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Are the Big 4 Driving Away Small Clients?

Ignore.jpgAccountancy Age reports today that smaller firms in the UK are cleaning up at the expense of the Big 4, specifically audit clients. The Four Horsemen are claiming cost pressure but small firms see it a little differently.
More, after the jump

Melissa Bowers, partner with Macclesfield-based firm Harts LLP, points to the Big Four’s practice of using senior partners to ‘seal the deal’ while leaving junior employees to do the grunt work, which has alienated smaller clients. This practice, combined with cost pressure, has driven audit clients into the arms of local firms. She has won work from clients who employed the same auditor for more than a generation…’It is possibly smaller work for them and they are possibly not giving them the same priority and attention.’

There’s no question that the cost pressure is an issue but what small clients really want, like a fat kid wants cookies, is some love from the partner. They’re not interested in a barely sober first year associate doing testwork. Clients want the partner to show up with the corporate card in hand ready to charm the pants off of them.
The other consideration is that clients just don’t care if they’ve got a big name on their audit:

Michael Good, partner at Oxford-based firm Critchleys, said that he believed smaller clients are no longer willing to fork out money for a big brand name firm. ‘They are asking themselves “do we need to pay the premium?” and “what are we getting for the premium?” and they are saying “actually not a lot”,’ he said.
‘Up to £20,000 for a big firm is not a big audit.’

We’d assume that here in the States, the sitch is no different. Small clients want to save money and they want to be someone special not just another contract that a partner has to take the rubber stamp to for the sake of his practice.
Discuss in the comments the trend here in the States. For you Big 4 types, are your smaller clients jumping ship because you’re treating them like the red-headed stepchild? Small firm bean counters are you picking up these clients? Feel free to get ugly about it, since most of you checked out on Monday, it will probably be a slow day.
Smaller firms clean up as recession sees audit clients shun the Big Four [Accountancy Age]