Why haven’t more firms embraced advisory services?

The revenue opportunity in advisory work is huge, and it’s more sustainable as a business. But the number of firms that have successfully achieved this holy grail is still very small: Arguably, only 5 to 15 percent have even come close).

One of the major problems is that ‘advisory’ is an extremely poorly defined concept. What it actually means in practice varies hugely depending on who is offering it and who is receiving it. And if you don’t know what it’s going to look like in the end, how do you even start trying to deliver it?

The good news is that it’s actually pretty simple, and most accountants already have the necessary skills and knowledge. It is, however, a question of mindset. This interview between Andy North and Peter Hickey, Founder and President of MAUS, offers some brilliantly simple words of advice.

Being an “advisor” is more about the questions you ask than the answers you provide. “Think of yourself as a sports coach,” says Peter. The goals you’re trying to achieve should be set by your client – and your objective is to help them break them down and hold them accountable.

And what tips does Peter have for the accountant struggling to make sense of all this? “Start with succession planning.” The conversations you can have with a client as they start to consider their exit from their business can create clear opportunities for you to help.

Accenture acquires award-winning global advisory firm

Accenture has acquired Parker Fitzgerald, a strategic advisor and consulting partner to leading global financial institutions, further enhancing the business and technology capabilities within its Finance and Risk practice. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2008 in response to the global financial crisis, Parker Fitzgerald advises financial services companies on financial and non-financial risk, regulation and financial technology. The firm provides strategic advice, independent assurance and market-leading solutions to help clients navigate risks, reduce operational complexity and improve their overall risk-adjusted performance.

Parker Fitzgerald’s advisory and assurance expertise and regulatory experience will complement Accenture’s consulting and technology capabilities and strengthen Accenture’s client response to the evolving risk landscape in financial services.

“Financial services companies continue to contend with the impact of economic and geopolitical uncertainties, regulatory challenges and digital transformation,” said Tara Brady, who leads Accenture’s Financial Services practice in the UK “Parker Fitzgerald has a successful track record helping clients navigate ever-increasing disruption and uncertainty, and the combination of their risk advisory and assurance expertise with Accenture’s consulting and digital capabilities will be a strong differentiator, enhancing our services to UK financial institutions.”

Scott Vincent, founder and CEO of Parker Fitzgerald said, “Helping clients optimise their performance in a rapidly evolving risk environment remains our utmost priority. Accenture’s tremendous scale and scope, coupled with their data- and technology-focused expertise in finance and risk, will enable us to expand our geographic reach and provide high-quality services to an even-broader client base.”

Peter Beardshaw, who leads Accenture’s Financial & Risk practice in the UK, said, “Parker Fitzgerald’s skills, approach to financial risk management and long-standing regulatory relationships are at the heart of the risk management agenda and will enable us to provide clients with an even greater level of risk and assurance services and solutions.”

About Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialised skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions — underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network — Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 482,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives.

Clifton Asset Management plans series of targeted acquisitions

Clifton Asset Management has acquired Plan For Life Wealth Management for an undisclosed fee. The deal is the first in a series of “targeted acquisitions” planned by the company to create a network of small financial advisory businesses.

The firm said its business model aims to “disrupt the established advisory firm acquisition model by creating targeted, geographic centres of excellence”.

These regional centres will be run by Clifton Asset Management through its subsidiary Clifton Wealth Partnership.

Each regional centre will enable smaller firms in the area to compete better with larger rivals by providing access to back office services, technology and products under the Clifton umbrella.

Clifton said IFA firms will be able to join the centres either through acquisition or via appointed representative (AR) status.

Targeted Acquisitions

Clifton Asset Management group financial planning director, Anthony Carty, said of the first acquisition: “Plan For Life is a great business which has been running since 2011 in a region not known as a ‘hub’ for financial services.

“We aim to build on the excellent work that Plan For Life has delivered thus far, with a package of services to enhance the customer journey still further.

“These services include our own low-cost investment platform, in-house DFM model portfolios and highly-interactive client portal.

“We have spent years developing our capability, both with resources and technically. We believe we have a model which will appeal to advisers who simply want to concentrate on providing the best outcomes for their clients.

“This is the first in a series of targeted acquisitions.”

