Dezan Shira & Associates’ global alliance annual billings top US$1 billion

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by Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

ROME, Oct. 30 – Some readers may not be familiar with the global structure of international accounting and tax services industry, nor the position Dezan Shira & Associates holds within this. Essentially, the larger firms are organized into networks, or franchises. The Big Four – PWC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young – are effectively business franchises on a global basis, with regional partners controlling and buying into and out of specific regions, yet operating under a global brand name. These four now control much of the global audit industry – a position which has lead to accusations of monopoly and some talk of breaking this up, especially with the demise of Arthur Anderson a few years ago. Behind these rank other networks, with Grant Thornton, RSM and BDO the best known. So where does Dezan Shira & Associates, the firm behind China Briefing, with offices across the PRC and a developing practice in India fit in?


Dezan Shira & Associates, with nine China offices, are members of the Leading Edge Alliance, a global network established ten years ago in the U.S., and now possessing a network of some 7,500 personnel in over 300 cities worldwide. The Leading Edge Alliance (LEA) differs from the previous method of arranging global networks by allowing member firms to keep their own brand identity for their local market, yet still be part of an international organization. The chairman and board are elected by member firms, and the 2007 LEA Annual Managing Partners Meeting has just taken place in Rome, with the annual performance measurement against the larger franchises also taking place. The results of this were interesting, especially in the global billing figures for accounting and tax services provision internationally for 2006.

U.S. rankings by firms 2006
(American Revenues, in $ millions)

Deloitte US$9,856
PWC US$6,922
E&Y US$6,890
KPMG US$4,438
RSM US$1,389
LEA US$993

Meaning LEA is now the sixth largest firm in the U.S. in terms of billing. 

However, adding in LEA’s global income from non-U.S. firms brings the total global revenues up to US$1,256,311, seeing the firm end up in eleventh place in the global rankings for 2006 (last available data) meaning LEA firms now collectively produce annual revenues of a shade under US$1.3 billion. That is big business.

LEA hasn’t just been part of a quiet global tax services revolution either. These impressive figures are backed up by the member firms average performances internationally, with average annual revenues per firm coming out at US$23.3 million for 2006. It has already been noted that the 2007 figures are likely to be far higher with growth rates in firms reported as being over 20 percent and some at close to 40 percent (Dezan Shira & Associates own growth rate during 2006 was 39 percent).

You may not have heard of the Leading Edge Alliance before when it comes to international tax and accounting services. However, with performances and revenues of this caliber you can be sure that it will shortly start to knock on the doors of KPMG in a few years, and if the Big Four monopoly does get broken up, then the implications for LEA member firms internationally, and for Dezan Shira & Associates in China and Asia are huge. It’s all about positioning, and as Alberto Vettoretti, Dezan Shira’s Managing Partner for China says, “We still have a long way to go. But already as a firm we are far larger than many people realize.” Watch this space.

To contact Dezan Shira & Associates or to request details of an LEA firm elsewhere, please click here.