Moves to form a UK-wide brand for accountancy firms need not sound the death knell for independent practices, experts said this week. Last week, Jobtel, an M&A specialist, wrote to managing partners of firms in the 5 to 35-partner bracket urging them to join forces and head off moves from US consolidators to buy up UK firms. Kenneth Crofton Martin, chairman of the London Society of Chartered Accountants and a partner at Pannell Kerr Forster, said the call might make small firms focus on streamlining their practices. Software and electronic filing of tax returns would make statutory work more cost effective. Small firms needed to identify profitable niche work, he added. 'The question for small firms is: are you willing to face the challenges of staying independent? If so, recognise your strengths; don't try to be all things to all men.' Mike Burgess, MD of Swat, which offers consultancy and training to small practices, said: 'Most firms which are not bought up are going to need support. Otherwise they will end up competing with high-street players with huge financial muscle behind them.' Michael Bailey, managing partner at Morison Stoneham a 17-partner firm, said: 'These moves seem quite sensible whether through flotation or consolidation.'
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