If you would like to find out more information about Clifton Asset Management, please visit


How EY is innovating financial services corporate finance

Growth, development, innovation and opportunity: these four words perfectly encapsulate the working environment within EY’s Financial Services Corporate Finance team in London.

“Our growth rate at the moment is incredible,” says Ian Cosgrove, Partner and Head of Financial Services Corporate Finance at EY. “In the last 18 months our deal volume has doubled.”

Ian’s Corporate Finance team started expanding in earnest in 2015, increasing its coverage to include FinTech and asset servicing, and hiring financial services debt advisory specialists to sit alongside M&A advice professionals. Ian expects to keep recruiting at the same rate over the next two years to reflect the market demand.

“We’re constantly bringing in talent to help execute the expanded pipeline of work we’ve got, and to make sure we are well resourced to keep up with the pace of demand,” he says.

“A strong part of our identity is innovating and thinking ahead to what corporate finance should look like in the years to come,” explains Ian.

This desire to be innovative and stand out from the competition is reflected in the fact that Ian’s Corporate Finance team has brought M&A and debt advice under one umbrella. Many other professional services firms as well as boutique advisory houses splits these two services.

“This gives us an edge,” says Ian. “In many sectors, there are difficulties around talking about one side of your balance sheet and not being able to discuss the other side. We can to the entire capital structure and bring a holistic view to clients. It enables us to think about the bigger picture; we can ask ‘what is on your agenda and what are you looking to achieve?’ We don’t just have a single product, but a broader solution.”

The market is moving at a rapid pace in terms of embracing digital technology. The Financial Services Corporate Finance team is looking to harness technology to improve analytics, find new sources of capital, and streamline the whole M&A process. “Any client embarking on a corporate finance transaction knows it’s a long and intensive journey. We’re investing in technology to speed that up because momentum is important, while at the same time improving the quality of the deal,” says Ian. “Also, we are developing a tool that will use Artificial Intelligence to improve our ability to match those looking for capital with those who have it.”

The team is also using technology to take clients’ underlying data and present it back to them in new and insightful ways. “Not just in a transaction context, but to help them make other business decisions too,” says Ian.

Kaidi Kuusk, an Assistant Director in Financial Services Corporate Finance at EY, describes her work in Ian’s team as “incredibly exciting, fast-paced and innovative”. Kaidi joined EY’s graduate programme in 2008 and enjoyed fast career progression to her current rank. She says her rapid rise reflects a working environment that encourages career development.

Kaidi has been supported in her career by both the Corporate Finance team and the broader Transaction Advisory business, and says she enjoys the variety of her job. “I’ve been able to get involved in transactions in an accelerated way, so I work on anything from banking to payments to some niche insurance sectors, and with clients ranging from founder-owned companies to major corporations,” she adds.

She likes the fact that she sees transactions through from start to finish and can therefore build relationships with key stakeholders and really get under the skin of businesses to help solve their most complex challenges. “There’s also a lot of deep sector knowledge and expertise within EY’s Financial Services business, so I can quickly learn a lot about a variety of sectors and transactions,” she says.

Kaidi has recently taken on a secondment opportunity at EY. Working in the firm’s Global Banking Leadership team, she is helping to grow the banking and advisory transaction business. “This came about through conversations in my review. I was encouraged to take advantage of the breadth of areas at the firm and improve my understanding of how it works,” she says.

For those interested in joining EY, there is a clear, structured path to improve knowledge. “The Corporate Finance team in our financial services business is a small, supportive family, with lots of opportunity for progression,” says Ian. “There are a range of learning opportunities, delivered in our own team and across the firm, and covering sector-based topics as well as core corporate finance skills, such as valuation and modelling,” adds Kaidi. As EY staff progress their careers, there are plenty of opportunities to learn, collaborate and have fun achieve within the firm.

And this cross-firm collaboration extends into the workplace. “If you’ve got a regulatory or accounting problem for example, there’s someone a few desks down who can sit and have a coffee with you to explain it,” says Ian. “Working at EY is all about collaboration. It’s why we deeply value our connections with everyone – clients, like-minded organisations and individuals, and each other.”

All of this highlights the strong, inclusive people culture within the firm. EY is proud to have a number of employee networks, which celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion, and provided further opportunities for its employees to connect with like-minded people from other teams. It’s one of the main reasons why people choose to join and remain at EY – and the experience they have lasts a lifetime.