The top 10 tax accountants and advisors of the UK

13 September 2017

The prestigious Spear’s Top Tax Advisors list gives an annual insight into the leaders in one of the most important revenue streams in the advisory world. While the Big Four are all represented this year, they are joined by a number of rival advisory firms, along with having key members poached by rivals as the playing field continues to level amid changing regulations and heightened scrutiny via financial watchdogs. 

According to analysis by Statista, the revenue of tax consultancies in the UK will continue a steady rate of growth until 2019, having already been forecast to rise from £23,986 million in 2015 to £24,823 million by the end of 2017. In 2019, revenues are expected to hit a peak of £26,028 million. The Big Four accounting and consulting firms Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC hold a large share of the UK's tax advisory market. However, their operations have, from an accounting perspective, recently been stung by fines, high-profile probes and new audit rotation regulations, which have seen some of their competitors gain ground. This increasing level of competition in the sector could well see growth maintained against the current forecasts, as rival tax firms bid to find innovative ways to expand the market.

This arena of reinvigorated competition is reflected in part by the latest Spear’s top tax advisors list for the UK, which has seen the Big Four joined by advisors from six of its challengers. After a year in which financial experts attempted to out-think the worst potential scenarios of an uncertain Brexit on behalf of their clients, while a snap election and the government’s U-turn over the Finance Act caused further disarray, there are new names in the prestigious top ten in 2017. 

The top 10 tax accountants

The Big Four each feature in the list, despite another turbulent year that has seen them lose a number of notable contracts, including foods group Tate & Lyle and British broadcast giants, the BBC. PwC’s Elizabeth Henson, a Tax Partner, who has spent ten years at the firm, is a long-standing member of the Spear’s list. Within PwC, she is the London Leader of their Private Business team, but Henson stated that the chief driving force behind the firm’s impressive year was 18% growth fuelled out of Africa and Asia.

Paula Higgleton of Deloitte also continues to impress, meanwhile. A former PwC Senior Manager, Higgleton joined Deloitte in 2001, working her way to become a Partner, before being made a Vice-Chair at the firm in June 2017. According to Higgleton, there has been a notable shift in her clients’ priorities towards succession planning, which has seen Deloitte’s accounting practice benefit. David Kilshaw joined EY from KPMG in 2013, and is currently a Partner at the firm. Kilshaw studied Jurisprudence (philosophy of law) at Oxford University, and according to his experiences over the past year, clients are now keener to be tax compliant in the face of new regulations.

Greg Limb of KPMG, meanwhile, completes the Big Four presence on Spear’s list – although unlike the others, he is a new addition to the ranks. This is despite having recently celebrated his 20thyear with the firm since joining from the one-time Big Five accounting advisory, Arthur Anderson, in 1997. The current Tax and Private Client Advisory Partner takes the place of long-standing list member Dermot Callinan, with KPMG’s former Head of UK Private Clients set for an imminent move to Saffery Champness, another accounting firm named among the prominent list.

Beyond the Big Four

Saffery Champness is represented by James Hender, a former Tax Advisor at PwC who previously also worked as a Senior Executive at EY. Joining Saffery Champness in 2012, Hender, who is now a Partner, works to provide clients with holistic solutions, stating that on many occasions, the best solution is not necessarily confined to tax. 

Outside the Big Four, meanwhile, the largest international consultancy commended by Spear’s shortlist is BDO. The world’s fifth biggest accountancy and business advisory sees two advisors named for their efforts in tax consulting. Having spent 17 years with the firm, Paul Ayres joined BDO from Rawlinson & Hunter, where he spent two years as a Tax Consultant. He is presently a Tax Partner at the firm, while Wendy Walton, a Partner between 2000 and 2006, is presently Head of Global Private Client Services at BDO. With 29 years experience in the industry, all with BDO, the firm’s second listed member specialises in corporate, personal, inheritance and trust tax.

top 10 tax accountants and advisors

In 2016, Mark Davies was named Private Client Accountant of the year, and a year later, the head of Mark Davies & Associates retains his place on Spear’s unordered ranking. Paul Hocking, the Chair of Frank Hirth, is also named. Having spent his career at the firm since 1975, Hocking is widely regarded as a key authority in the tax arena, and advises private and business clients on a variety of UK/US tax issues. Over the coming period, he said that there is some serious competition heading the way of the UK in the shape of the new Italian regime, “They’ve taken the best features of our system and made it fit for purpose,” he said. The Italian consulting industry is growing steadily, and will soon be pushing for pre-recession revenues at current rates. With a reformed tax system, advisory firms there stand to be in good stead to continue expansion.

Finally, returning to the top ten is Simon Jennings of Smith & Williamson. Jennings only arrived at the accounting advisory in May 2017, having spent 32 years with Rawlinson & Hunter, where he was most recently a Partner. The new Senior Consultant at Smith & Williamson has wasted no time settling into his new role though, and has had plenty to say about the current political uncertainty, calling both the EU referendum and Prime Minister Theresa May’s snap election, “completely unnecessary.” His comments will resonate with a number of clients, as recently as many as half of all UK business leaders said they lacked confidence in the government’s strategy, following the botched general election and a tumultuous beginning to negotiations with Brussels over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.


Six attractive professional services firms to work for in UK

23 April 2019

Consulting firms dominate the 25 companies named by LinkedIn as the most attractive organisations to work for in Britain. JLL, Engie, CBRE, Atkins, Schroders and GE each made the grade, with the professional services sector putting in the strongest showing of any industry in the UK.

