Larger accountancy firms are doing better

The Big Four - KPMG, PwC (above), EY and Deloitte - reported earning the highest average revenue per employee of $142,000, more than double that of micro firms, which earn just $68,000 per employee.
The Big Four - KPMG, PwC (above), EY and Deloitte - reported earning the highest average revenue per employee of $142,000, more than double that of micro firms, which earn just $68,000 per employee.PHOTO: PWC

They are more positive about business outlook and more productive, census finds

When it comes to accountancy, it looks like bigger is better.

An inaugural census of accountancy practices here has found that larger firms are not only more positive about their business outlook, they are more productive too.

The census conducted by the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) found the market is dominated by the "Big Four" - KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte - which together have 67 per cent of market share. The remaining 33 per cent of the market is shared among 697 smaller firms.

Overall, larger companies are faring better, the census found.

Of 265 accountancy firms that responded, all of those with at least 31 employees expect revenue growth next year from work performed in Singapore. Among small firms - those with 10 to 30 employees - 82 per cent expect revenue growth from work done in Singapore.

The proportion drops to 62 per cent among micro accountancy firms with fewer than 10 employees.

The contrast is sharper when asked about work performed outside Singapore. The Big Four all expect revenue growth in this area but only 32 per cent of small companies and 16 per cent of micro firms expect increased turnover from work performed abroad.

Larger firms, particularly the Big Four, were also found to have achieved higher levels of productivity, the SAC said. With at least 1,000 members each on their staff, they collectively employ 53 per cent of the total accountancy workforce here.

The industry as a whole employs about 17,400 people, the SAC said.

The Big Four reported earning the highest average revenue per employee of $142,000, more than double that of micro firms, which earn just $68,000 per employee.

This suggests that higher efficiency can be achieved via economies of scale, the SAC said.

Between these two ends of the spectrum, large firms, with between 101 and 999 employees, had the second-highest productivity, earning an average revenue of $95,000 per worker.

Medium-sized firms, with between 31 and 100 employees, earn $80,000 in revenue per worker on average while small firms earn $77,000.

The census also found that the talent hired by Singapore's 701 accountancy firms is highly diverse, with 32 per cent being local accountancy graduates and 16 per cent being non-graduates.

A "good proportion" of the workforce - 37 per cent - has also attained professional accountancy qualifications to upgrade their skills, the SAC said.

While the majority of the firms indicated that they face hiring difficulties in the tight labour market here, the census revealed that 71 per cent of their accountancy firms' staff are locals.

And despite the economic slowdown, 67 per cent of companies are ready to hire more talent in the next 12 months.

All of the Big Four and large firms said they planned to do so, while 94 per cent of medium-sized firms and 81 per cent of small firms highlighted similar intentions. Slightly over half of the micro firms - 52 per cent - said they would be increasing staffing levels in the next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Larger accountancy firms are doing better'. Print Edition | Subscribe