Grant Thornton is the first major accounting firm to be hit by the coronavirus crisis and is asking staff to reduce their hours or consider taking a sabbatical in a bid to shore up business and continue to support client base, reports Sara White
In recent months the firm has faced a growing list of problems and had to cut partner numbers in October, delayed its annual results when it shifted its accounting period by six months, from June to December, and slashed partner profit, which was confirmed in GT's interim transparency report released last autumn, confirming a drop in partner profit for the past 12 months.
A spokesperson for Grant Thornton UK LLP said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic means all businesses, including our firm, are operating in unprecedented and uncertain times.
‘We know that this is a difficult time for many of our people, particularly those who have caring responsibilities.
‘Therefore, today, we have offered all our employees the opportunity to volunteer for a temporary reduction in their contractual hours or a short-term sabbatical.
‘These are clearly exceptional times and these voluntary measures help us to support our people while also continuing to support our clients.’
The company declined to comment on whether it had considered using the state aid package offered under the 80% furlough option which the government has offered to companies running PAYE schemes.
Grant Thornton is ranked 6th in the Accountancy Daily Top 75 Firms survey with annual fee income of £500m, but has faced a string of audit investigations in the last three years, resulting in multimillion fines, and the embarrassing loss of their CEO Sacha Romanovitch in late 2018.
In October 2018, an anonymous note was sent to various newspapers setting out a list of criticisms of Romanovitch and her leadership team, as well as a copy of her most recent performance review, a shocking breach of the firm’s data protection rules.
Romanovitch’s replacement, David Dunckley took over in late 2018, stating that he would turn around the firm, but since then he has declined interviews and there has been little information in the public domain about whether the turnaround was working, not helped by delaying its annual results at the back end of last year. Dunckley was the former head of mid-market clients at the firm when he took over the top job.
Nearest audit firm rival BDO also overtook Grant Thornton in terms of fee income in 2019, pushing Grant Thornton into number six slot.
The firm has also been embroiled in a number of audit investigations over its conduct of listed audit for big names like the collapsed Patisserie Valerie and AssetCo, which are both subject to FRC investigations.
For some years it has not even tendered for listed FTSE audit business, claiming that the unfair audit market means it has no chance of winning new audit business.
Last December, Grant Thornton completed the sale of its £1.7bn wealth advisory business to Standard Life Aberdeen’s advice firm, known as 1825, which was first announced in July.