Deloitte UK is considering acquiring or merging with member firms from the Benelux region as clients encourage the big four professional services groups to achieve better co-ordination between countries.
Discussions involve Deloitte UK and a couple of countries in the Benelux region.
One person close to the discussions said: “It’s no secret that our clients are looking for us to behave more globally. Particularly on the advisory side, they want us to be able to behave more seamlessly in the way we serve them.”
Any potential deal will be discussed at Deloitte’s global meeting in June, although a final decision would be from the member firms affected by it. Discussions are in early stages and no decisions have been finalised.
Deloitte said: “On an ongoing basis, Deloitte UK does look for opportunities to collaborate more closely with other member firms in the Deloitte network, particularly in those markets where we believe we can better support our clients by doing so.”
In 2005, Deloitte’s then global chief executive predicted that the group could become a single partnership within a decade.
But the slow progress towards this goal is a reminder of how hard it is to persuade national member firms that are part of a global professional services network to sacrifice some of their autonomy in the interests of more efficient global co-operation.
In 2006, the firm’s UK business acquired the shares of Deloitte Switzerland, transforming its Switzerland-based partners into members of a UK limited liability partnership.
If Deloitte UK succeeds in amalgamating with more European members, it could pave the way for a similar model to be applied elsewhere in the world.
The big four professional services firms — PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG — are structured as networks of legally separate national partnerships, which retain a significant degree of autonomy even though they share numerous co-operative agreements.
Closer integration of large accountancy networks has historically been avoided because networks like to be able to distance themselves from a member firm if it runs into financial or reputational difficulties, in order to keep the global brand intact.
Last year, Deloitte UK reported its slowest year of revenue growth for four years.
Its UK revenue increased 1.4 per cent to £2.55bn in the 12 months to May 31 as UK economic uncertainty dragged on returns.
The strongest performance came in the Swiss practice, which increased revenue 13 per cent to £236m.
Separately, Deloitte UK will announce on Monday that it has promoted 75 new partners, the largest ever annual intake.
Almost a third of the new partners are women, following measures by Deloitte to identify and retain high-performing women.
As part of this, Deloitte is launching a new return-to-work initiative, aimed at attracting senior female leaders back to work after they have had children or taken a career break.
The scheme offers a 12-week paid internship to women who have been out of the workforce for between three and six years.