Each year, the editors and data scientists of social business platform LinkedIn examine which firms are the most attractive to job seekers, as well as which are the best at retaining their talent. Utilising information gathered from billions of actions taken by more than 433 million members, LinkedIn leverages a data-driven approach to consider what members are doing – not just saying – in their search for fulfilling careers. The result is the Top Companies list, an annual ranking of the most sought-after companies – now in its fifth year.

Each of the previous incarnations of the list has seen a strong showing from the UK consulting industry, with its contingent including McKinsey & Company, EYBoston Consultancy Group and Accenture in 2018. This year has seen the sector continue to see its stock rise, with the diversity of the sector’s workload buoying six professional services firms which were not on the previous ranking to prominence.

Analysing the anonymised actions of British-based LinkedIn members, the company determined which firms were the most attractive through four main pillars: interest in the company, engagement with the company’s employees, job demand and employee retention. As a result of this, real estate professional services firm JLL was found to be the most attractive consulting firm to LinkedIn members in the UK.

Six most attractive professional services firms to work for in UK

Ranked sixth in the overall list of companies, 2018 saw the commercial real estate services consultancy expand its London-based Ratings practice in anticipation of growing demand for real estate valuations in the UK. JLL, which boasts a global headcount of 82,000, holds UK locations in London, Norwich and Manchester, and the firm was recently named one of the world’s most ethical companies for the 12th year in a row by The Ethisphere Institute. 

Sitting 10th in LinkedIn’s ranking, Engie is a French multinational professional services firm, headquartered in La Défense, Courbevoie. While the firm primarily operates in utilities – specifically in the fields of electricity generation and distribution, natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy and petroleum – its investment in cleaner tech has also seen it come to offer a host of engineering consulting services, including feasibility studies, engineering, project management and client support. The firm’s 19,000 UK staff work from offices in London, Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

With a global headcount of 90,000, CBRE, which was ranked 13th by LinkedIn, is a real estate advisory firm, with UK offices in London, Birmingham and Glasgow. The firm oversaw the sale of a number of major locations over the course of 2018, including a key residential site in North Leigh, and an office belonging to the British Steel Pension Fund.

Atkins, which was listed 23rd, is a British professional services firm which was purchased by the SNC-Lavalin Group for £2.1 billion in 2017. With 7,300 employees in the UK, Atkins operates from locations in London, Bristol, Kingston-upon-Thames, and offers services in engineering, operations, programme and project management. Late in 2018, the firm was named one of the top employers in the UK for working mothers, receiving plaudits for its innovation in flexible working from

Schroders, a global asset management firm with UK offices in London, Bromley, Chelmsford, ranked 24th. Asset management is a fast-expanding segment of consulting, and according to LinkedIn, 43% of the professional services firm’s staff have been at the company for at least six years, while nearly a third of UK roles were filled with internal candidates in 2017. Schroders boasts a global headcount of 4,600.

Finally, multifaceted professional services firm GE was ranked 25th. The engineering, operations, information technology and advisory firm has its hand in everything from energy to health care – where it was recently nominated for a prize at the 2019 Management Consultancies Association Awards. The long-standing conglomerate said 2019 is set to be a “reset year”, while it seeks to revamp its power-related businesses at the same time that it builds on strong growth within the aviation scene.

Other sectors

Elsewhere, the financial services industry saw a high level of representation in LinkedIn’s ranking. JP Morgan was listed in second place, while Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Aviva also made the grade. This represents a decline of one listing since 2018’s figures, perhaps reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s financial sector, amid the continued twists and turns of the Brexit saga.

Retail saw a slight rebound on its decimation in last year’s ranking. Having seemingly fallen out of favour in 2018, Sainsbury’s returned this year, sitting in third place. It was joined in the top 25 by fellow ‘Big Four’ supermarket Asda – though the news that some 60,000 Asda staff could be in line to lose their paid lunch breaks under new contracts could well see the company drop off the list in 2020. Marks & Spencer also made the list. The historically up-market supermarket now runs a work-placement programme called Marks & Start, which helps single parents, people with disabilities and the homeless to build careers within the company.

Healthcare and pharmaceuticals saw three entrants in the list too. Britain’s 50 fastest-growing privately-owned pharmaceutical companies have all increased sales by at least 10% in each of their last two financial years, facing down headwinds such as Brexit and NHS spending pressures to deliver rapid growth. GSK represented the pharmaceutical sector in fourth place, while Bupa and Johnson & Johnson stood for the healthcare and hospital industry in fifth and 16th respectively.

While the technology sector ultimately hosted the ranking’s top performer, Amazon, the only other sector incumbent was Google parent company Alphabet, in 19th. Salesforce and Dell Technologies, meanwhile, dropped off the ranking, having both been present in 2018.

The oil and energy sector’s representation is supplemented by hybrid firm Engie; however, the sector only fielded two pure-play members. BP, in eighth, and Shell, in 11th, have both spent time attempting to diversify in recent years, prompted by public image crises relating to the negative impact of fossil fuels on the planet, as well declining oil prices and the rising demand for renewable energy. These dynamics have, in turn, led to new skills coming into demand within the companies. 

Finally, the list was rounded off by singular representatives of five separate industries. Representing leisure in 12th was TUI, followed by food producer Associated British Foods (17th), building materials firm Travis Perkins (20th), telecommunications giant BT (21st) and utilities firm Centrica (22nd).