common future,” she said.
As such, Plumb points to Paul Berlyn, the B in ABG, as being a critical part of Gravita’s leadership team and remains with the firm as a partner and managing partner. Plumb said the same will be the case for Peter Winter, the managing partner at CBW.
Speaking about joining Gravita, Winter said: “It is clear that Gravita has the right team and platform to ensure that what we’ve built over the past 65 years continues to succeed and evolve.”
Plumb said this collaborative approach is a bit different to the traditional model of consolidators “which is command and control”.
“It’s all about having the mentality of one firm with one agenda,” Plumb said. She explained, for example, that they have one partner group that they have an all-hands call with and they have the entire firm on the call on the first Friday of every month. “I think that focus on cohesion and coherence are important hallmarks of what we want to build.”
Plumb said the next step as part of combining the firms is aligning values. From there they’ll look to bring together service line teams like accounts, audit, outsourcing and tax. “So rather than it being geographically run office by office, it is genuinely about bringing those teams together for common training, common processes, common software and common approaches. That all helps integration.”
With CBW recognised recently as one of the UK’s best mid-sized companies to work for by Best Companies, Gravita is looking at today’s announcement as bolstering its standings as an investor in people. “We would like to be known as the employer brand in the industry. When you focus on that mid-market, you can offer people really interesting careers; you can genuinely make a difference with clients and technology,” said Plumb.
Ambitions to build a top 20 firm
After making a splash in the market with the acquisition of household names like Propel and CBW, Gravita has its sights set on building a top 20 firm. The consolidator sees an opportunity to achieve that ambition by differentiating itself by being a tech-driven firm focused on mid-market.
Plumb said that with a wave of private equity-backed consolidators coming into the market (10 at her last count), she expects the differentiator will be building a “sense of togetherness and a sense of one firm. But I think not everybody wants to do that necessarily. For some it is more of a land grab.”
And with more consolidation in the market being inevitable, there are likely to be more deals on the horizon for Gravita, too. “If you’re a managing partner of a smaller or mid-tier firm, you’re probably getting a million people calling you up,” said Plumb. “But I hope the people that are exploring those conversations might pick up the phone to us as well.”