The trend for accounting firms to venture beyond their traditional areas of service has been highlighted by Ballards LLP's recent acquisition of one of their clients, Northampton-based creative design agency, CreativeFolks.
The aim of the agency acquisition was to provide a more comprehensive suite of services to clients, who are increasingly seeking a holistic approach to addressing their business needs. The acquisition enables Ballards to offer brand, digital design, web and social media solutions, complementing its existing accountancy and business advisory services.
CreativeFolks boasts an impressive client roster including Disney, Harley-Davidson, and the NHS, as well as offering services for owner-managed businesses and start-ups. CreativeFolks will join Ballards' other secondary business units, which encompass recruitment through Four Squared Recruitment, wealth management via Ballards FS and the firm's IT & Digital Transformation consultancy.
James Syree, Chief Executive at Ballards LLP, stated, "While accountancy and taxation services remain our primary focus, we believe that adding creative design services will enable us to more effectively address our clients' evolving needs and deliver increased value."
Jon Clough, Managing Director at CreativeFolks, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership, noting, "There are great synergies between the two businesses, and we are excited by the recent development. It demonstrates our commitment to providing the best possible service to clients and our ability to evolve and adapt to meet their changing needs."
While the demand for standard accounting services including bookkeeping and auditing may not be disappearing entirely, it’s not growing either, and more importantly, the nature of the work and the expectations of clients are changing.
Many routine tasks in bookkeeping and auditing are being automated through software solutions, making these tasks more efficient and less time-consuming. This has led to a reduction in demand for manual processing of transactions and data entry.
As automation and smart technology takes over repetitive tasks, the role of accountants is evolving. Clients are increasingly seeking value-added services such as strategic financial advice, risk management and business consulting, in addition to traditional accounting services.
But growing an accountancy business organically into areas like wealth management and M&A advisory is a very slow process, made even harder by the acute shortage of qualified talent.
As a result we are seeing an uptick in acquisitions by the more dynamic accounting firms into these areas and into the digital and design space.
The larger accountancy firms have been acquiring web and design agencies for some time now. Five years ago, Deloitte bought the Stockholm-based design agency Acne so that it could offer clients a full range of digital and creative services, saying that their customers were increasingly looking for a partner with multidisciplinary skills – especially a combination of data analysis and creativity. All the major accounting firms have made significant investments into these areas.
Smaller accounting firms, generally those that have already moved into ancillary advisory services, have also begun scouting for digital and creative agencies.
There are five key reasons why pursuing this strategy makes commercial sense:
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